Decision Makers Make Lousy Screeners

A picture of an overwhelmed business man - Kathbern Management - Toronto Recruiting Agency

Sure, they might be effective at it. After all, if they are the final decision makers as to which of several very qualified candidates will get an offer after a rigorous selection process, then they probably are actually excellent screeners (in theory). But in reality, the screening activity is certainly not the highest and best use of the decision maker’s time and therefore is not a realistic approach.

Although decision makers will be able to do a better job than almost anyone at deciding whether a given candidate may or may not be qualified enough to be seriously considered, in reality the pressure to do higher value work (their “real” jobs) will eventually force them to abandon this task, or stretch it out over a very long and interrupted period of time. This is the underlying message from our previous post, Going Too Slow. Unless the job is properly assigned elsewhere, the decision makers will retain the responsibility, but won’t be executing it. This means they are great when they do it, but they don’t really do it, or do it in such a haphazard manner that the entire recruitment process is disjointed and fails to work in an optimal way.

Assuming that the research phase in your process is effective in identifying good candidates from a variety of sources, a sizable number will have to be interviewed on the phone or in person (or both), perhaps by more than one person, in order to decide who, if anyone, approximates the success criteria sufficiently to be included on the “short list”. This is the Screening Process.

The decision makers almost certainly has the necessary knowledge to perform the screening process – but they typically do not have the time. Others in the organization may have the time, but often do not have the necessary interviewing skills and experience to sort out the important criteria from the less important. In either case, having the wrong people involved in the screening process will result in inefficient use of resources, a faulty process that does not result in the best candidate “short list”, and that is disjointed and lacks momentum.

Read More: Hiring Techniques: Job Posting Vs Head Hunting

The objective should be to reserve the talents of the decision maker for deciding, not screening – in other words, for evaluating those candidates who have made it to the short list. If the screening process operates properly, all (3 or 4) candidates on the short list should be a very good fit for the position in question. The decision maker’s task is to use their superior knowledge of the organization, of the role in question, of the political, economic, and future environment that may affect what is needed for a candidate to succeed, and to take all of those often very subjective standards and judge each candidate’s suitability against them. This is efficient use of the decision maker.

Screening itself is also very important, otherwise the wrong candidates will make it to the short list and qualified candidates will be either excluded or never discovered. Be sure to assign someone (other than the decision maker) to do the screening who ideally is involved in the research process of identifying potential candidates and is capable of interviewing at the senior level. If at all possible, the same individual should be assigned to be the point person who coordinates the entire process.


Kathbern Management is an executive search firm based in Toronto, helping companies find the executives and senior managers who not only have the experience and credentials to fulfill their responsibilities, but also have the emotional and “fit” requirements that will enable them to be successful in a particular environment. We simplify the process and, through our deep research, are able to bring more and better candidates forward than would ever be possible through a do-it-yourself passive advertising campaign.


Contact us today for a free consultation about your key person search.

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