A Step-by-Step Guide on How To Select Shortlisted Candidates

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 16 August 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Recruiting the right candidate is often a time-consuming process, so it's important to use your time effectively when finding the best candidate for your vacancy. Sometimes, certain job postings can attract hundreds of candidates. In such situations, it's essential to shortlist the top candidates who are the best fit for the position. In this article, we explain the shortlisting process and discuss some of the frequently asked questions about shortlisting.

What does it mean to shortlist candidates?

Shortlisted candidates are the professionals from your candidate pool who meet the desired criteria laid out in your job posting. These are the candidates that you want to carry on to the next stage of the recruitment funnel. Shortlisting is important because it gives you an opportunity to screen candidates and eliminate the ones that don't meet your basic criteria.

In the recruitment process, shortlisting a candidate often comes after sourcing job candidates but before conducting a detailed interview or further assessment with them. Screening and short-listing candidates usually happen simultaneously, where you screen CVs from candidates and shortlist the best ones to move forward.

How to shortlist the best candidates for a job?

When you evaluate your candidates fairly and objectively, it speeds up the hiring process and gives you greater confidence when it's time to make a decision. Here's a guide to help you build a shortlisting process to ensure you're interviewing suitable candidates:

1. Determine your criteria for shortlisting

Even before posting your job listing, you need to identify the essential and desirable criteria required to do the job efficiently. In general, the shortlist criteria can include:

  • Educational qualifications

  • Work experience

  • Experience in a relevant field

  • Training

  • Competencies

  • Certifications and licenses

  • Skills and knowledge

  • Personality traits

Essential criteria

These are the characteristics that a candidate must compulsorily meet in order to qualify to apply for the role. For example, are they eligible to work in the country? Do they have the minimum years of experience required for this position?

Desirable criteria

Desirable criteria are the nice-to-have qualifications that would make someone a strong candidate for the position. This includes details such as experience working with a particular software or any professional certifications related to the role.

2. Fix a maximum number of shortlisted candidate

Decide on how many candidates you're going to shortlist for the final interview. This could be a fixed number or percentage of applicants. For example, you may decide to interview five to six candidates to find a successful hire. You can also decide the length of your shortlisted candidate list based on your previous experience recruiting for a similar position.

3. Eliminate candidates who don't meet your criteria

Once you've received the job applications for a position, the first task would be to eliminate the candidates who don't meet your essential criteria. You can do this by quickly scanning through the CVs if you've received only a few applications. However, if you're expecting a high volume of applications, you can automate the screening process using specialised software.

Specialised software, such as an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), can help you determine the most qualified candidates by screening through job applications for a set of keywords. Its goal is to eliminate candidates who don't meet your basic requirements. However, ensure that the automation process works properly, as you don't want to remove qualified candidates accidentally.

4. Include assessments during the initial recruitment phase

Though candidate assessments come towards the later stage of the recruitment process, when you add them early on, it can help you better understand your candidates. This is especially useful when you're expecting a high volume of job applications. Though this is an optional process, you can still use the assessments to determine a candidate's suitability for the position.

5. Conduct screening interview

It's a common practice to conduct a screening interview to shortlist candidates, especially at the beginning of the hiring process. A screening interview can help you avoid a prolonged and slow hiring process. Here are some questions to consider while short-listing candidates after a screening interview:

  • Does the candidate have the required competencies to perform the job well?

  • Do they seem to fit well with the company's culture?

  • Are they excited and motivated to join the company?

  • Did you observe any red flags or signs of unprofessional attitude from the candidate during the interview?

  • How well did the candidate answer open-ended and behavioural questions?

  • Did the candidate connect well with the interview panel?

Read more: How To Be a Good Interviewer in Six Steps (With Helpful Tips)

6. Assign a score for each candidate

Using a shortlist scorecard or matrix ensures that you're applying each criterion consistently and fairly across all candidates. It also allows you to identify and rank the strongest candidate to make it easier to move forward.

You can create a scorecard by listing the essential and desirable criteria and assigning a rating for each candidate based on your evaluation. It's also important to ensure that the shortlisting and scoring process is fair, consistent and complies with the legal requirements of your region.

7. Update the candidates with the final decision

Once you have compiled a list of shortlisted candidates, keep them updated on the progress of their application via channels such as email, phone or text message. It's also a good practice to inform candidates who didn't qualify for the next stage, especially if they had undertaken any assessments or phone interviews related to this role. You can also highlight why they were unsuccessful, although you may not have to be too precise.

Keeping candidates updated about the interview progress and the outcome of their application can help maintain a positive impression about your organisation. This can also encourage candidates to reapply again in the future if they were unsuccessful during this round.

Read more: Common Job Interview Questions and Answers for Freshers and Experienced Professionals

FAQs about shortlisted candidates

Here are some commonly asked questions about the shortlisting process:

How many candidates are typically shortlisted for a job application?

The ultimate aim of shortlisting candidates is to reduce the huge volume of job applications to a manageable list of two to five candidates at the most. Ideally, this final list only includes candidates that you certainly believe could do the job effectively and would fit in best with your organisation's work culture. However, the list of candidates shortlisted for an interview usually depends on a lot of other factors, including:

  • The number of applications. If it's a highly popular job where the number of candidates is high, then it may not be a straightforward decision to shortlist two to five candidates since there can be several applicants who meet the essential criteria.

  • Budget for the recruitment process. Conducting interviews cost money and resources. Thus, the number of shortlisted candidates may depend on the budget allocated to you.

  • Time. If the company needs to fill a position quickly, they can't afford to have a lengthy interview process, so most likely, they may only shortlist a very few candidates best suited for the position. On the other hand, if they have several months to fill a position, they may shortlist a higher percentage of candidates to find the best candidate.

How do you inform shortlisted candidates?

Notifying shortlisted candidates is an important step in the hiring process. It can help the candidate begin their preparations for the next stage and increase your chances of hiring them.

The best way to notify a shortlisted candidate of your decision is by email. It's typically the most efficient and fastest way to communicate your decision to the candidate. You can also include details about what they can expect during the next round of the hiring process.

Read more: 4 Interview Invitation Email Examples To Make an Impression

Does being shortlisted mean you've got the job?

Being shortlisted for an interview implies that you have produced an effective CV that has helped you to stand out from the other candidates. It shows that your CV and other attributes have impressed the hiring manager, who wants to know more about you and process your application to the next stage of the hiring process.

To be shortlisted indicates that you're on the right track and brings you a step closer to getting the job. However, the process isn't over until you pass the final interviews and get a job offer letter.

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