Employers, get rid of unneeded filters to make hiring easier

Posted by Bruce Clarke on December 28, 2013 

“It is more important to hire people with the right qualities than with the right experience.”

Bill Marriott

There is a “war for talent” in hard-to-fill roles. Some are technology jobs, but many more require manual skills. Effective leaders, creatives, innovators, teachers, implementers, all the trades and truck drivers are in great demand. Niche manufacturers need people who can learn, adapt, come to work on time and stay focused on quality.

Employers make a tough situation worse by applying unnecessary filters to the hiring process. When supply is tight, is it more important to narrow a large pool of unqualified Web resumes or to find good applicants others have bypassed?

Hiring filters have value in the right situations but are often overused to the point they keep good people away from hard-to-fill jobs.


A requirement for specific degrees might correlate with job success. If so, use the degree as a filter. Too often, a degree is not predictive of ability or results. Think about a general college degree requirement.

Variability in academic rigor and student passion makes this filter a very weak one indeed. Are you better off with a poor student who finally finished an irrelevant degree or one who went to work after two years because they did not fit the college mold? You will never know if they are filtered out.

Nontraditional backgrounds

Everybody knows you must have an experienced human resources person to lead HR in a midsize company, right?

What about a CPA to lead finance or an experienced buyer to head purchasing? How about an IT person to lead IT projects or develop technology strategies? Very successful people often come from nontraditional roles well outside the experience filters many of us use. Success comes from the right mixture of experience and ability. Arbitrary years-based filters may exclude the best fit for your company.


Make sure that automatic disqualifiers you use truly deserve their status. For example, criminal backgrounds, credit scores, job references (“Would you rehire this applicant?”), short employment histories, whatever the last bad hire brought to the table and assumptions about age/gender/long-term unemployment.

Might a criminal record be a good reason to screen out an applicant? Of course. Might an applicant with in-demand skills be a good hire if you learned more about the crime? Yes.

Applicants who find these filters are preventing interviews should consider tackling the problem head-on. If you have a truly strong story to tell with in-demand skills, apply to smaller organizations more likely to read your communications. Address the troublesome filter up front and explain why you are a great hire for other reasons.

It takes more time to hire with fewer filters. More resumes, more thought, more discussion, and more tough choices. Think hard about your strong incumbents and what makes them succeed. In hard-to-fill roles, time is already a challenge, so use it to fish in applicant pools few visit. Change some of your filters and make a great hire!

Bruce Clarke, J.D., is CEO of CAI, helping more than 1,000 North Carolina employers maximize employee engagement and minimize employer liability. For more information, visit www.capital.org.

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