We’ve Screened Hundreds of Thousands of Candidates – Here’s Our Review Process

April 1, 2024
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Over the last ten years, our little team at Underdog.io has screened hundreds of thousands of candidate profiles – sorting through thousands of resumes weekly to connect job seekers with exciting companies like SeatGeek, Instacart, and The NBA.

To manage this inbound and ensure that the companies on our platform access the top 3-5% of candidates across engineering, product, and business functions, we’ve built a process to equitably, thoughtfully, and scalably review applications.

What are some of the right application questions?

Breakdown of candidates shared on Underdog.io in the last 12 months

Our candidate application has evolved over the years, but at its core, the goal has always been to collect as much information as possible with as little friction for candidates. Many studies have been conducted on the relationship between application length and the number of applications.

The primary call-to-action on our site, “Apply to top startup jobs in 60 seconds,” has stayed relatively consistent since the start. In addition to contact information, we require candidates to share resumes and ask for portfolios, GitHub, and websites as optional fields to help us evaluate their skills more thoroughly. We hit APIs to gather these optional fields if they exist, but the candidates do not share.

As a note, it certainly means something when we ask for it, don’t receive it, but it exists. It’s our job to figure out what exactly it means.

From day one, we’ve asked for location preferences and, eventually, added a question about the candidate’s current location to square the two and understand preferences for hybrid/in-office work. This also gives us some idea of whether someone might require visa sponsorship, even though we explicitly ask if they do.

One of our more unique questions asks candidates to self-identify where they are in their job search (e.g. “Casually browsing,” “Just starting my search,” “Actively interviewing,” or “Nearing the end of my search”). This question is incredibly valuable in keeping an active and engaged candidate pool on the platform. Finally, we ask for an area of expertise and ideal role. Tech jobs have become more fragmented than ever in the last few years, so having candidates specify their roles and business functions helps us evaluate their profiles against other candidates with similar profiles. The answers to these questions also provide insight into their specialization.

Our approach to building out the grading rubric

Over the years, we’ve worked with thousands of hiring managers and internal recruiters. We’ve taken feedback from these interactions and thoughtfully debated how to best include them as new dimensions in our rubric. Additionally, we’ve tracked how candidates do in the process and, if hired, how long they stay. These interactions have led us to make updates to the rubric as well.

What sort of attributes do we consider?

We add values to each attribute based on a weighted system. This system is dynamic, allowing us to adjust the weights as the job market and our client's needs evolve. For example, while work history and education might be heavily weighted for one position, work samples or side projects might carry more weight for another, especially in technical roles where practical skills are paramount.

This weighting system is complemented by our proprietary algorithm which helps to initially sort through applications based on the criteria set in the rubric. However, we strongly believe in the human element of recruitment. Therefore, each application that passes through our initial screening also undergoes a thorough review by our team. This ensures that we don't miss out on great candidates who might not fit perfectly within a predetermined mold but have unique experiences or skills that could be highly valuable to our clients.

For example, one of our favorite internal hires was a software engineer without a technical education or work history. However, he had an exceptional portfolio of side projects and the ability to communicate his passion for the projects that made him a great fit for our scaling startup culture. 

So, what have we learned from a decade of screening tech candidate profiles?

Build a thorough application. A thoughtful, robust application is your best tool for making informed decisions. By crafting questions that dig deeper and demand more than the usual checkbox responses, you effectively narrow the field to those who are genuinely interested and qualified.

Have a plan, but be flexible. Many of our most successful candidates have been nontraditional for the role but excel in other factors. By keeping an open mind, you can uncover hidden gems that may not fit the conventional profile but have the potential to excel and innovate. Remember, candidates are more than a score in a rubric. 

Good in. Good out. By sourcing candidates from active, well-curated pools like Underdog.io, we help companies sidestep the flood of unqualified resumes and zero in on top-tier talent. There is no longer a needle in the haystack – just a stack of needles. Book a 15-minute call to see how we can help.

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