When is an application not an application?

A common hiring strategy is to use screening questions to filter out candidates, under the assumption that the ones who make it through the process are truly committed to the role. However, this approach may be flawed and set organizations up for disappointment in the form of no-shows and high turnover.

This blog post explores how companies can address the issue of “commitment bias” to enhance their hiring practices and build a more dedicated workforce.

Recognizing the Commitment Gap

Job applications are often just an expression of curiosity, not a firm commitment. When a candidate applies, they are not necessarily asking for the job – they are simply seeking to learn more about the opportunity. Even if offered the position on the spot, they may not accept it, as they have not yet assessed whether it is truly the right fit.

For example, a common screening question is “Are you within 15 miles of the office?” The assumption is that if the candidate answers “yes,” they will reliably show up for work each day. A better approach is to ask, “Are you willing to commit to a 30-minute commute to the office each day?” This shifts the focus to the candidate’s willingness to meet the role’s requirements.

Enhancing Screening Questions

To gauge genuine commitment, organizations should restructure their interview questions to go beyond simple yes/no responses. Rather than asking, “Do you have experience with software X?” a more effective question would be, “Can you describe a project where you used software X, and explain how you would apply those skills in this role?”

This type of open-ended, competency-based questioning encourages candidates to reflect on their motivations, expectations, and ability to meet the job’s demands. It provides a more comprehensive understanding of their commitment and fit for the position.

Fostering Honest Dialogue

Creating an environment of transparency and open communication is crucial. Candidates should feel comfortable being upfront about their intentions, limitations, and career goals. Similarly, employers should clearly articulate the job requirements and the company’s long-term vision.

By aligning candidate aspirations with organizational objectives, both parties can make more informed decisions, leading to better hiring outcomes and long-term employee engagement.

Nurturing Long-Term Commitment

Engaging candidates early in the process about their career goals and potential growth opportunities within the company can help foster a stronger sense of commitment. Discussing development plans and future career paths demonstrates the organization’s investment in the candidate’s success, which can increase the likelihood of them accepting an offer and remaining with the company long-term.

Monitoring and Adaptation

Regularly reviewing hiring metrics, seeking feedback from candidates, and adapting screening techniques as needed are essential for continuous improvement. Closely tracking outcomes, such as no-show rates and employee retention, can help refine strategies and identify areas for further optimization.


By addressing commitment bias through more strategic questioning, fostering open dialogue, and aligning candidate goals with organizational objectives, companies can enhance their hiring process. This not only improves the quality of hires but also builds a more dedicated and engaged workforce – a crucial asset in today’s competitive talent landscape.