Finding the Sharpest Needle in a Haystack of Needles

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Sourcing talent these days is a monumental task. According to the U.S. Labor Department’s latest monthly job openings and turnover survey, for every open position there are 5 potential applicants – a small improvement from the previous month’s survey. However, surely this number doesn’t include the pool of currently employed (and underemployed) adults who are so stressed by the possible loss of their job due to economic conditions they can’t imagine tempting fate by applying for an open and potentially better position, with a new employer.

In spite of accounting for fourteen million out of work Americans, the U.S. Labor Department’s survey seems markedly positive… only an average of 5 applicants per opening? I have heard stories of enormous numbers of resumes and online applications received by recruiters in my network for each and every open position – literally hundreds of applicants for a single office administration, customer service and manual labor opening.

Whether you are seeing 5 applicants or hundreds, the challenge of divining the most qualified applicant remains daunting. And, of course, once you find the employee whose skills and experience match your needs, most positions will require at least some level of formal, selective screening. If you are not already doing so, your organization could benefit significantly by considering a combined screening solution set to assist you finding the sharpest needle in the haystack of needles, by a combined screening solutions set, I mean the consistent use of a number of screening components and tools.

A combined screening solution set may contain the following components – not necessarily in this order. The earlier red flags are identified in the process, the better the organization will be able to minimize the expenses and resource costs associated with the other elements of the recruiting cycle:

  1. Applicant Resume/Application Review
  2. Social Media Searches (LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.)
  3. Integrity/Personality Testing
  4. Skills Testing
  5. One-on-one Interview(s)
  6. Background Screens

  • I-9 e-Verify
  • Criminal History
  • Driver History
  • Education Verification
  • Employment Verifications
  • Reference Checks
  • Credit Report
  • Drug Screening

Items (1) and (2) are standard recruiting practices, but keep in mind that social media like LinkedIn and Facebook should be considered less than authoritative sources of information. In regard to (3) Integrity/Personality Testing, it is certain that organizations that use a combination of integrity/personality testing tools and (4) Skills Testing can identify those applicants who may lack impulse control, abuse substances, have excessive absenteeism, have a tendency toward hostile acts, as well as those who may not have the skill levels necessary to successfully perform the job’s tasks.

While background screens will identify adverse information on an individual-felonies or misdemeanors, for example-a typical background screen report will not include adverse behaviors for which the individual has never been caught or convicted. This is where integrity/personality tests provide their true value. In addition, many integrity/personality tests include customer service and work-place attitude modules which can provide a very reliable forecast of the applicant’s ability to perform interpersonal work in a professional manner.

Component (5), one-on-one Interview(s) with those whose application, Integrity/Personality Test and Skills Test(s) raise no red flags, should narrow the applicant pool to a point at which investing in the final, and often most costly and time intensive tool, (6) Background Screens, is cost-effective and prudent.

A thorough pre-employment background screening search package should include reviews of criminal and sex offender reports on the applicant, along with other searches and verifications appropriate to the position being filled, such as Employment Verifications, Education Verifications, Driver Report and/or a Nationwide Search for Wants and Warrants and I-9 e-Verify (after the offer has been made.) Lastly, your organization may implement a drug screening program which can include traditional urinalysis and or instant drug testing-administered fairly, consistently and in compliance with federal and your specific state laws.

Obviously securing a partner or partners who can facilitate the Integrity/Personality Testing, Skills Testing and Background Screening Services components of your combined screening solution set may also present a challenge. However, many of the members of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners ( offer each of these components. The Society of Human Resources Management ( hosts the “HR Talk” community, RecruitingTrends online magazine has a vast number of subject matter experts within the human resources industry who post relevant and insightful articles every week and the communities (public forums) where members share HR-related information and experience with other members – both are excellent resources for obtaining frank feedback and recommendations for service providers.

At the end of the day, organizations whose combined screening solution set includes the components detailed above, are able to see positive results in short order, including a dramatic reduction in time-to-hire and cost-to-hire. The end-employer should also experience a substantial reduction in absenteeism, turnover and employee theft – and in the long run, a significantly higher performing workforce.

This information is not intended to constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon in lieu of consultation with your organization’s appropriate legal advisors.

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