How to shortlist candidates - Guidance on making the process as quick and fair as possible.
The main criteria for successful short listing is identifying
which essential and desirable qualities matter most to you. This
article will give you some suggestions to make sure that you do can
sift through your applications to select the best candidate as
quickly as possible.
The criteria that you look for will depend on the nature of the
job but it's important to define exactly what you really want from
your ideal candidate before you start the short listing process.
Before you start, you need to have two lists, the absolutely
essential criteria and the desirable criteria. Try to avoid the
temptation to put all your desirable criteria in the essential
category, you should have approximately double the essential
criteria in your list of desirables. Try to be flexible and
remember that if you take too many people out initially you may
miss the best candidate for the role.
Some of the common qualities that you can check are as
- Educational qualifications - This can be
college education and/or university education.
- Professional qualifications - Only relevant
for some roles and can include on the job training
- Professional experience - How many years of
relevant experience does the candidate have.
- Evidence of competencies - Is there any
evidence from the CV that the applicant has some or all of the
competencies you are looking for.
To keep things fair it's a good idea to come up with a rating
system and rank candidates according to each defined criteria. It's
a good idea to setup a single spreadsheet to make things easier for
you to keep track, or you can also utilise an applicant tracking
system like the one within www.simplifiedrecruitment.com.
The basic goal of short listing is to exclude as many unsuitable
candidates as quickly as possible. To make the process easier you
can use the following steps:
- Start with an idea about the number of candidates that
you want to interview - This will tell you how much you
need to deviate from your ideal criteria within your available
- Conduct your shortlist in stages - Do an
initial shortlist based on easy to identify essential criteria. If
you have a large volume this can be delegated to another team
member. Once the first shortlist is complete then carry out
additional stages to refine the list further based on desirable
- Set minimum criteria as stage 1 - Set your
Educational, Professional qualifications and Experience minimums
and produce a list of all the candidates who meet your minimum
criteria first. This will save a lot of time. As you go through
this list, rank each candidate based on your essential factors and
record the results in a spreadsheet. This will help you later
should you need to add more applicants back into the
- Exclude the inconsistent applications as stage
2 - For example, if you are looking to fill a permanent
role and you want the job holder to commit for the long term, you
can ignore candidates with vague employment history and frequent
job changes straightaway. Obviously this wouldn't apply for short
term contract roles and you may even want to reverse the criteria
for these types of job.
- Last stage filtering - If there are still too
many interview candidates in your shortlist after stages one and
two, you can begin to filter them through the 'desirable' non
essential qualities for the job. These can be things like sector
exposure (have they worked in the same environment before), recent
highly relevant training, experience with the company's main
systems, directly applicable technical knowledge, etc.
- Interview - Once you have shortlisted as much
as possible the interview should be designed to affirm your
shortlist criteria and also to look into personality fit,
expectations and other checks to evaluate the applicant's
compatibility. See our article about how to conduct a
competency based interview for more guidance.
- Be flexible but stick to your criteria - It is
impossible to expect that a candidate will satisfy ALL the
requirements while having perfect education, professional
qualifications and experience. Recognise that you may have to
deviate slightly, but to eliminate bias, try to make the decision
based on the person who most closely matches the criteria you have
specified for the job.
By following these points you will be able to shortlist
applicants for your positions in a highly effective way, making
sure to eliminate personal bias and keep the process as fair as