Multi-level Vetting: How we get to the ideal candidate

Multi-level Vetting: How we get to the ideal candidate

As a company focused on finding and placing skilled craftsman all over the country, one of the questions we are often asked by our clients is simply this: “How are you guys able to find these great candidates when we can’t?” It’s a great question and one that we obsess on answering every day we come to work. We are 100% focused on finding great candidates from across the country and discreetly matching them to very specific open positions that our clients trust us to fill.

But how do we get from hundreds of potential candidates to THE right person for your opening? This article provides an overview of our approach to how we do that by using a multiple level gating process to vet and validate skills, personality, and aptitude of every one of our candidates.

The difference between vetting and gating—and how it applies to Skillwork

First, let’s establish some common understanding of the terminology we use.


The dictionary definition is “to thoroughly evaluate for possible approval or acceptance.” It’s interesting that the root meaning of the original word is related to a veterinarian. It kind of makes sense when you think about it – a Vet has to really examine and seek hidden clues to figure out the health of an animal since the animal can’t talk, complain, etc.

So the meaning in the context of candidate selection has morphed from animals to people and now means, “to subject a person or thing to scrutiny; to examine for flaws.”


This is defined as an action, process, or mechanism by which the passage of something is controlled. Think of a gate in a fence or a check valve in a waterline. Gating is a way to enable a repeatable process that allows certain candidates to move forward while also eliminating others from next step in our process.

Our 8-step gating process

In finding candidates, how do we “vet” them to gain understanding of their skills, personality, drive, character, etc? Well, in the best-case scenario there is some personal contact or verification that you can employ. Maybe you actually know the potential candidate or have someone on your team that personally validates them. However, that scenario is infrequent and unsustainable over time.

More often, as a hiring manager, most of your candidates start out as one of many “faceless names” on a resume or an application – you really don’t know them at all. At Skillwork, we have well over a hundred a day that come in to our system through a variety of avenues. So how do we go from 100 down to a small group of qualified Skillwork candidates that meet our client’s needs?

The challenge becomes even more difficult in the skilled trades as there are so many nuances in nearly every craft or trade. For example, there are differences in an industrial PLC-focused Electrician vs. Industrial Mechanical Electrician vs. Construction Electrician.

So, at Skillwork we have developed a very thorough and comprehensive 8-step gating process that acts as a funnel to vet our candidates. While no process is perfect – especially when dealing with the intangible qualities inherent in human beings – ours enables us to be confident that we find the right candidates at the right time for the right opportunity. Here is an overview of those steps:

  1. Develop Requirements: We develop very specific and detailed requirements for each of our open positions. We then publish our open jobs across the country on multiple job boards, services, and social media platforms. This step allows us to cast a wide net for potential candidates. For any given job, we get an average of 200 applicants that come into our system.
  2. Resume Screening: We conduct our initial resume/application review and elimination step using a repeatable automated approach. Even though we depend on technology and automation, the real value comes from our “eyes-on” approach where every one of our candidates gets a thorough review by one of our experienced Candidate Coordinators (CC). The CC’s mission is to find the candidates that meet our minimum criteria, eliminate those that don’t, and take the initial 200 candidates in our example down to 100 potential Skillworkers that are then assigned to our team of Recruiters.
  3. Candidate Pre-Screening: The next step is called our pre-screening process. In this step, our Recruiters analyze the records of the candidates and further refine those that meet our exacting standards from those that do not. The Recruiters then reach out and engage the applicants for the first time with a focus on validating experience, skills, certifications, and explaining our model and our methods. This gate results in a further winnowing of the list of candidates that are possible fits for a Skillwork role. Generally, the list of candidates is cut in half again. So, in this example, our pool of candidates that started out at 200 is now down to 50 now.
  4. Personality and Aptitude Measurement: After we complete our Recruiter prescreen, the next step is the first of a two-part process where we assess our candidate’s personality and aptitude. The proprietary testing tools we use enable us to assess if a candidate is a good fit for a particular job in two distinct ways as follows:
    1. Personality Testing: Helps us understand how you do the job. It focuses on identifying attributes that are more permanent in an individual. It helps us identify traits like extroversion, competitiveness, patience, etc.
    2. Cognitive Aptitude Testing: Helps us understand if you can do the job. This battery of tests assesses how well a particular candidate can solve problems, apply critical thinking, display attention to detail, and overall ability to learn new concepts.

