3 Things that go wrong during pre-employment screening

Perhaps the two most common methods for carrying out pre-employment screening of candidates are CV-based screening and personality assessments, such as MBTI or DiSC. 

And yes, CV screening and using personality assessments to evaluate candidates can help you get some valuable data points about the candidates’ education, experience, qualifications, hobbies, interests and hard skills, personality traits and so on.

However, in order to make actually good hiring decisions, the combination of relevant & right data points that actually determine future job success, is what you should be on the lookout for when screening candidates.

Let’s take a look at the 3 things that most commonly go wrong during pre-employment screening that lead us to eventually make bad hiring decisions.

3 things that go wrong during pre-employment screening

The “We’ve always done it this way”: CV-based screening

Using CVs to assess candidates is nothing new, it is the way we’ve all done it for decades. CV is the norm and often considered as the best and easiest way also for candidates to showcase their experience and skills to ultimately land a job.

CVs do contain a lot of relatively useful information about the work experience, education, personality and other skills of your candidates. 

But in fact, CV-based screening is a broken method to use when hiring. Don’t believe me? 

Well, then you’re in for a treat…


Here’s why!

  • Resumes are inaccurate: about 85% of job seekers are being dishonest in their CVs.
  • There is NO correlation between job performance and education or even work experience. This means that by using CVs, for example,you wrongfully reject candidates with a lower educational level but a higher degree of analytical intelligence and advance candidates with a higher educational level but lower analytical intelligence.
  • CVs contain a lot of irrelevant information, which leaves a lot of room for unconscious bias to creep in, for example, similar resumes with Black-sounding names are 50% less likely to receive a callback for an interview than those with White-sounding names.
  • A study shows that ethnic minority applicants are discriminated against in favour of white applicants in 29% of cases.
  • Only shows you someone’s track record, rather than how smart they are, how someone behaves at work, and what someone’s personality is. When in reality those are the aspects that are more predictive of someone’s job success.
  • It’s simply impossible to properly assess someone’s fit with your team by looking at their CV.
  • There is no standard format, thus making it difficult to compare candidates objectively.

On top of that, CV is a breeding ground for unconscious biases.

One might think that by using CV screening software these biases can be avoided. When in reality, tools like these can in fact replicate some of the same biases as occur when you screen a CV. CV screening tools are really only as good as the data used to train them by the people who built them. 

When hiring teams use historical data to train machine learning tools, such as data collected from the company’s internal database, then the system inherits the biases of recruiters who previously vetted those candidates. 

Yet, we continuously choose to rely primarily on CV-based screening. 

This eventually not only leads to mishires, discriminatory hiring practices, but also severely harms the diversity within your teams.


Believing the science of bull***t: personality tests

Personalities matter a lot when it comes to hiring new employees to join your company. In fact, more and more companies consider candidates’ personalities as early as the very first step of the hiring process (so during initial candidate screening). 

We think that personality tests help us get to know a person in a short amount of time, even without being in direct touch with them. 

And yes, personality tests do offer some insights into the preferences of candidates regarding task completion and their working style. 

However, results from scientific research have a different opinion about whether they can be used as a hiring tool:

  1. Low validity when it comes to predicting future job performance
  2. Involve dangers of self-reporting and social desirability
  3. Endlessly trainable
  4. Involves vague statements
  5. Provides you with broad and generalized insights (think of it as a horoscope 😉 )


Being in HR, you probably are aware of the two most popular personality tests out there – Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and DiSC personality assessment, right? I hope you aren’t using either of them for candidate screening because the following will shock you..

Both companies have a disclaimer on their website stating that the scores obtained from the test are not recommended for pre-employment screening. (DiSC Profile; MBTIOnline).

Not shocked enough? The MBTI is notoriously unreliable.

Imagine  you hired someone who based on the personality test results seems the perfect candidate, and 5 weeks later turns out it’s someone completely different. Not very ideal is it?

Combining the worst of both worlds: validating your very own assumptions

Job assessments have the potential to be a great method to ensure equal opportunities and thereby inherently improve diversity – however, not in the way most companies are currently using it.

Assessments are most often introduced between the phone screening and first interview. Let’s imagine you have reviewed someone’s CV, they’ve had their first interview already and you decide to send them a personality assessment to get to know them a bit more.

Now, what happens here is that whatever results the candidate gets after completing the personality test, by introducing an assessment after initial screening – you are likely to interpret the results in a way that validates your first impression and initial assumptions about a candidate.

Whether for worse, or for better.

I mean think about it – doesn’t a horoscope somehow always make sense? Horoscopes are one thing.

Yet, when this happens in hiring you’re left with an extremely biased judgment of whether the candidate is right for the job or not.

Solution? Data-driven recruitment

Hiring that is based on data is an approach to recruiting new talent where hiring decisions are based on specific, measurable job-relevant skills and criteria in a consistent manner.

Data-driven hiring boils down to knowing exactly what would make someone successful at the role you’re hiring for and measuring these criteria objectively.

It all comes down to objectifying your hiring decisions and that’s all about harnessing the power of data.

For instance, collecting ten additional data points for all candidates not only provides you with a more detailed overview of your candidates but also enables you to review your candidates based on equal information.

Research shows that HR teams who harness data-driven recruitment are twice as likely to find talent more efficiently than the ones who don’t.

Ready to learn more about how harnessing the power of data can boost your pre-employment screening and ultimately improve hiring decisions?

Get our guide here and find out!

Cheers, Anete!

Picture of Anete Vesere

Anete Vesere

Content Marketer at Equalture. Dedicated and passionate about educating the world about unconscious bias in hiring.

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