How to shortlist Candidates: Guidance to make the process as quick and fair as possible

The main criterion for successful short listing is identifying which essential and desirable qualities matter the most. The criteria will depend on the nature of the job but it is important to define exactly what is really wanted from an ideal candidate before starting the short listing process. Before starting, the hiring personnel need to have two lists – the absolutely essential criteria and the desirable criteria. To avoid the temptation to put all desirable criteria in the essential category, one should have approximately double the essential criteria in their list to desirables.

Common qualities that can be checked 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.

The basic goal of short listing is to exclude as many unsuitable candidates as quickly as possible. Steps to make the process easier:

Step 1: 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.

Step 2: 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, carry out additional stages to refine the list further based on desirable criteria.

Step 3: set minimum criteria: 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 records the results in a spreadsheet. This will help you later, should you need to add more applicants back into the shortlist.

Step 4: For example, if you are looking to fill a permanent role and you want the job bolder to commit for the long-term, you can ignore candidates with vague employment history and frequent job changes straightaway. Obviously this would not apply for short-term contract roles and you may even want to reverse the criteria for these types of job.

Step 5: Last stage filtering: If there are still too many interview candidates in your shortlist after stages on and two, you can begin to filter them 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. 

Step 6: Interview: Once you have short-listed 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.

Step 7: 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. Recognize 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.

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