How would you define a beautiful person

What you need to know for effective personnel selection

It only takes a minute and a half and we have an image of our counterpart, so the science. However, this does not mean that HR managers should hire candidates according to this principle. After all, personnel selection is complex and takes time, and personnel managers need the most comprehensive possible picture of applicants: What comes after the first impression? In this article you will learn which methods help to evaluate candidates in a well-founded manner.

In Personio, you collect candidate feedback centrally and accelerate your selection process. Find out more here!

Definition of personnel selection

Personnel selection is the decision on how or with whom to fill a vacancy in the company. Regardless of whether the position is already vacant, it will only shortly become vacant or whether the position is even being created. So the timing is flexible.

Both internal and external applicants can be considered to fill a position. These are analyzed and rated according to various criteria.

But how does the selection process work, who is involved and what should applicants pay attention to?

Why is precise personnel selection important?

Poor or no personnel selection leads to the fact that someone comes into the company who does not fit in - be it in a professional or in a human sense. The consequences of hiring the wrong person are dismissals or poor performance. For HR this means: resources were used ineffectively and costs were incurred (for recruiting the unsuitable candidate, for recruiting a new candidate, lack of performance, etc.).

What can also happen if HR selects poorly or not in time: The company is facing a personnel shortage, for example due to a rising order situation, and it is no longer possible to find employees to do the work. This can also be expensive, for example because a company has to reject customer inquiries.

For professional personnel selection, HR needs the support of colleagues, for example from the specialist departments. They have to be involved early on and well coordinated. Otherwise, the feedback will be lost or will not be used in the first place. New employees come on board who fit in from an HR point of view, but not from the point of view of the specialist department. In this respect, internal stakeholder management is also part of personnel selection.

Participants in the selection of applicants

Personnel selection is a multi-stage process that should follow clear rules and be transparent for everyone involved - both internally and externally. This factor will become more and more important to the outside world, because transparency and fairness are important criteria for the younger generation when choosing an employer.

As a rule, the more hierarchies there are, the more time-consuming it is to select applicants. HR should therefore plan a little more time in strictly hierarchical companies than in companies with flat hierarchies.

In addition to the applicant, HR, executives, if necessary department heads, the works council or colleagues are involved on the company's HR side. Everyone has different tasks: The recruiter checks different criteria than the department head or the works council.

Always choose the right candidates

In Personio you can evaluate and compare applicants more quickly. Let stakeholders give their feedback right after the interview and see right away if a candidate gets a thumbs up from everyone.

The steps in applicant selection

Assuming there are more than 300 applications for a position (realistic value for a company with approx. 3,000 employees). These all need to be spotted, this is the first

Step 1: preselection

One person can do that. However, this would take a lot of time. In addition, the human eye overlooks factors and humans are biased. Means: He can miss important criteria of an applicant.

Software accelerates your personnel selection

The use of software is advisable. The applies "matching" or "scoring" and matches defined requirement criteria, e. B. selected language or software skills with the characteristics specified by the applicant in order to finally evaluate them.

It can divide applicants into A / B / C classes, so that you, the HR manager, can quickly see whose application you should take a closer look at and whose application you shouldn't.

  • A applicants are candidates for the position whose profile matches the advertisement one to one and who can be invited to an interview immediately.
  • B applicants are candidates who show a high degree of agreement with the advertisement and can move up.
  • C applicants are candidates whose profile only shows a low level of correspondence with the advertisement and are therefore less likely to be considered.

Software pre-filters, you as a HR manager can take a second look at applications and delve deeper into the candidate profile. You can look at the “must qualifications” again, and the “may qualifications” and in this way make a further classification.

Evaluate better, faster and more specifically

You can use these evaluation sheets for job interviews to follow up on the application process in the best possible way.

