Short-Listed Screening

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 follows:

  • 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.

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 applicant pool.

  • ·                    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 criteria.

  • ·                    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 shortlist.

  • ·                    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 possible.


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Andeerson Wong
HRDF Trainer / Corporate Trainer / Speaker
Profiling Specialist

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