Based on the results from these two assessments, we further refine our understanding of our candidate pool. In our ongoing example, our pool of 50 is generally cut in half again leaving us with around 25 from our original list of 200.

  1. Skills Assessment: The next step is widely used in recruiting and applicant vetting where the candidate is tested for the actual skills necessary to do the job. So, as an example for an Electrician’s role, we test their understanding of electrical skills and associated knowledge necessary for a particular role. We work closely with our clients to develop these tests, often incorporating their own internal questions to our large bank of questions, to properly assess the most crucial skills required. Most companies tend to put this test much too early in the process, but we believe it’s more crucial to get the right personality and aptitude before skills assessments.

The most knowledgeable craftsman in the world may not be a good fit if they have a bad attitude or lack key aptitude. Our list of 25 is now pared down to about 20 potential candidates.

  1. Subject Matter Expert Validation and Interview: This step is perhaps most crucial as it involves direct engagement and conversation between our experienced Recruiters and the validated pool of potential candidates. In this series of engagements, we verify work history, skills, and job-specific requirements. Beyond the ability to fit the required skill and experience, this step also verifies the candidate’s personal interaction, personality, and professionalism. Our ability to sift through theses qualified candidates and find the right fit based on human interaction is key to our success—some things a computer and automation simply cannot replace. This further refines our list down to a final 6 candidates for any one opportunity.
  2. Internal Client Manager Validation: This is the final hurdle before we submit our Skillwork candidates over to our customer. In this step, our Client Managers – the experts on our team that are the face and voice of our clients – complete a final review and interview with each Skillwork candidate that makes it this far. In this screening process, they are focused on making sure the candidate not only has the skills and experience, but they are checking on fit and personality. Every client location has unique needs that the Client Managers know intimately. This step ensures those needs and requirements are 100% fulfilled before submitting to the customer for final review and the list of our 3 best candidates is completed.
  3. Client Interview: This is the most crucial gate in the process as the client reviews and interviews the Skillworker’s they deem as most ideal for the open positions. They see the very “best of the best” candidates rather than spending valuable time doing the extensive legwork we already completed. Normally conducted via a virtual face-to-face interview session, the final stage assures everyone involved that every “i” is dotted, and “t” is crossed in locating the ideal candidates for the position.

Final thoughts

It should be apparent that our process is very thorough, time consuming, and challenging, but we feel necessary. Clearly, not every company has the time or resources to go to this level but it’s what we do every day – it’s our business and our expertise. Like any other system or process, especially involving humans, it’s not foolproof. But, we provide a guaranteed safety net: if for whatever reason it doesn’t work out we are always ready to replace the candidate and quickly make it right.

Here are a few other benefits to our model:

  • We own the process, we do all the upfront work, we partner with industry leading partners to develop the best tools and systems, it’s our 100% focus every day.
  • We search the entire nation – we cast a big net enabling us to find more candidates than you
  • We funnel the candidates to find not only the best fit for our clients, but we are also looking for the best fit for our Skillworkers. We want both parties to be completely satisfied.
  • Sometimes, despite all we can do, its just not the right fit, but we make it right. With your own internal hires, it more difficult to make a quick change – we can do it immediately.

Bottom line—our approach enables our clients to have the freedom to focus on making a final decision, solve their staffing challenges quickly, and get back to running their businesses.

Tim Raglin – VP Operations, Skillwork

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