Bad Ways to Filter Out Job Candidates

Some of the ways employers screen out potential employees are inefficient, ineffective, and even immoral.

That’s according to Richard Hadden, who’s a speaker, writer, and coach specializing in leadership and employee engagement. In the 9 1/2-minute video below, he and I talk about some of the most common ways employers screen out candidates. Topics covered: credit-rating screening, filtering for industry experience, as well as knowledge of certain software or technologies.

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14 Comments on “Bad Ways to Filter Out Job Candidates

  1. Kudos to Richard Hadden! I completely agree that candidate screening needs to be more objective, and less subjective. Creating unjustified disqualifying factors to limit the candidate pool in order to make your job or someone else’s easier, while limiting the opportunities of well qualified candidates is wrong – and possibly illegal. I would love to see another video addressing the legal implications of not selecting the most qualified candidate, especially the unemployed and how they can overcome the overwhelming discrimination that exists in the U.S. market.

  2. Thank you, Todd and Richard.
    1) ISTM, increasingly, recruiters are being hired not to act in a strategic advisory capacity of working with the hiring managers to determine accurate and viable job requirements, but to act as “order-takers” getting the hms who they want as opposed to getting them the best person to do the work.

    2) IMHO a great majority of requirements are partially or heavily flawed. For example: how many positions which list a degree requirement fundamentally need the information that was acquired in a university as opposed to the knowledge acquired in doing related work?

    3) Many requirements are in fact quite discriminatory, if not currently formally listed as so- you alluded to credit scores. Another one is the requirement of attending an “elite” or “first-tier” university: this discriminates against people who are not from upper-middle class backgrounds and particularly against veterans, who tend to come from lower socio-economic strata and are less likely to attend these universities than non-veterans.


  3. Completely agree! Unfortunately, many recruiters are not fortunate enough to have been properly trained on selection system design, methodology and legal requirements for such.

    The Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures (UGESP) was developed provides direction on how to appropriately use selection tools in the decision proces for hiring employees and is regarded as THE technical manual detailing how to validate selection components and document the process.

    How do you validate a selection tool/component? A thorough selection-oriented job analysis based on the requirements of the UGESP and OFCCP regulations is recognized in case law as evidence of content-validation and necessary when developing any selection component. And…research consistently shows validated selection tools are statistically correlated with job performance.

  4. @Jonathan: I am one of those, I fear…
    I have heard a number of good things re: UGESP, but though I have been in the field for over 20 years and worked for a number of major companies, I haven’t known one to use the UGESP, or if we did, we weren’t told.
    Can anyone give me theri inside account of UGESP usage?
    Is it complicated, expensive, unrealistic? If not, what’s the problem with it becoming more widely adopted?


  5. Generally, I completely agree with this concept, the disqualifiers most companies use are tenuous at best, but this is symptomatic of a much deeper underlying problem, which is a lack of attention to and desire to delve into the specifics of what truly does and doesn’t work in their company. I’ve seen almost no companies where there is a procedure in place so everytime a new hire doesn’t work out they evaluate what went wrong and build it into their hiring criteria for the next time they try to fill that position so they are constantly refining best practices and building corporate process equity.

    I’d also push back a little on some of the examples. The question is always “you can train them…but at what cost?” Statistically, virtually anyone can be trained to do virtually anything fairly well…but there are costs involved in doing so and are you willing to pay that price, especially when they might only stay for a year or two? This is compounded by the difficulties inherent when an organization has a limited pool of a particular skill set anyway and to divert that skill set from doing the actual work of the business to training new people to do that work decreases production output. Or you get into the situations where the organization doesn’t have the expertise at all and therefore can’t train it. What I think organizations don’t do enough of is:

    1. Continual training – training programs are very weak in most companies and don’t result in building a competitive advantage in the marketplace purely due to the high training level of the staff

    2. Building training systems to provide a path for succession (check out the Khan Academy for an example of a simple online learning system that could be applied in similar ways to many forms of workplace training)

  6. Thanks for the comments and kudos! Michael, you are right on with your observation about training. The protracted economic slump has only made it worse. It’s as though organizations reason, “Let’s see if we can ‘dumb’ our way out of this earnings problem with less capable people.” And, as you put it, continuous training (not occasional, episodic) is the answer.

