Articles, Guest Blogger

Stop Screening Candidates: What Recruiters Can Learn from Designers

Or, “the 1970s called and it wants its recruiting process back!”

One of the key components of leading a successful organization is finding, hiring, and developing the highest quality people. If you have an average hiring process, you are going to hire average people. That means that sometimes you are going to get a rock star, sometimes you are going to get a dud, but most of the time you are going to get middle-of-the-road performers. It is hard to become a World Class organization that way.

While researching ways to recruit and hire better in the 21st Century, I came across Vervoe, a blog that is dedicated to helping companies hire better talent through the use of Artificial Intelligence. By using AI-powered skill testing to identify top performers, Vervoe has changed the way many companies identify talent.

When I think about how most organizations (including mine) screen candidates, I feel like we haven’t progressed much in the last century or so. Guest Blogger, Omer Molad, explains how one company is using modern tools to solve a widespread problem.

Stop Screening Candidates: What Recruiters Can Learn from Designers

by Omar Molad

Screening candidates isn’t helping you.

In technology, user experience design is very close to our hearts. We are constantly trying to make it easier for our prospective customers to gain value from our products and services. We try to make the experience as welcoming as possible and take them on a journey.

When it comes to our prospective team members, perversely, we seem to take the opposite approach. When people express an interest in joining our teams, we seem to go to great lengths to push them away. We actively discourage them. We screen them.

To screen:

To test or examine someone or something to discover if there is anything wrong with the person or thing.

Cambridge Dictionary

What? Really?

That’s how traditional recruitment works. When people want to join our ranks, we try to find out what is wrong with them so we can rule them out. There is something inherently wrong with that approach.

What does that say about us? What message are we sending to people? When I try to put myself in the shoes of a candidate, this quote comes to mind:

“Sometimes it’s the journey that teaches you a lot about your destination.”

– Drake

If the journey is obstructionist and unpleasant, if I’m being screened as if there is something wrong with me, that must say something about the destination.

So let’s change that.

Why we should change how we think about screening candidates?

Recruitment is based on a mentality of keeping people out. Too many applications, too little time. So naturally, we put barriers up. But in doing so we are in danger of sending the wrong message to the people we want to bring in, which is counterintuitive.

Is that our intent or is it by necessity?

I don’t believe that all companies want to be portrayed as unwelcoming, impenetrable fortresses. Especially when there is so much talk about the importance of the candidate experience.

I don’t believe that startups, who are obsessed with attracting the best talent, want to signal to the very people they want to attract that the door is closed.


Screening may have been a necessary evil once upon a time, but that is no longer the case. With the help of technology, we can align the way we approach prospective team members to feel more like the way we approach prospective customers. We can take them on a journey and give them a great experience — and the good news is that it’s not difficult to do.

Thinking Like Designers

If you asked a designer to design a candidate journey it would probably look something like this:

CEO: We want to hire great people to help us grow. Can you help us out?

Designer: Sounds interesting. Who is our ideal candidate?

CEO: I knew you’d ask that. We want people who will be great at their jobs, share our values and be super motivated about working with us every day. If we tell a compelling story about our company’s purpose and the way people can be part of our journey, that will convince them to join our team.

Designer: So you want to convince everyone to join us, but then reserve the right to knock some people back. Typical CEO attitude.

CEO: Well… ideally we’d take people on a journey that reflects what it’s like to actually work with us. Not everyone can get the job, but at least everyone will get an opportunity.

Designer: Ok, leave it with me.


… four design hackathons later …

Designer: I think we should accept every application.

CEO: What? How? Who has time for that?

Designer: We do. We accept every application and interview everyone. We let everyone through to the first interview stage. Then we can decide based on merit who to invest more time in.

CEO: I know where you’re going with this. You dropped out of college and you’re a self-taught designer. So, you want people like you to be able to get through.

Designer: I’m a great designer, aren’t I? Who cares what college degree I have or don’t have?

CEO: Fair enough. So you want to interview everyone and give everyone a chance. I can see the benefits. But isn’t that a waste of time? I’m pretty busy.

Designer: Give me some credit. I’m not suggesting you physically interview candidates. We’ll ask them to do automated interviews …

… We give our customers free trials, don’t we? So why not do the same with candidates? We’ll give them a taste of what it’s like to work here with some scenarios that simulate the role they’ve applied for.people-2572167_1920.jpg

CEO: Nice. And in the process we’ll learn a bit about how they approach relevant tasks.

Designer: Now you’re catching on.

CEO: And it all happens online right? I don’t have to actually be there.

Designer: Of course. We’re in the 21st century, aren’t we?

Let’s Open the Doors, There is Nothing to Fear

If we change the way we approach talent acquisition the prize is huge.

By replacing screening with an open journey, we can interact with candidates in a more productive way. Instead of worrying about where they went to school, we’ll focus on what they love doing and how well they can do it.

In turn, each candidate will get a glimpse of our company or team and be left with a positive impression.

An open process is a more optimistic way to approach recruitment. It’s a more respectful way to interact. And it’s far more efficient.

The trick is not to get better at screening by using artificial intelligence or other fancy tools to draw conclusions about about candidates based on their profiles. The trick isn’t even about technology.

It helps, but first we need to change our mindset. We must think about people as more than a static collection of data. We are living and breathing beings. We are dynamic. We therefore need to see candidates in action, not frozen. Looking from a distance isn’t enough.


