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Shortlisting Candidates: A Recruiter’s Guide

You put up a new post for an open position at your organization and you’ve received a huge influx of resumes in response. Now that you have a large pool of candidates to choose from, surely that will make it much easier to find the right fit. 

Or will it?

The truth is, getting a massive response to a job post can be a double-edged sword, especially when you consider that, according to a survey conducted by Workopolis, about 75% of your applicants will most likely lack the experience they need to be a successful candidate for the job they applied for. As a result, this can make it extremely difficult for you to narrow down your applicant pool to those you will actually want to interview

In fact, many recruiters report that shortlisting, the process of narrowing down applicants to determine which ones will advance in the hiring funnel to make possible hires for a position more manageable is actually one of the toughest parts of their job. But it doesn’t have to be. The following tips can help you effectively shortlist a pool of candidates so you end up with the best people to ultimately choose from. 

How to Build a Shortlisting Process


When creating a shortlist of candidates, consider the following tips to make the process easier:

1. Create criteria for your shortlist 

What are the most important qualities that you need in a successful candidate for a position? What are the secondary qualities that may be nice to have, but not absolutely essential for the position? Ideally, before you even post a job advertisement, you will know what the explicit criteria for a successful candidate should be, such as specific skills, work experience, relevant education, and competencies. Also, you should define the non-essential qualifications, such as a voluntary certification in a specific area, which are good for candidates to have but don’t disqualify strong contenders if they don’t have them.

2. Decide on the length of your shortlist

Remember that a shortlist is supposed to make your job easier by creating a manageable number of qualified candidates that you will move to the interview phase of the hiring process. This can be a set number of candidates that you decide on or a percentage of applicants, depending on your hiring needs at the time.

3. Pay close attention to red flags 

The old adage tells us that we only get one chance to make a first impression, so it’s important that your candidates put their best foot forward from the beginning because red flags at this stage of the process can be a strong indicator of the quality of a candidate. If you are finding things like typos, grammatical errors, inconsistencies in employment history, or the inability to follow application instructions, don’t discount these red flags. These can be signs of a bad hire that you should take seriously before considering interviewing someone.  

4. Check references 

Although you may be used to checking references later in the hiring process, by checking them before you interview candidates, you can find out pertinent information that will help you further eliminate applicants that will not be right for the job—as well as confirm that the people on your shortlist actually belong there. Obtaining a second opinion about candidates early in the process can be invaluable because you can address any concerns you have about them and find out what they really have to offer your organization.

5. Use a blind application process

A blind application process where you eliminate personal information when considering applicants is an efficient way to create a shortlist that takes bias—whether conscious or subconscious—out of the process. This allows you to evaluate candidates solely based on the criteria you set and increases the chances of having a more diverse applicant pool.

Intelligent Ways to Shortlist Candidates

When creating a shortlist, it’s important to remember that there are tools that can make the process less labor-intensive for recruiters. For example, if you’re looking for your secret weapon to discovering untapped talent in your existing talent pools, we offer just that with our Enriched Candidate Data. By connecting your ATS and inviting inbound applicants to create candidate profiles, you’ll get much more information on each individual than your ATS can handle. Plus, you’ll finally be able to sort and filter on any of the self-reported candidate data — so you can sift through your inbounds in minutes while finding the best-fit talent for your organization. In addition, you can also use technology to administer assessments to applicants that will give you the additional information that you need to choose who will make your shortlist. There are some great talent acquisition tests you can send out to candidates to get a clearer picture of who they are. Some examples include Plum.io, TestDome, and Aspiring Minds

Shortlisting job candidates is a challenging, but necessary, part of your job as a recruiter, but it doesn’t have to be as daunting as it may seem. By implementing these tips, as well as using diversity recruiting tools to automate parts of the process, you can make shortlisting more efficient and ensure that you’re left with a group of the most qualified talent to choose from.

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