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How to shortlist candidates for interviews

Published: Wednesday 23rd December 2020

It’s a recruiter’s dream to have a difficult time when they shortlist candidates for an interview. But how do you decide who is the best fit to move on to the next stage of the application process?

One way might be to focus simply on the black and white of an application. Match up a candidates CV with the job advert specification and determine only the most well-suited applicants. However, there is often more to consider and other ways to create a competitive and talent-packed shortlist.

How to shortlist candidates

Setting the shortlist criteria

Firstly you need to lay out the minimum requirements for a candidate. This may not necessarily be everything that was included in the advert. In fact, over 90% of applicants do not meet 100% of the skills and requirements listed in job adverts.

You need to make sure your criteria filters out irrelevant candidates who aren’t perhaps experienced enough or are lacking fundamental skills but also be careful not to be too strict and risk losing some very talented individuals.

You can base your criteria on employees currently or previously in the role looking for their top qualities and traits in a new candidate. Under no circumstances should you discriminate against candidates based on your own personal opinions or religion. Apply your criteria consistently and objectively or else you could face legal action.

Determining what is essential to the role

You can identify what parts of a job that can’t be taught to someone in a short period of time. This might include computer coding for example. If a candidate can’t write computer code but is applying for a junior developer role, then they simply need to learn how to do that before they can be considered.

However, if you’re hiring for a marketing assistant who hasn’t used photoshop before, this is something they could definitely learn while on the job and isn’t an integral part of a marketing assistant role.

There can be a blur between desirable and essential in many employers’ minds. For example, holding a relevant university degree. While this is often used to disqualify some candidates who didn’t attend university, the truth is, this is a desirable trait. Some candidates may have got an apprenticeship at a marketing agency at 16 and by the time a graduate is looking for work, the other candidate has 5 years of marketing experience.

The criteria will vary from job to job but the most common essential criteria might include:

  • The candidate is legally able to work in the UK and is a UK resident
  • A clean Full UK driving license
  • Minimum number of years experience in a role
  • No pending or previous criminal convictions
  • Other jobs or commitments that will limit performance

Scoring systems to shortlist candidates

Once you feel like you have eliminated the obviously flawed applications, the tough part begins. You can’t just interview everyone who isn’t bad, you need to narrow it down further. One way of shortlisting for interviews is to create a scorecard that can help provide clarity between similarly skilled candidates.

You can see from the example created by Ideal.com below how it would work. You wouldn’t necessarily need to score all applicants, perhaps just those who are on the borderline.

Shortlist candidates with a scorecard

Industry stats show that 75% of job seekers don’t have the correct qualifications for jobs they apply for. Some of these candidates can still get through to a phone interview in the selection process which can waste more of your time. A simple scorecard could be all you need.

Artificial intelligence in recruitment

If screening and creating a shortlist of candidates is simply too time-consuming for you or hasn’t led to much success then maybe it’s time to take yourself out of the equation. It’s now possible to use AI-powered technology to recruit staff. This isn’t just a tool that can analyse how well a candidate matches the job spec, the AI can learn from previous candidates who have gone on to be successful in the role and will look for candidates who have similar skills and traits.

Not only does this ensure a completely objective recruitment process, but the stats are there to back it up. The use of AI in recruiting has led to a 35% decrease in turnover and a 20% increase in performance. So if you’re wondering how to narrow down applicants for a job, maybe you just need to get your business using an AI recruiting solution.

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