How Recruiters Select Candidates

job candidateAs a recruiter, I am often asked how I determine which candidates get submitted to my clients. The simplest answer I can give is: THE BEST ONES 
Of course, the next question is “how do you determine who is the best?” To borrow from the engineering world, the best candidates have ideal FORM, FIT, and FUNCTION


These are the recruiter’s client requirements centered on absolutes. The candidate should already possess these attributes. It is typically a YES or NO answer, nowhere in between. This may include minimum years of experience, certifications, country specific visas, or specific industry knowledge.
Form can also include the candidate’s physical attributes. Some candidates must be able to operate certain machinery or to FIFO or have  fluency in a foreign language.
With “Form,” you’ve either got it or you don’t. It is easy to determine a match in this area.


Part of the selection process is trying to determine if a candidate will fit nicely in the working environment and meet “unwritten expectations” of the job. Some companies operate with strict policies that need to be followed or require several meetings to make decisions. For some candidates, this is not a fit—they may be a move-at-the-speed-of-light kind of person.
Some roles come with the expectation that they will work mainly alone (or on the road) and not leverage a team for decision-making or idea generation. Other expectations may include:
◦Able to increase responsibility or complexity of assignment over time.
◦Willingness to learn new things and take on new challenges.
◦Have a true passion for what they do best
With “Fit,” past experiences are indicators of a good match, but usually a follow-up discussion is required to understand the circumstances, preferences, and adaptability.


These requirements center around the candidate’s ability to perform the job and almost all of them must be met. Expertise is often needed in specific tool sets (industry standard software or languages or budgeting). The LEVEL of expertise is the gray area. A recruiter must determine if there is enough expertise to perform adequately in the job.
Function can also include “soft skills” like decision-making, problem-solving, and written/oral presentation skills. Additionally, there are expectations of competency with specialized and generic computer applications.
Similar to the “Fit” category, the “Function” qualifications are measured on a graduated scale. The more ability (depth and breadth) you have, the better your chances of being selected.

Evaluating the Form, Fit, and Function

Candidates should only apply to jobs where they meet 90% of all requirements. The recruiter will figure out if the missing 10% is in critical areas. Good recruiters will determine if candidates truly meet the client’s needs by leveraging all information available including resume, references, social media, technical and behavioral interviews.

Your Role
To make sure a recruiter knows you are the ideal candidate for the job, make sure you cover all the aspects of Form, Fit, and Function in the information you provide. Considering how large a role the resume plays in this process, candidates may want to inquire with professional resume writers for help.
At a minimum, keep in mind:
◦The best candidates have a close match between experiences/skills listed on resume and the job descriptions. This may require revising a resume for a particular job to focus on the right content.
◦An accompanying email can include three bullet points on how you meet criteria of the job and “Fit” related preferences.
◦Reasons resumes get rejected early in the process: spelling errors, small font, weak summary statements, poor career progression, and unrelated experience.

The Bottom Line
If all criteria discussed above are not met, a candidate is not likely to be presented. Remember, good recruiters want to present only the best candidates for many reasons: their reputation is on the line, rework is time-consuming and expensive, and happy candidates and clients lead to more happy candidates and clients.

2 thoughts on “How Recruiters Select Candidates

  1. Amazing article, the “Form, Fit, and Function,” notion is novel. I worked as a recruiter for some time, and couldn’t agree more with this article. Regarding the “Fit” function, is there any advice that you can lend professionals on how to sharpen that aspect of their professional background? It’s key, but often rarely exercised.

    Thank you again!

    Barry Johnson

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