The nightmare of shortlisting candidates

Receiving lots of applications for a job and hoping that one of them is just the person you’re looking for is an exciting prospect. But how on earth do you sift through that pile and identify those candidates most appropriate for interview – and make sure you don’t overlook the ideal candidate in the process? It’s a nightmare facing any employer looking to recruit.

Before even starting to short list it’s important to establish a list of criteria against which each application can be assessed. A typical approach is to decide on the essential skills or qualities a candidate should possess and then identify additional qualities that would be desirable in a candidate. Remember that the criteria should be set in line with the advertised person specification. Essential criteria are likely to include things such as educational qualifications, professional qualifications, professional experience – the absolute ‘must haves’ required of candidates.

Next you need to make a decision about how many candidates you want to short list, taking into account how much time you can set aside for interviews. There’s no point in ending up with a shortlist of ten candidates if you only have one day available to carry out the interview process, so setting your own parameters is important.

With this and the assessment criteria established, you can now begin to rank the candidates. It’s useful to set up a spreadsheet system where you can rate each candidate against the criteria, which will then provide an overall picture of the candidates and how they compare to each other. Go through all the CVs and create an initial shortlist based on your essential criteria. This should ensure that all those candidates who don’t fit the person specification are quickly excluded. If this first sweep leaves you with too many on the shortlist, you can then go through the CVs again using the desirable criteria. This is by no means a negative situation – getting rid of too many candidates initially could mean there’s a risk of missing the very best candidate, so going through CVs several times using the different criteria is a very necessary process.

Don’t forget that it will be virtually impossible to find one candidate who fulfils all of your criteria. You will need to allow for a degree of flexibility and accept that some deviation away from your criteria is highly likely.

It’s also important that shortlisting should not be carried out in isolation. Ideally, you should involve several colleagues in the entire process to avoid any bias. All shortlisting decisions should be objective with no opportunity for personal prejudices to have any influence.

On Target understands the pressures employers face when recruiting

It all sounds rather time consuming, doesn’t it? And if you are inundated with applications, it certainly can be – a situation that is made even more challenging if you don’t have a great deal of experience of recruitment. So it’s no surprise that many employers dread the process. After all, it means you have the potential to make a huge and expensive mistake if your chosen candidate turns out to be the wrong choice just a few weeks or months down the line.

The related stress and pressure of recruiting is one of the reasons why working with a good recruitment consultancy is such a good idea. And that’s why at On Target we offer our 3 Best Match Candidate Promise. Designed to save you time and energy, we take away all the headaches of going through all the applications to identify the strongest contenders from our extensive and industry-leading database of candidates. Our experienced consultants do this day in day out and they know what to look for in CVs. So, working to your brief and job specification, we will select the three strongest candidates for you to interview. If you then want to see more, that’s absolutely fine and you can be assured that all candidates’ CVs are fairly assessed against relevant criteria and that we have a very clear understanding of the type of person you are looking for.

You can then put your energies into the interview process itself to discover the people behind the CVs and identify the most suitable candidate who can fulfil the role and fit well within your company. Our aim is to make the entire process as easy as possible for you, providing support at every stage – and the best result for us is a candidate who quickly shows they were the right choice by delivering good results for you and your company.

Find out more about our unique Expert Pre-Selection Guaranteed commitment...

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