Step 2: The HR manager analyzes the résumé and cover letter

The HR manager takes a closer look at the curriculum vitae and, if necessary, the cover letter along individual categories:

  • Successes: What has the candidate done so far and what successes has he / she achieved? Can he prove that in numbers? The latter in particular can make a difference, because it shows that the candidate works in a results-oriented manner.
  • Motivation: Does it become clear why the candidate is interested in this exact position? What is it that appeals to him and where does he want to go? If such information is missing, then the application looks arbitrary.
  • USP: Unique Selling Point is the technical term and means the added value that this candidate offers. What does he bring with him that others don't? Someone who writes about their plans for self-actualization is less convincing than someone who can do something for the advancement of the company.

Take the screening very carefully and check randomly whether the information provided by the candidate is reliable. You can do this, for example, by reading reviews on LinkedIn or doing research with a former employer of the candidate.

Step 3: The supervisor checks the professional suitability

The technical supervisor can best determine the technical suitability of a candidate. The focus is on the following criteria:

  • Specialization: It is true that the generalist is often asked for, but in the end the specialist gets the job. Above all, it is the superiors who want experts. Whether an applicant has the necessary experience can be checked on the basis of previous stations in the résumé. There should be a few sentences about the individual stations so that the supervisor can get a concrete picture.
  • Potential: A supervisor, a team leader or department head knows exactly where the team's weaknesses lie. Accordingly, a candidate has a good chance if he can advance into this “gap” and offer something that is still missing or not available enough. This can also happen through interests or hobbies, for example if someone likes to build model cars in their free time.

Step 4: The cultural fit is checked

Does it fit humanly too? This question is becoming more and more important, because it is just as important as the technical fit and deciding whether a long-term and successful cooperation is possible.

The ability to work in a team is at the fore in almost all industries and professions. How someone interacts with others, how they communicate, is what defines culture - and often the success of a company.

How do you find out whether someone is open and open to criticism? The best way to do this is through structured interviews in which candidates are asked questions about their behavior. HR (or HR together with colleagues from the specialist department) evaluates the answers based on certain values ​​and draws conclusions. The structured and standardized method is supported by the fact that in the end you can compare candidates with one another and assess them more objectively.

Download our free questionnaire to check the Cultural Fit here.

However, especially in small and medium-sized companies, structured interviews are not yet in use, as a study by Personio and Bitkom shows. So companies are wasting a lot of potential here.

Proven methods of personnel selection

There are the classics (the interview) and there are more complex methods (assessment center) to get to know applicants better. Below is an overview of the most important of these and what the purpose of each method is.


In order to obtain information about the candidate in an interview, be it in the form of an individual interview, i.e. the usual job interview, or in group interviews, it is advisable to proceed in a structured manner, preferably along a set of guidelines. You can also create an interview sheet based on a requirement profile. To do this, you may need input from the specialist department. Because she knows better which skills a candidate must bring with him for the position.

After an interview, you should definitely take notes about the applicant so that colleagues can refer to this information at any time.

Applicant management software supports you in this, because there you can store catalogs of questions and document answers. If it is not you but a colleague who conduct the interview, ask them to also take notes and save them centrally. On the one hand, this ensures transparency and, on the other hand, everyone can access this information at any time.

Assessment center

An assessment center is a little more complex to carry out. It consists of several rounds and can last two to three days. It allows you to evaluate applicants in groups or in individual assessments (particularly suitable for managers). In addition to the technical, the applicant's social skills are also put to the test.

In the end, HR, together with colleagues from the specialist departments, selects those candidates who are best suited for the position from the remaining candidates.

Test procedure

Different measures belong to the family of test procedures. Classics are personality tests, in which hobbies and personal views are asked, and ability tests. These are used to find out whether applicants are able to carry out tasks that would arise in the workplace.

The test results are intended to reveal how applicants would normally react. One wants to be able to infer from an answer whether the person could be considered. Test procedures can be time-consuming and are therefore mainly used in large companies, for example when looking for executives.

There are also other procedures that will be presented shortly.

