How should you shortlist candidates?

It's time to scrutinise your applicants

First published on Thursday, Jun 04, 2020

Last updated on Friday, Nov 12, 2021

So, you’ve advertised a position, you've received a stack of applications, and the closing date has passed. The next step is to shortlist your candidates for interview—and it’s not just a case of leafing through the CVs and picking the ones you like.

Firstly, it's illegal to unfairly discriminate against candidates based on things like their age, disability, spent criminal convictions, trade union membership, or any of their other protected characteristics.

And secondly, when you’ve received lots of applications, identifying the best ones is pretty tricky, especially if you're restrained by a short deadline.

What you need is a fair and simple process for shortlisting candidates for interview.

BrightBase has just the process you need. You’re in luck.

Decide how many candidates you want to interview

Based on how much time you have, decide how many candidates you want to interview. This number forms the length of your shortlist.

Now you have a target for sifting through those applications.

Make lists of your essential and desirable criteria

Fair shortlisting means rejecting candidates that you deem unsuitable for the job based purely on its requirements. You’re going to use those requirements to make your shortlist.

From your job description and person specification, make two lists:

1. A list of essential criteria

2. A list of desirable criteria

Your essential criteria are must-haves, such as qualifications, experience, and important traits and abilities.

Desirable criteria are those things that could make the candidate an even better fit, such as experience in your industry for a set period of time and with set pieces of equipment, software, practices, and more.

Shortlisting stage 1: essential criteria

You can now start shortlisting, and it’s easiest to split the process into fast, simple stages. The first stage is to reject all the applications that are missing essential criteria.

You’re not worrying about desirable criteria at all at this stage, so it’s quick — but you’ll still probably have fewer applicants at the end.

Shortlisting stage 2: desirable criteria

The next stage is to consider your desirable criteria. Your approach here will depend on how far away you are from your target shortlist number.

If you have a lot of candidates left to exclude, start by rejecting the ones with the fewest desirable criteria. Once you’re nearer your target, score each candidate based on how many of the desirable criteria they meet. You can then compare candidates side-by-side, and keep the best ones on your shortlist.

Consider other eliminating factors

If you still have more candidates on your shortlist than you need, it’s time to consider other eliminating factors. However, whatever your reason for taking someone off your shortlist, you'll need to make sure that your reason isn't connected to a protected characteristic, such as disability.

Notify the unsuccessful candidates

With your shortlist complete, it’s good practice to notify the unsuccessful candidates. You should highlight the reason why they were unsuccessful; although, you don’t have to be too specific.

Now, all that’s left to do is invite your shortlisted candidates to interview.

Share this article

Have a question?

Ask away, we’ve got lightning fast answers for UK business owners and employers powered by qualified experts.