Basic Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)

Say you are a hiring manager. You have an open position that needs to be filled, and now have hundreds of applications to sift through to find the best individual for the job. Pre-screening is the process by which you would review each candidate to either eliminate or further an application until you find the right one, or, as we recruiters like to say, our unicorn.

Why it’s Important

Your pool of applicants comprise a variety of people, so pre-screening is a tool to eliminate applicants that do not meet the basic criteria without conducting time-consuming interviews, and guage the quality of the rest and their truthfulness on their application. To pre-screen candidates is to use an effective recruitment strategy to systematically and efficiently find the best candidates.

Steps of Pre-Screening

Check the ATS

The first logical step of the methodological process of pre-screening is to check the ATS, if your organization uses one (refer to last week’s blog about ATSs!). If the applicant has applied to another position before, their profile will already be in the system, so it will be easier to simply update their profile, or discard their application altogether if they were not a desirable candidate the last time.

Read their Cover Letter and Resume

Cover letters can be reflective of a candidate’s attitude towards the position. A nonspecific and generic cover letter can exude disinterest and laziness.

A resume will be the best place to verify that the applicant meets the basic requirements for the position. If any criteria is not apparent in the resume, it is likely that they do not have it.

Preliminary Interview

A pre-screening interview, typically over a video or phone call and lasting less than thirty minutes, is not uncommon and can be useful for hearing from the applicant directly. A quick conversation can shed light on any circumstances and add supplementary information not on their resume or cover letter.

Reference Checking

Checking an applicant’s references and verifying that the information they provided is truthful is among the most important components of the pre-screening process. There are a number of qualities that need to be verified, and can change if a position requires certain qualifications or skills. These are a few common checks:

  • Education – to verify they meet a required level of education and/or degree

  • Employment – to verify the truthfulness of their resume

  • Credentials –  to verify they have a necessary license or certification

  • Criminal history – to verify trustworthiness and safety


Pre-screening is an important process to make the hiring process easier and more methodical for a hiring manager. In fact, many ATSs do much of the pre-screening work automatically, making it even easier. Utilizing recruitment strategies can help you to find and hire the best candidates for your organization to flourish.