How to Vet a Candidate During the Application & Interview Process

Two women reviewing resumes and taking notes.

Have you ever had a candidate who seems like a perfect fit on paper, but something just doesn’t feel right? What do you do when the print says yes — but your gut says no?

While it’s always important to vet a candidate during the hiring process, this is even more vital when something feels off. By carefully vetting a candidate, you can determine if your uneasy feeling is valid or biased.

But what exactly does it mean to vet someone?

When vetting a candidate, you’re checking their qualifications and their personality. Your goal is to hire someone who is both qualified and a good cultural fit.

In this post, we’ll discuss how to vet a candidate during the application and interview process so that the right candidate will clearly shine through.

Let’s get started.

What is candidate vetting?

During the process of candidate vetting, hiring managers review an applicant’s background history to determine if they are a viable employee for the company. You are looking to confirm experience, skills, education, culture fit, and more. The different steps in this process can include:

  • reviewing resumes
  • reading cover letters
  • conducting phone or video interviews
  • checking references
  • running background checks

Why it’s important to have a strong vetting process

By effectively vetting a candidate, you avoid hiring employees who:

  • were dishonest about their qualifications
  • don’t align with company values
  • can’t handle the workload

A strong vetting process also protects companies from potential lawsuits related to negligent hiring.

When employers don’t thoroughly check references or employment history before extending a job offer, it leaves them vulnerable to the consequences of a bad hire.

How to vet candidates during the application process

By carefully vetting candidates during the application process, you save time during the interview process. By the time a candidate is offered an interview, you should feel confident they meet all minimum requirements. Don’t feel pressured to rush to set up interviews. Diligently work through all application materials to vet candidates properly.

Write an effective job description

The best way to attract the right people for your company is by writing a job description that clearly explains the ideal candidate and the role. Your job description should include:

  • minimum and preferred qualifications needed to succeed
  • typical job duties and responsibilities
  • the importance of this role to the company mission

Use a resume screening checklist

Take the qualifications from the job description to create a resume screening checklist. Use this to quickly weed out unsuitable candidates.

Take notes while reviewing resumes and cover letters

To make the application process go as quickly and smoothly as possible, take notes while reviewing resumes and cover letters. Write down any questions you want to ask the candidate, especially if you have a concern about their qualifications. Refer back to this list during the interview.

Set up a phone screen

A phone screen is like a short phone interview. It’s another quick way to vet candidates.

Prepare a list of questions that you’ll ask all candidates. If you wrote down any questions for specific candidates in the previous step, ask about these as well.

Use software to simplify the review process

Online tools can help you keep track of applications and expedite your interview scheduling process. Using software will make things easier for everyone involved in the hiring process.

Here are just some of the many software solutions available to help manage your recruitment process:

  • ATS (Applicant Tracking System) software helps you keep track of all the candidates who have applied for your job listing.
  • CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software helps you keep track of all the interactions you have with your applicants.
  • Job Boards help you manage multiple job postings and track how each one is performing.

These tools can help you track which candidates you’ve vetted, as well as their current phase in the hiring process.

Create a take-home assignment to test their skills

One of the best ways to test a candidate is by creating a take-home assignment that will allow them to show off their skills. This could be simple, like writing an article about your company for publication. Or it might require more in-depth research and programming if you’re hiring for a more advanced, technical role.

For certain roles, you might want to create something that allows the applicant to show off their skills and knowledge in real-time or with limited supervision. For example, if you’re hiring for an engineering role where troubleshooting is important, you might ask the candidate to complete a task that involves diagnosing and fixing a problem.

Take-home assignments allow you to assess the candidate’s ability to complete everyday tasks and responsibilities pertinent to the job.

To be fair to the candidate, only assign an interview project that can be completed in 1-3 hours. Or offer a paid trial instead. Yes, you want to vet a candidate’s skills, but it’s important not to take advantage of them either.

You can also ask candidates to take a skills assessments test.

Vetting candidates during the interview process

The interview process is a key opportunity to vet candidates. Just because a candidate’s resume ticks all the right boxes doesn’t mean they’ll be a good fit for your team. Here are some additional ways you can vet a candidate once they reach the interview stage.

Ask candidates about their hard skills and soft skills

It’s important to ask about both hard skills and soft skills during the interview process.  

Hard skills are the technical abilities that give them a distinct advantage on the job, like writing code or understanding how social media works. A candidate’s soft skills will tell you whether they have the interpersonal capabilities needed for success in your organization. 

You can evaluate a candidate’s hard skills through their portfolio or skills assessment. In addition, you can ask how they used certain tools in previous jobs.

You can evaluate a candidate’s soft skills by asking questions about their work experience. Their answers should reveal the following:  

  • Do they communicate well? 
  • How do they handle conflict? 
  • Are they willing to go beyond their own job description if it helps others on the team succeed?  

Look for responses with specific details that indicate honesty. If an answer is too vague, that could be a sign the candidate is exaggerating their work history.

Analyze how they fit into your company culture

What a candidate says is important, but also pay attention to how they say it. Consider culture fit — or culture add — when assessing their responses. An employee with the right hard skills might not do well on your team if they lack critical soft skills.

Two women (backs to the camera, faces in profile) interview a third woman (facing the camera)

Conduct a panel interview

In a panel interview, multiple people interview the candidate at once. This is usually the hiring manager plus team members, but it can include HR personnel and upper management. This will help you get to know a candidate better and assess their interpersonal skills. A panel interview helps determine how well they fit in with the team. 

With several industry experts of your company in the mix, you’ll get a better idea of how a candidate will work with your team. A panel interview also allows multiple stakeholders to vet a candidate together. Their feedback will offer diverse perspectives.

Reach out to the candidate’s references

It’s also important to check all references the candidate provides. References help you verify a candidate’s education, work experience, and skills. Some references will also be able to elaborate on a candidate’s work ethic and personality. 

If necessary, you can go beyond a candidate’s preferred references to verify their resume. You can ask a candidate to provide a transcript or copy of their diploma to verify their education. Also, your HR department can contact past employers to confirm job history.

Review their social media profiles

Social media profiles can also help you get a better idea of the candidate. You’ll be able to tell whether they have values that align with your company or not. Potential red flags include:

  • illegal or illicit activity
  • hate speech
  • complaints about past employers

A candidate’s social media can reveal their personality, their values, and even their communication skills. Reviewing their public posts is just one more way to vet a candidate — and potentially avoid a PR nightmare.

Run a background check

How do you vet someone you don’t know? For this, background checks are the way to go. A pre-employment background check can turn up the following:

  • identity verification
  • employment verification
  • education verification
  • credit history
  • driver’s history
  • criminal records

Depending on the role, a candidate may need to pass an FBI-level background check or a Level 2 background check.

Conclusion

Learning how to vet a candidate efficiently and effectively is so important for hiring managers.  

Not only will strong vetting skills help you save your company money in the long run, but it will help eliminate candidates who aren’t the right fit.  

By following these tips for vetting job candidates during first the application process, and then the interview process, you’ll make a better hiring decision. 

If you understand the importance of vetting candidates, but don’t have the time to do it correctly, there’s another way that will still result in good hires.

Partner with a staffing company like Insight Global. We go beyond just identifying talent. We handle the search, candidate curation, onboarding, and payroll so you can land the best hires without all the work.  

Need help finding talented employees? Visit Insight Global's Staffing Services page to get started.