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How to shortlist candidates effectively and efficiently?

03/01/2018

The New Year is an ideal time for a fresh start and, as a result, more people decide to make a career move than at any other point. So, with companies likely to see a significant increase in the amount of applications from which they must shortlist, how can they ensure that they pick out the right candidates? Here are our top five tips.

1) Before you begin to look at the applications, it’s vital that you define your ideal candidate. Use your job description and person specification to create two checklists: the essential criteria and desirable criteria needed to do the job. The standards are likely to relate to all of the following key areas, plus any others that are relevant:  education, work experience, skills and knowledge, competencies and personality traits. Be very strict about the criteria you term ‘essential’: these should relate to the qualities and traits of top performing employees in the role. 

2) The next step is to begin the shortlisting process. At this stage, some employers choose to utilise the services of a specialist recruiter that knows the market inside out: they can identify the right talent quickly and may already have people among their network of candidates that might fit the role.

3) If shortlisting in-house, do so in stages.

Stage 1: Go through the applications and discard any that don’t meet all of the essential criteria. You now have a list of candidates who can all do the fundamentals of the role. At this point, it is also worthwhile noting where applications have come from so that you know where to advertise future vacancies.

Stage 2: Decide how many candidates you want to interview. Go through the remaining applications, weigh them against each item in your list of desirable criteria and record the number of criteria they meet. Some recruiters like to use a spreadsheet as this helps them to rank candidates at a glance. During this stage, you should also check that there are no inconsistencies in their CV and that spelling, punctuation, grammar, presentation and attention to detail are in line with your expectations. 

4) You can now decide who to select for interview. It is important to think outside the box here: you may have a list of desirable criteria, but it’s unlikely that an individual will meet all of them, so decide which combination will have the most impact. Also, if you are replacing a current post holder, don’t have a vision of replacing like with like: think about what they could do when they joined, rather than what they can do now. 

5) In addition to notifying the candidates selected for the next stage, ensure that you also contact everyone who applied –even if there were hundreds- to thank them for their interest, but letting them know that, unfortunately, this time they have not been shortlisted for interview. A superior candidate experience is crucial in today’s skills short environment. After all, a candidate that isn’t the right fit for now might just be, in the future.

If you have a vacancy and would like to talk to us about how we can help you shortlist the right person for the job, contact our specialist team of recruiters.

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