How To Cut Through 92.4% Of Unqualified Candidates When Hiring Talent


Free Bonus Download: I made a checklist of the key steps to cutting through the unqualified candidates, print it, and tape it next to your desk, or email it to your co-workers! Click here to download it free

If you’re building a company, it’s no secret that hiring great talent is one of the most (if not the most) important things you can do as a manager. EchoSign founder Jason Lemkin says it himself: “you have to spend 20% of your time – at a minimum – recruiting. Period. Always. Forever.

But hiring talent is never a sure thing. Someone can interview extremely well and end up being a terrible fit. Even someone that has extensive industry experience with the stellar recommendations might end up being a total dud for your company. The fact that a bad hire can end up costing a company more than $50,000 means that creating a strong hiring process is essential for any business.

What if I told you that there was a simple way to eliminate up to 92.4% of unqualified candidates right off the bat?

How much would the time saved be worth to you? How much more revenue would you generate due to the time saved?

By using the steps below, I was able to eliminate cut out 133 out of 144 candidates right off the bat. This left me with 11 candidates that I wanted to have a conversation with.

First things first – make sure you build a hiring funnel. This blog post is intended to just address the first part – cutting the wheat from the chaff.

Here’s how to eliminate 92.4% of unqualified candidates quickly:

1. Add a additional step that’s hard to find

We all want to hire talented people who are detailed oriented, right?

One of the most effective tactics I’ve used in hiring is making sure I add some kind of layer to the hiring process that ensures that my prospect is paying attention and reading through the job description throughly.

For example, if I’m posting a job description up on a site, I’ll add a requirement at the end of the job description that calls for a custom cover letter that starts with the line ‘SEO is cool’. Any candidate that fails to do this is automatically disqualified.

When it comes to posting job descriptions, it’s given that there’s a significant amount of noise out there. People are blasting out their resumes and CVs so cutting through the nonsense quickly is important.

If you’re a startup CEO, this is doubly important because you should be spending your time on high leverage activities so adding this step is a big time saver in the long run.

The benefits to adding this step:

– Ensures that your candidates are attentive
– Custom CV shows how committed/motivated your candidate is
– Saves valuable time

If your prospect is a referral, that’s not a problem. You can simply assign them some ‘homework’ and add in an additional step at some point in the assignment to make sure they’re attentive.

2. Use a tool like Ziprecruiter to ruthlessly cut down on unqualified candidates

To organize this process, I like to use Ziprecruiter. Feel free to use whatever tool you like.

Whenever you get 144 candidates, you’ll take whatever you can get to help speed the hiring process up. With Ziprecruiter, the first thing I look for is a CV.

If there’s no CV, I move on to the next candidate.

If I see a CV, i’ll hover over the CV icon to see if my required phrase is present. Here’s a successful example:


For each candidate that has passed my initial filter, I’ll give them a grade of 3 stars.


After that, I’ll have Ziprecruiter filter out all of my candidates that have 3 stars so I know who I need to move to the next step.


Out of the 144 candidates that applied, 133 (92.4%) were unqualified using the tactic above.

I used the same tactic for a few other job postings and the results were similar:

– For a sales role: 0/30 (0%) were qualified
– For a part-time editor role: 3/30 (10%) were qualified

The outlier was a PPC role that had 20 applicants. 7 out of 20 people got it right (35%).

Free Bonus Download: I made a checklist of the key steps to cutting through the unqualified candidates, print it, and tape it next to your desk, or email it to your co-workers! Click here to download it free

Next Steps

This post is really only a small part of our hiring process. If you really want to hire great talent consistently (you do, right?), you should look into creating a hiring funnel.

Additional Resources

How to hire by Sam Altman – great resource by YCombinator’s Sam Altman on how to hire great talent. It’s easy to delude yourself into thinking that you can manage a mediocre hire into doing great work.

Trial Week by Weebly’s CEO on the Sequioa Capital blog – Sequoia has an actionable post on how to create weekly ‘homework’ for new potential hires. That is, instead of just hiring someone off of just an interview, you have your candidate come in and work side by side with your team so you can have a better assessment of them.

photo credit: cjmartin via photopin cc

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