How Do Employers Shortlist Candidates?

Are you an employer who wants to hire more staff for your company and need assistance to create a shortlist?  

Shortlisting is a process employers use to identify a pool of candidates who best meet the required criteria needed for the organization.

Creating a shortlist serves three primary purposes for an employer

  • Identify candidates who meet the requirements in the job description
  • Filter candidates that are likely to perform the job
  • Narrow down on candidates you would like to contact for an interview 

When do Employers carry out the shortlisting process?

Let’s begin with the basics. An employer wants to hire ten people to support your logistics department. They send out a job advert and receive about 200 applications. These applications are way too much, and they are overwhelmed by the number of responses they have received and are now stuck with a pile of applications.  

What next?

Well, the next step is to create a shortlist of the candidates deemed fit for the next stage of interviews. 

Shortlisting is a recruitment process comes after a call for applications and before the final set of interviews. The shortlisting process involves both screenings the pile of job applicants to find the right candidate and the actual identification of the candidate fit for the job. 

Employers strive to be fair, and this requires a careful look at every application and CV to identify the best candidates that should be shortlisted. This stage considers several considerations to ensure fairness.

This article gives you a step by step guide to assist you through the shortlisting process. 

Enter all applications into a logging system

The first step taken by employers in creating a shortlist involves logging all the applications received with names, candidate’s location, email and phone contacts. The logging would also include a brief note on the critical skills displayed by each candidate based on their CV. Logging the applications has three main advantages.

  1. Allows the employer to keep track of candidates of interest
  2. Eliminate the unwanted candidates 
  3. Identify the status of applicants 

Agree on the number of candidates for the shortlist

The second stage in the creation of a shortlist involves deciding on the number of candidates you want for the interview. This stage determines the number of people that will appear on the shortlist. The best decision to take for an employer who wants just ten people on the shortlist and has been flooded with 100 applications, is to sift through the applications to identify the best candidates whose skills and qualifications match the requirements of the job.

Agree on criteria for selection 

Employers identify candidates that they deem are suitable for the job advertised based on the job description. Based on the qualifications highlighted in the job advert, applicants deemed not fit for the job are then rejected at this stage. Employers use the job description to create a criterion for the selection of the best candidates for the shortlist. 

Employers will create two lists – the essential criteria and the desirable criteria lists. Critical criteria refer to the factors that a candidate must meet for job consideration, and these can include: 

  • Education
  • Skills
  • Competencies
  • Work experience 
  • Personality traits

Facts contained in each of the curriculum vitae attached to the job applications can be used to measure the essential criteria.

Desirable criteria list factors that make the applicant a stronger candidate compared to the others. Such factors include professional work certifications, knowledge of the working language, learning about the industry, experience working with a set of software and practical abilities. 

Sometimes an employer may require candidates with five years of working experience. If the majority of the candidates display the five years’ experience, then this criterion changes to essential by default. 

Pre-screen the candidates based on the desirable criteria

Based on the two lists created, the employer needs to narrow down the screening exercise to one manageable shortlist. The goal of the employer is to identify candidates who confidently fit in the job description and do the job. 

Two questions guide the employer

  1. Does the candidate have the skills, qualifications and experience that are essential to the organization?
  2. Are they ready to join the company?

Create a shortlist scorecard

The employer will use the essential and desirable criteria to create a shortlist scorecard, which is used to screen and rate the candidates. 

An employer will, at this stage exclude all candidates that have the lowest points based on the desirable criteria. Each of the suitable candidates is rated based on how many of the desirable requirements they fulfil. 

A comparison of the suitable candidates is created to select the best candidates for the job. 

The shortlist scorecard has two main benefits 

  • Serves a useful tool that ensures consistency and fairness for all the candidates.
  • Assists the employer to identify the most active candidates.

Create a stronger list for eliminating factors

Sometimes it happens that the shortlist has a more significant number of candidates than earlier anticipated at the start of the process. At this point, the employer comes up with another set of eliminating factors that will help to narrow the shortlist. The employer may ask:

  • Does the candidate know the essential language used?
  • Does the candidate live within the vicinity of the organization’s location?
  • Does the candidate have legal documents to work in the country? 

While a suitable candidate is what the employer is striving to achieve, the eliminating factors will help him narrow down the shortlist farther to the desired number of candidates needed for the interview. 

Inform unsuccessful candidates

Once the final shortlist is out, some employers find it as good practice to contact unsuccessful candidates. Without being too precise, most employers will send out an email notifying the unsuccessful candidates and encourage them to apply again in case of future opportunities. 

All that remains now for the employer is to invite the successful candidates for the interview. 

Final Thoughts 

Shortlisting takes a lot of time. Sifting through applications is an unavoidable part of the shortlisting process. 

Employers don’t want to risk either losing good candidates or hiring quacks. So usually they act quickly to ensure that the shortlisting process is swift and effective, while at the same time being careful to achieve a successful procedure. 

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