Personality test

The personality test is intended to provide more information about the applicant's personal characteristics in order to make the decision easier.

Ability test

A skill test is used to determine which applicants are suitable for the position based on their knowledge or skills.

Intelligence test

An intelligence test offers the opportunity to determine the intelligence of applicants. Logical thinking plays a central role in this.


During the presentation, a company can observe the candidates as they introduce themselves (or a task).

Group discussion

Several applicants can be observed in a group discussion and, above all, evaluated with regard to mutual reactions.

role playing game

In a role play, skills of the applicants become recognizable, which are important for the advertised role, but only obvious at second glance.

Trial work

Letting applicants test work makes sense if candidates should get started as quickly as possible. So if there is not a lot of time for training. After the test work, both you as the employer and the candidate can usually better judge whether a collaboration makes sense.

Document results clearly, choose better

Create uniform feedback forms in recruiting and make sure that you evaluate your candidates fairly and in a target-oriented manner.

Aptitude diagnostics

Those who use aptitude diagnostics first define the relevant criteria for a position (requirements analysis) and then use behavioral questions (structured interviews) to ask whether a candidate has the desired characteristics. Each candidate receives points so that a comparison can be made at the end.

Example of a situational question in aptitude diagnostics:

“Imagine you are to negotiate a position in the contract with a customer, and your ideas are far apart. The customer gives some good reasons for reducing the price. How do you react to that? "

For such a question there is a selection of answers that point in a certain direction (“I enforce my conditions, because in the end I will be measured by my results”> 0 points. Versus: “I try to put myself in the customer's shoes, recognize his needs and work towards a compromise ”> 5 points).

In addition to technical competence (also depending on what emerges in the requirements analysis) “soft” characteristics and competencies are required, for example:

  • Resilience
  • flexibility
  • conflict management
  • professional appearance
  • Relationship management (the ability to quickly establish and maintain good contact with others)
  • Assertiveness
  • Self-management (regulate emotions)
  • negotiation skills
  • Sensitivity (taking the perspective of others and assessing your own impact on others)

Online assessment

In order to examine professional and social skills, various test procedures are used in the online assessment:

  • Normative test procedure: Personal characteristics such as relationship skills or motivation are tested.
  • Ipsative test procedure: The focus is on behaviors and skills that a candidate shows in certain situations.
  • Criteria-oriented test procedure: This combination of normative and ipsative test procedures is intended to show how strongly certain behaviors and characteristics of a candidate are pronounced.

The applicant profiles are compared with the requirement profile of the company according to the “matching principle”. This part of the applicant selection process is increasingly being done by the computer; it can be easily automated.

Quality criteria for the selection of personnel

All personnel selection instruments and test procedures should meet certain quality criteria, namely objectivity, reliability and validity.

Criterion of objectivity

If different test supervisors come to a very similar result for the same candidate, then they have probably proceeded objectively.

What if a HR manager incorporates their own ideas into the assessment and rates a candidate better just because they have the same ideas? Then there is a misinterpretation of suitability.

Objectivity is difficult to guarantee. But some test procedures in personnel selection are better, others are worse. Written tests, in which the tester only specifies the start and end of the exercise, allow more objective assessment than an individual interview.

Reliability criterion

Reliability describes the accuracy of the measurement results. If testers in an assessment center (well suited) use a standardized test procedure, then reliability is good. If the curriculum vitae or the certificate is analyzed, the objectivity of the HR manager who carries out the analysis would be a prerequisite for reliable results.

Criterion of validity

If what is to be measured is measured, then one speaks of a valid selection process. They will help select the candidate who is most likely to meet the requirements of the position and who will best perform the tasks. The best way to assess whether the selection process is valid is to take a closer look at the performance of the employees hired.

A high degree of reliability and objectivity can result in high validity, but this is not necessarily the case. An example: The aptitude test is reliable and objective, but does not say anything about how well the candidate will do his job in the end (validity).