    Just to clarify – I agree that an employer has to decide if it makes business sense to train, or hire someone who’s already got the training. Too few even ask the question. As for industry experience – I continue to believe that too many employers give that more weight than it deserves.

    Thanks again, all.

  7. @Keith – UGESP info is found at:

    It is not easy…but necessary. If you need some basic guidelines to assist, I’ve found helpful for those not familiar with personnel selection system design. Has a good section on pros/cons of different tools, links to case law and other sources of information to assist.

    If you get the chance, I think taking a master’s level course in selection system design or industrial/organizational psychology will help.

    Lastly…there are a number of very good solution vendors out there offering validated selection tools that are somewhat off-the-shelf. The key is to do the validation study internal to your organization (don’t just rely on them telling you they’ve validated the tool…that’s not enough to defend in court). Biddle Consulting Group offers a solid job-analysis tool you can use to assist with the validation piece. PreVisor has a number of excellent tests / simulations you can then use to assess candidate skill sets against the competencies you’ve identified in your job analysis.

  8. The following index is from

    Title 29–Labor


    1607.1 Statement of purpose.
    1607.2 Scope.
    1607.3 Discrimination defined: Relationship between use of selection procedures and discrimination.
    1607.4 Information on impact.
    1607.5 General standards for validity studies.
    1607.6 Use of selection procedures which have not been validated.
    1607.7 Use of other validity studies.
    1607.8 Cooperative studies.
    1607.9 No assumption of validity.
    1607.10 Employment agencies and employment services.
    1607.11 Disparate treatment.
    1607.12 Retesting of applicants.
    1607.13 Affirmative action.
    1607.14 Technical standards for validity studies.
    1607.15 Documentation of impact and validity evidence.
    1607.16 Definitions.
    1607.17 Policy statement on affirmative action (see section 13B).
    1607.18 Citations.

  9. Tagging on to the training comment…I fundamentally disagree that anything can be trainined. Certain skill sets and competencies are very difficult to train. You are much better off hiring for those “hard to train or develop” skills and invest in training those who come with a high level of that skill already. There are research studies out there showing you can a much greater return when you do (e.g., a 30-40% increase in performance for a low performer versus a 130+% improvement for those coming with a satisfactory level of the skill already). So, while you can improve the skill of an individual in an area with training, it does not necessarily equate to a satisfactory level of that skill for a job.

  10. @Jonathan – absolutely just because you can train it doesn’t mean it makes sense to train it.

    There is strong research evidence that virtually anything can be trained gaps that frequently exist to suggest otherwise are:

    – Poor foundational skills – most skills build on other skills so if the foundation isn’t one of mastery then you have to go back and build those basic skills, which often people don’t realize, don’t do, don’t assess, or don’t know how to do

    – Lack of desire – people who aren’t motivated to learn won’t learn or at least won’t learn well so getting motivation and commitment are key to learning

    – Sufficient breakdown – often people don’t realize what the skillsets are so they don’t know how to break them down into teachable chunks

    That being said, this comes down to the question of ROI, you can train virtually anything given the time and effort, but how much effort is it worth? This problem is compounded by poor training systems. The other problem I’ve seen is fully identifying and accounting for all the related skills that factor into doing a behavior. For example, when I’m training sales people it’s not just a matter of training them on selling skills, product info, etc. I’ve got an inherent advantage over many individuals them that I bring to appointments due to business understanding having owned and operated a number of businesses and been partners in others. It’s like the ability to build rapport with individuals in an industry you’re not familiar with as a recruiter. If you’ve got experience in that industry you’ve got an advantage. Can you pick that stuff up? Sure, but it takes time and it’s costly. The real question then is what can you reasonably train in what period of time and what can you justify training as a result?

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