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5 Steps to Choosing an Applicant Screening Tool

Human Resources

Why Use an Applicant Screening Tool?

Every person in every district’s HR department wants the same thing: to find the best candidate for each job. And there’s a way to increase the chances of this happening: having an objective, research-based hiring process can do a world of good in finding those high performers.

Luckily for us, researchers have studied both hiring processes and high-performing teachers for a very long time. In fact, the employment interview has been studied for nearly a hundred years, and tells us that the most effective way to choose the right person is through a structured hiring process — especially a structured interview. But although interviews are the most common way of choosing a candidate, they can also be one of the least reliable predictors of performance if left open to interpretation — or if they aren’t consistent between candidates.

A high-quality selection tool takes all of this research into account and uses it to help you bring in the best talent possible. It should springboard off of existing research and offer a way to structure the hiring process, especially when it comes to interviews. In K-12 education in particular, it’s crucial that screening assessments and selection criteria reflect what you expect great teachers to do every day.

How Do You Pick the Right Tool for Your District?

That sounds tempting: the idea that a screening tool could help you find the best possible candidate. Let’s take a look at what every district should take into account when considering an applicant screening tool, and the steps that will lead to finding the right one.

Step 1: Develop a Rationale

This seems like a simple step (“we want the tool to help us find better candidates”), but really needs to be a deliberate conversation across leaders, departments and buildings. There must be an understanding of how people are currently brought into the district, and how a screening tool will fit into that process and provide interpretable data.

Step 2: Do Your Research

We do this with every facet of the work we do in education, and HR is no different. Take the time to really research what you’re looking into. Look up everything you can about the research behind teacher selection and screening assessments. This includes asking every vendor you contact if you can see the research that has gone into developing their product. If they say no, run away.

Your research should understanding legal requirements, such as those enforced by the EEOC. For example, consider following excerpt from the 1978 Uniform Guidelines:

“Under no circumstances will the general reputation of a test or other selection procedures, its author or its publisher, or casual reports of its validity be accepted in lieu of evidence of validity.”

This means that you, as an employer, must be sure that the tool you choose is truly valid and driven by research — you can’t just rely on the product or vendor’s reputation. In other words, you can’t responsibly use a product if you can’t personally vouch for the research that’s been done on it.

Step 3: Consider the Law

This goes hand-in-hand with the previous step, but bears repeating. You must be fully compliant with the EEOC. If your screening tool scores applicants of a protected class as lower than other individuals, you can be held liable for discrimination. Again, ask to see evidence that the screening tool you’re considering is fully EEOC-compliant.

Step 4: Analyze the Costs

You can’t put a price on having great employees, but you don’t have unlimited funding, either. Make sure you know exactly what you will be paying for. Are there start-up costs involved, or a licensing fee? Find out what training is involved and what technical support is available, and know how much it costs before you put pen to paper.

Step 5: Plan Out the Screening Tool’s Role

The last step in this process is to have a plan of how you will use your new selection criteria. Do you plan to use it as part of a holistic hiring process where it’s used alongside other predictive elements to create a mosaic of each candidate? Or will you use it as a way to weed out low-performing candidates, and only consider applicants above a certain score?

Regardless of how you plan to use your screening tool, you need to have a plan in place and discuss this with other leaders in your district.  An interview tool or prescreening assessments can help provide a new dimension to your hiring process and help you bring the best possible candidates into your district, as long as its role is clearly defined. 

About Dr. Dane Delli

River Trails District 26 Superintendent

Dr. Dane Delli has worked at all levels of education for twenty-five years. He has served as the River Trails District 26 Superintendent since 2007. Dane earned his Ph.D. and M.A. in Educational Leadership from The Ohio State University after receiving his M.S. degree in Education from John Carroll University and his B.S. degree in English Education from Bowling Green State University.