What the choice of method depends on

Only when there is clarity about the specific requirements of the position and the latent, i.e. underlying competencies, can it be decided which methods are best combined with one another.

An example: A company is looking for new employees for sales and for the strategy department. While an economic background would be good for both job profiles, the competency requirements are different.While communication skills and customer orientation are required for the sales position, the second job profile focuses more on analytical and conceptual skills. The method should be chosen accordingly differently.

Personnel selection checklist

Personnel selection is the responsibility of the personnel department. For this she needs the support of her colleagues as well as management skills. So that you as a HR manager don't forget anything, here is a checklist with the most important to-dos to tick off:

✓ Requirement profile

Do you know exactly what you need? You should, because only then can you make the right choice. What qualifications should the candidate have? In which area of ​​the company is the person employed? What are the requirements in this area? If you can answer all of these questions, fine. If not, ask the specialist department (again).

Template: create requirement profiles

Use this template to create requirement profiles and thus hire the right candidates.

✓ Formal criteria

Is the application complete, error-free and easy to read?
Is the résumé complete and up-to-date?

Applicant management software can check such criteria and apply further non-formal filter criteria. This relieves you of work in the HR department, because the number of applications that land on your desk is drastically reduced. You will only receive those applications that have passed an initial quality check and that you can take a closer look at.

✓ Must-have requirements

Which criteria does the applicant have to meet in any case? Can the applicant say something about the points in the advertisement text?

✓ Optional requirements

What additional qualifications does the candidate have? What is in the résumé or cover letter about the desired requirements?

✓ Selection of applicants based on

  • Expertise: What training, practical experience, what specialist knowledge does the candidate bring with him?
  • Physical requirements: How resilient is the candidate, how is his outward appearance (if relevant for the job)?
  • Mental requirements: Does the candidate have a good grasp of things, is he creative, does he understand numbers?
  • Social skills: Does the candidate have teamwork skills and empathy? Is he open and communicative?

Gather this information and rate it.

✓ Decision

Did you get feedback from colleagues? Can you justify your decision and, at best, base it on objective criteria? Have formal questions such as the candidate's fitness for work been clarified? Then you can commit yourself.

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Exemplary personnel selection process

Every company develops an individual process of personnel selection over time. As the main responsible department, HR decides who takes part in interviews, who makes decisions, etc. HR blocks resources and controls the process via software.

The selection should be based on the company's expectations and requirements. Nevertheless, there is a process that the selection of personnel can be based on:

Prepare a requirement profile

Create a requirement profile and define which qualifications and skills a candidate must bring and which expectations are attached to the position.

Create job advertisement

Based on the requirement profile, you can create and publish a job advertisement - internally or externally via job boards, social networks, etc.

Analyze applications

You or software, or you and software, view and analyze the applications based on defined criteria.

Make a preselection

From the best applicants received, you select those whom you want to get to know better.

Have conversations

Personal conversations can be carried out in the form of telephone interviews, job interviews or as part of an assessment center. You can get a more detailed picture of the candidates. Conversations can be supplemented by tests.

make decision

At the end of the day, you (or you and your colleagues) decide which applicant will be accepted for the position. This is followed by salary negotiations and the signing of the employment contract so that the cooperation can start.

Example: Personio's personnel selection process

Personio is growing fast. Correspondingly many applications land on the desk of the HR department every day.

The company's own software supports applicant management - from the pre-selection to the creation of a digital personnel file for a newly hired employee. With Personio, HR applicants can quickly give feedback, guide them quickly through the process (initial discussions, interviews, contract negotiations) and efficiently involve colleagues at the same time. The software automatically reminds them of upcoming application interviews or feedback that is still open.

All information about the applicant is stored in a central location in compliance with data protection regulations and made available to all authorized persons. This transparency is important to both sides - applicants and colleagues: It accelerates processes and gives talents a good feeling, thus supporting a positive candidate journey.