What’s the Difference Between Candidate Screening and Candidate Evaluation? Why It Matters.

What’s the Difference Between Candidate Screening and Candidate Evaluation? Why It Matters.

by Sara Bennett | October 18, 2023

0 Author-Jeanne, HIRING. EMPLOYEE SELECTION, Hiring.Best Practices


Most of us in the business of hiring know that as many as 50% of all new hires don’t work out.

Sometimes the issue is simply an issue in execution –  a key reference left unchecked, a resume filled with inaccurate or misleading information going unchallenged, a candidate who simply shows up differently on the job than they did during the interview. These kinds of missteps in the hiring process are oftentimes easy fixes for “next time.”

Issues that aren’t so fixable happen when the candidate presents themselves honestly, BUT they just aren’t the right fit for the job – their work habits annoy their coworkers, they can’t seem to meet their bosses’ expectations.  Unfortunately, issues with “fit” are the primary reasons for early term turnovers.

Fixing “fit” issues oftentimes comes down to the need to relook at the hiring process. Did we understand the unique set of skills, hard and soft, required to do the job? What steps did we miss in the screening or evaluation stages of the hiring process that would have improved our assessment of fit?

This blog is all about the importance of candidate screening and presents our bias about the need to dedicate more hiring resources to candidate screening and keep hiring managers out of the screening weeds, able to give their full attention to candidate evaluation and selection – steps in the hiring process that only they can do.

First let’s establish some shared vocabulary around the distinct phases of the hiring process – 1) Screening; 2) Evaluation and Selection; 3) Verification – and who does what. 

Candidate Screening

. include the set of activities designed to filter out candidate “wannabes” so that hiring managers only meet candidates who meet the job’s minimum candidate requirements.  The folks who screen candidates are typically (and hopefully) not hiring managers.

There are many types of tools and interviewing techniques that can be used to screen candidates.  Any activity that helps to identify candidates who are potential hires and eliminates candidates who are not are helpful at this stage in the process.   The specifics of what tolls are used depends on how an employer chooses to organize their hiring process.

  • In some companies, candidate screening is done by an HR administrator (or equivalent) who simply reads through stacks of resumes to decide which resumes reveal a candidate with the prerequisite work experience and skills as specified in the job description or a preferred candidate profile.  While “resume screens” produce a smaller stack of resumes going to the hiring manager, there is still a stack of candidates options that a hiring manager must look thru leaving them with the responsibility to both screen and evaluate candidates.
  • In other companies’ candidate screening involves a series of comprehensive screening activities, skills or aptitude assessments, screening questionnaires and interviews, etc. – all designed to make sure a hiring manager only spends time with candidates who not only have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to do the job but also have the intangible skills and traits important to “fit”.  In this scenario hiring managers only spend time with one or two candidate “finalists” and typically use a variety of behavioral interviews and job simulations intended to facilitate better hiring decisions.

Candidate Evaluation and Selection

…includes all the activities that are done, typically by the Hiring Manager, to evaluate the candidate’s “fit” in more depth and elicit information that will help them decide which employee to hire.  This step almost always includes a virtual or in person interview with the hiring manager and in best case scenarios will include job simulation activities and structured interactions with the team.  Companies hiring a high impact employee will often add in depth aptitude testing or panel interviews during this stage of the hiring process.

The focus of this phase in the hiring process is in depth evaluation that will facilitate the right hiring decision.

The Verification Phase of the Hiring Process

includes activities designed to verify that the information collected during candidate screening and evaluation is in fact true. Verification activities might include criminal background checks, checking work or personal references, verifying educational achievements, etc. This phase of the hiring process is typically conducted by someone other than the hiring manager to ensure compliance with all legal requirements.  In the State of Washington, for example, it is illegal for employers to do a criminal background check on an employee without their permission and can’t be done until after offering them the job.

4 Reasons Why Improving Candidate Screening Also Improves Hiring Outcomes

1 – It keeps hiring managers focused on those steps in the hiring process that only they can do.  

A hiring process built around best practices can easily become overwhelming to a hiring manager who is also tasked to keep their daily work and multiple projects in play.  Many of the steps in the process are time consuming, tedious, and boring – particularly candidate screening.   Bog your hiring managers down with responsibilities that would normally fall into the candidate screening bucket and run the risk of burning them out even before they start into the more in-depth steps of candidate evaluation. How many times have we heard – “I  got so tired of looking at resumes, and talking to candidates that I just made a decision. Unfortunately it was the wrong decision?

By segmenting out a comprehensive set of screening activities and assigning those activities to someone other than the hiring manager, you can keep your hiring managers fresh, clear headed – and with enough information to make better hiring decisions.

2 – It makes sure the hiring process is done consistently and without bias.

Let’s face it – busy people doing work outside their core competencies will often take short cuts in how they execute that process – even if it’s a business-critical process like hiring. Making sure that all steps relevant to screening candidates are executed consistently for all candidates and without bias requires staff dedicated to and adept at the screening process.

3 – It provides hiring managers with more and better information about each candidate they spend time with.  