This approach is based on performance, not background. On giving people a chance in relevant situations, not trying to rule them out.

AUTHOR: Omer Molad
Making hiring about merit, not background | Co-founder and CEO of Vervoe

originally published at


Articles, Essay

Now Hiring: Interview Principles to make Better Selections

Hire the Best Person for the job, not just the best interviewer!

In a large, risk-averse bureaucracy there is a tendency to create processes that try to minimize risk. In our hiring process we have reduced the job interview to one that values fairness over effectiveness. Every applicant is asked the exact same questions in the exact same order. Followup questions are verboten. If the applicant doesn’t understand the question, the interviewer repeats the question verbatim.

It’s as if we don’t really want them to work here.

Our most valuable resource is high quality people. To continue our success, we must continue to find, recruit, and hire the best possible people to do the essential work we do. It is inconsistent with this goal to conduct interviews in a manner that doesn’t contribute to it. Too often, our interviews are cold, uninviting, and exhausting. We must change that.

The following principles and guidelines are helpful steps in the right direction. Continue reading


Veteran’s Day Speech 2018

I had the honor of addressing a crowd of veterans and our community to commemorate the 100th anniversary of signing of the Armistice ending World War I. The text is printed below.

Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you for coming out today to honor those men and women, past and present who have served in our Armed Forces.

This occasion is a special one, as it was a hundred years ago today that our forces in the Army Expeditionary Force serving in France heard the news that Germany had signed the Armistice. We are a long ways from the days of horse drawn artillery and biplanes, and it is hard to imagine the sacrifices our doughboys made during that terrible conflict, or the exhilaration, relief and excitement those men and women felt just a hundred years ago today.

A year later, on November 11, 1919 President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation on the first anniversary of Armistice Day, the official end to World War I. In this proclamation, President Wilson spoke about this Nation’s contribution to the conflict in Europe. “…We were able to bring the vast resources, material and moral of a great and free people to the assistance of our associates in Europe who had suffered and sacrificed without limit in the cause for which we fought. Out of this victory there arose new possibilities of political freedom and economic concert… To us in America the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with – solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service, and with gratitude for the victory…”

That’s tough to follow

Continue reading


Following Superman: Doing it all yourself doesn’t actually help

A few years ago I succeeded Superman in a job. As you can imagine following the Man of Steel was really hard.

I took over as the chief of staff for an engineer unit, and my predecessor had done an amazing job at running the unit. He knew everything about the maintenance, logistics, personnel, and administrative systems, and he knew how to leverage those systems to keep the organization going. It was, frankly, intimidating thinking about how much I had to learn.

Fortunately, I have a staff around me that will help me figure it all out, right?

Well, sort of… there were people assigned as staff officers with responsibility for those areas. That’s not the same thing as having a fully functional staff.

One of the first meetings I got to attend in my new position was the budget meeting at our higher headquarters. I called in the budget officer and asked him to bring me the books so we could review them before the meeting.

The budget officer told me he’d be happy to come over but that he didn’t have the books. “They’re in your office. Your predecessor did the budget himself.”


Continue reading

Essay, Story

Winning and Losing to your Bureaucracy

This starts by knowing how the game is played and knowing all of the rules, both written and unwritten, and then either exploiting or breaking them.


I love practicing jujitsu. It is a great art and sport, and helps build flexibility, strength, endurance, and confidence. The practice of jujitsu is a journey, and very few who study the art can claim to master it. I, unfortunately am in the majority here. As a mere novice in this art I frequently find myself humbled by the speed and skill of others.

One of the people I roll with is a guy named Ben. Ben is a bit of a freak of nature as he is older than me but remains one of the biggest, strongest, fittest people in the academy. I’m probably giving up about 30 pounds when I square off with Ben, and despite what TV tells you, strength and size make a difference. The other problem I have with Ben is his jujitsu is also better than mine.

When I roll with Ben I have no illusions that I will tap him out. My goal is to survive the five minutes without getting choked out. Sometimes I make it.

Continue reading


Get the Rock out of the Road: Leading Change amidst resistance

As a brand new Lieutenant I was welcomed to my first battalion by a senior lieutenant named Ed who was getting ready to leave the unit. He had been there three years and was headed back to the states to get promoted and go to Captain School. (It wasn’t really called that, but most of my followers aren’t familiar with the Engineer Officer Advanced Course, and I though Captain School sounded cooler).

Ed was full of wisdom. And since he was older and wiser and I was (as my platoon sergeant so eloquently put it) still wet behind the ears, I listened intently.

He offered advice when I attempted to buy an extra large rucksack. “Why do you need that?” To carry more stuff in the field. “We’re a mechanized unit. You have a vehicle for that.” I know, but we may need to dismount and walk a ways. “If you walk more than 300 yards you should fire your driver.” Ed was good at pointing out the obvious stuff for me.

Continue reading


Accepting the Leadership Challenge: the First-Time Supervisor

As a young lieutenant I had the privilege of serving on the operations staff in an Engineering Battalion. It was a great assignment as there were really talented people working really hard to keep the organization running. I learned a tremendous amount in the year I served on staff, and understanding how the higher headquarters ran made me a better leader when I went back down to the line.

One of the guys I got to know on staff was a Captain named John. He was one of those all-around great guys that didn’t hold his rank over us junior officers.  He essentially treated us as equals on staff and was a pleasure to be around.

And then something changed. John was selected to go to a line unit and take command.

Continue reading