A client of mine is posting for a director-level position at a real estate development and property management firm. The company posted the job on their website, LinkedIn and Indeed.

In less than a week, they received more than 60 qualified applicants. They only need one person.

This is the story of how they got there.

The first screen

The most basic screen is the first screen, which separates the qualified from the unqualified. The criteria used to get through this screen are deceptively simple: give the company posting the ad exactly what they asked for in the ad.

Oddly enough, this can be challenging for a lot of people. In this case, we eliminated half of the applicants for doing things like:

  • not including the requested cover letter
  • not including all of the requested information in the application
  • not sending it to the right place

The second screen

Next, we took out anyone who did not meet the minimum requirements. With so many applicants, my client was pretty clear the company did not feel compelled to make any extra effort to give someone a chance that did not already have the basics.

The third screen

With 60 seemingly qualified candidates left, we sat down for a 10-minute conversation with the hiring manager to find out what characteristics would really set the ideal candidate apart. He gave us some ideas that included:

  • type of degree he wanted with his ideal school choices
  • type of software experience
  • ideal number of years performing specific duties
  • key industry words to look for

We also confirmed how many he had time to meet (four for 45 minutes each), the type of interview (panel) and the date of the interview (the following week) — all in the 10-minute meeting.

In about 15 minutes, the HR manager had loaded the top dozen candidates based on his quick search of the parameters the hiring manager set. Then we both spent five minutes picking our top five. We overlapped on four.

We had both eliminated half of them because of the packet itself:

  • hard to read resume or cover letter or spelling problems
  • lack of accurate or consistent information (gaps in resume that were not explained)
  • not having the content the hiring manager requested in the recent meeting

The final screen

We went through the remaining candidates, narrowing it down based on the personality of the hiring manager, the quality of the submission packet and the criteria the hiring manager requested.

We had four, but we also had an applicant who had submitted her packet when we previously posted for the job. She had gotten through to the interview phase last time, and the hiring manager liked her. Unfortunately, they had to delay the hiring until now (six months later).

To her credit, she had kept in touch the entire time; sending us updates and checking in. Although she would not have made it through the third and fourth screens this time, because she had been so professional in maintaining contact, the hiring manager wanted her back.

The HR manager and I agreed to remove someone from the list which was honestly somewhat arbitrary because everyone seemed equally qualified on paper and we added the previous candidate.

This process is not unusual for my smaller clients (under 500 employees). Consider it the next time you are applying for a job.