Segmenting, enhancing, and delegating the screening process turns hiring into a team sport – with both HR recruiters and their hiring manager clients playing an important and different role in the hiring outcome.  Not only will the screening phase of the process become more comprehensive and thorough, but hiring managers will get the opportunity to use more tools, more sophisticated techniques to evaluate candidates and make better hiring decisions. Behavioral interviews, for example, can be used during both screening and evaluation but when the behavioral interview questions created by hiring managers can be much more specific to the actual work environment. Hiring managers can take the time to learn more about the person behind the resume.  Candidates will have the chance to discover more about the job behind the job description.

4 – The hiring process moves more quickly and creates a better experience for more job candidates.

By clearly drawing the line between activities designed to screen candidates in or out and activities designed to thoroughly evaluate a qualified candidate, the hiring process moves more quickly and creates a more positive impression with candidates.  A well-designed screening process includes multiple steps with each step filtering candidates in or out based on their suitability for hire.  Candidates always know where they stand in the screening process, and time is spent on candidates in ratio to their “fit” for the job.  There are no black holes.

What Should a Hiring Manager Expect to See from Candidates Generated from a BEST PRACTICES Screening Process?

Pretend your a hiring manager and you are being supported by a robust screening process designed to reduce the number of candidates you see to one or two 2 candidate finalists.  A prescreened candidate in this hiring model…..

  • Will have the skills and work experience necessary to be successful once hired.
  • Will be genuinely interested in what the job and your work environment has to offer.
    • They will enjoy the actual work they will be doing – it is a good fit for what they like to do and are good at
    • They are comfortable with the pay and benefits you can offer (OR you have been alerted that some negotiation may be required.)
    • They are at a place in their career where your job represents an opportunity that fits what they are looking for – to advance their career, to expand their skills and knowledge, to work with a boss who will appreciate their contribution etc.
  • Will have been vetted to “be” what their application or resume says they are. Potential issues with their motivation or performance in a particular role will have been tagged and highlighted for the hiring manager to review BEFORE they make the decision to hire.
  • Will have been carefully evaluated for “fit” – their personal qualities and work style preferences carefully uncovered so as to ensure alignment with “how work gets done around here” not just at time of hire but down the road.
  • Have already been briefed on what “a day in the life” in this job might look like – you don’t have to go through all that detail.
  • Will be able to start work on or before you need them…and if not, you know exactly what their wiggle room is.

Are you start getting the picture of what the “right” screening process might do to make your role in the hiring process more doable?  Less stressful?  

Why can third party recruiters (independent or attached to recruiting agencies) deliver better candidate screening than their in-house Recruiting/HR counterparts?   

That’s a great question and our answer, is, of course,  shamelessly self promoting. That said, we think there good reasons to believe that third party recruiters and recruiting agencies are better equipped to handle the requirements of a rigorous candidate screening process than their in house counterparts. 

Check out this list… 

  • Candidate screening is exactly what third party recruiters are missioned to do – how they make a living.  Unlike an inhouse resource, screening candidates for your job is not just one task amongst many.  Recruiting agencies, like PACE Staffing Network, have the focus necessary to get really good at candidate screening.
  • Agency recruiters are paid for their services not with a fixed fee but with fees that are earned contingently – “only when” we get they produce the results their client needs – a candidate hired, an employee selected for a temporary or contracted assignment.  Making results the basis for someone’s paycheck has a way of optimizing performance.
  • Third party recruiters attached to agencies have quick and easy access to a very large pool of candidates, many of whom are not actively seeking work in the open marketplace.  PACE, for example, has more than 60,000 candidates in our current data base.
  • Recruiting agencies have access to state-of-the-art candidate tracking technologies and search tools (including AI) that can move candidates through the multiple steps in a screening process quickly.  These tools are expensive – not typically affordable by a small to medium sized company who isn’t “always hiring.”
  • Third party recruiters have had more experience “making matches” for a wider range of clients and jobs than their in-house counterparts. They have learned what works and doesn’t work when it comes to “fit finding.”
  • Recruiting agencies have access to state-of-the-art candidate screening tools that are specifically designed to spot candidates based on their “fit” for a specific job. We find that many of these candidates would be overlooked if the screening process relied on traditional screening tools.
  • Recruiting agencies have the time, resources, and good reason to ensure that each candidate has a positive experience during the  screening process. No one gets lost in the shuffle.
  • Third party recruiters are in a better position to get information from candidates not always available to an inhouse recruiter – information that takes the second guessing out of the hiring process.  Candidates working with a third party recruiter know they are not just applying for one job but several and are, therefore more willing to “tell the truth” about whether or not the job is the right fit.  They are not faced with the “pass/fail” decisions that characterize their relationships with in house recruiters .


PACE Staffing Network is one of the Puget Sound’s premier staffing /recruiting agencies and has been helping Northwest employers find and hire employees based on the “right fit” for over 45 years.

A 5-time winner of the coveted “Best in Staffing” designation , PACE is ranked in the top 2% of staffing agencies nationwide based on annual surveys of customer satisfaction.

PACE services include temporary and contract staffing, temp to hire auditionsdirect hire professional recruiting servicesEmployer of Record (payroll) services, and a large menu of candidate assessment services our clients can purchase a la carte.

If you’re a hiring manager looking for a service that will actually “make a difference” to who and how you hire, contact us at 425-637-3312 or fill out this form and we’ll be in touch!

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