How HR Can Be More Efficient During the Pre-Hire Process


Bringing new talent into an organization is arguably the most important task there is. Whether this task is managed wholly or partly by HR, there is plenty HR can and should do to increase efficiency, especially during the all-important pre-hire process.

Typical pre-hire activities include background and reference checks, drug testing, and behavioral and skills testing.

Background and Reference Checks

Most all Fortune 500 companies do background and reference checks, and it’s not hard to imagine why. These organizations hire thousands of employees each year. Consequently, their pre-hiring processes are more formal, structured, and objective than other companies might consider necessary.

But there’s something to be gained by emulating how companies like Wal-Mart, GE, and Apple choose talent. If their pre-hiring processes weren’t efficient, work would be severely impacted. The sheer volume of hiring would guarantee it.

So no matter the size of the organization, HR can increase efficiency in this area by:

  • Training managers in background and reference check best practices.
  • Developing processes to ensure background and reference checks are administered consistently and to company standard.
  • Developing procedures to ensure that complete and up-to-date reference contact information is collected from potential new hires when needed (i.e., not too soon in the process and not too late in the process).
  • Developing procedures to ensure test results are analyzed promptly.
  • Using an automated reference tool, which saves time and increases accuracy of information.

Drug Testing

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, loss of production and efficiency, increased workplace accidents, increased workers comp and medical costs, increased absenteeism, higher turnover, poorer decision making, and increased time on disciplinary procedures are just a few of the negative consequences of drugs in the workplace. That’s why it makes perfect sense to test candidates pre-hire.

HR can increase efficiency in this area by:

  • Assisting leadership to determine who within the company will initiate testing and be responsible for intercepting results.
  • Developing processes for informing hiring managers and other need-to-know personnel of the testing results.
  • Developing processes and a communications strategy for ensuring prompt notification to candidates who fail drug testing.
  • Developing policies and procedures that clearly document the company’s intent to provide a safe and drug-free work environment.
  • Developing a trusted relationship with a local health care provider (or network of providers), which will lead to more streamlined scheduling and invoicing.

Behavioral and Skills Testing

Hiring managers and HR professionals have long debated what’s better: hiring for skills or hiring for traits?

The truth is that BOTH are important, because the right hire has the rights traits AND the right skills.

However, discerning who has what isn’t always straightforward. Just because a candidate has the ideal background on paper doesn’t mean she performed any of her jobs well. Enter behavioral and skills testing.

HR can increase efficiency in this area by:

  • Training managers in behavioral and skills testing best practices.
  • Choosing valid, reliable instruments that accurately evaluate skills and behavioral traits relevant to the job.
  • Developing processes to ensure that testing occurs and results are received before any job offers are made.
  • Ensuring that test results are analyzed promptly and to standard (e.g., if an acceptable score on a particular test is 80 or above, no one who scores less than 80 should be considered for the position).
  • Developing a trusted relationship with a testing provider, which will streamline scheduling and invoicing.

The Bottom Line

It’s easy to adopt the attitude that pre-hire activities are mere routine busywork without a whole lot of value attached, especially when hiring “in bulk.” Unfortunately, the repetitive nature of some aspects of the job can lend itself to that characterization.

But that attitude misses the point. Background and reference checks, drug testing, and behavioral and skills tests are perhaps the best and most objective way to screen out unsuitable workers while confirming the fit of some others. Gut instinct and spotty, lukewarm, or “neutral” references can’t offer the same. In fact, relying on “chemistry” and/or questionable methods of obtaining references is a good way to make an expensive hiring mistake.

Even so, pre-hiring activities must be administered efficiently for maximum return on investment.

Where else do you see better HR efficiencies during the pre-hire process?