Selection is the process that takes you from a stack of unread applications to recruiting the best candidate to your organisation.

There are lots of options available to you when designing your selection process, but convention says there are two main tasks ahead of you:  shortlisting and assessing.

Here’s what you need to know.

Shortlisting candidates


Whether your candidates’ applications are CVs with cover letters or application forms, you’ll need to shortlist them. Shortlisting removes unsuitable candidates, and selects the best candidates for assessment.

Be aware of discrimination laws


Make sure everyone involved in your shortlisting process understands the risks and law around unfair discrimination. Candidates should only be excluded based on the job criteria, not on personal characteristics such as age, health, disability and so on.

Consider using technology


Internet recruitment has made it easier to advertise jobs to a wider audience. This also means you might receive lots of applications. Consider using IT tools, which may be included in your HR software, to filter out unsuitable applicants received via the web.

Use a fair shortlisting system


To shortlist fairly, draw up a list of the essential and desirable criteria. First filter out applicants that don’t offer the essentials. Then work through your reduced application pile to score candidates based on the desirable criteria. You can also reject candidates based on inconsistencies in their application, or poor presentation.

Assessing candidates


Job interviews are very widely used in the assessment process — but other methods like assessment centres and psychometric testing can be just as useful. References should complement your other methods as a final stage of the assessment process.

The pros and cons of job interviews


The job interview allows you to meet the candidate face-to-face (or by phone or video call), ask them directly about their experience and abilities, and judge how well they might fit your workplace.

It’s a two-way process. As the employer, you can:

  • ask what you need to know about the candidate’s skills and experience
  • make a good impression on the candidate
  • discuss terms, start date, progression opportunities and so on

The candidate can also ask you more about the job and your organisation.

Research shows that interviews are not always effective in selecting the best-fit candidate. Interviewers can unintentionally bring bias and preconceptions into the interview room, such as stereotypes and the desire to hire someone similar to them. Interviewers may make judgements based on first impressions of the candidate.

You can make interviews fairer by carefully designing their structure. Ask each candidate the same questions, allow the same amount of time for each interview, and score responses using fair criteria.

Psychometric testing can offer systematic assessment


Psychometric testing is now favoured by many organisations for its statistical reliability and impartiality. Psychometric testing can be conducted efficiently online, but should be prepared by a skilled occupational psychologist.

Before choosing a psychometric test, make sure it is relevant to the job and the person specification.

Assessment centres can measure practical ability

In a job interview, your assessment must rely on the candidate’s own account of their abilities. Assessment centres allow you to put that ability directly to the test, in realistic individual and group scenarios.

Assessment centre tasks often include problem solving, time management tasks, oral presentation, and simulations of the job duties. Assessment centres should be systematic and run by trained selectors.

References provide a second opinion


The majority of organisations make job offers only subject to receiving two satisfactory references: one from the candidate’s current or previous employer, and another professional or character reference. References are a vital pre-employment check that can protect you against making the wrong selection.

You can use a standardised reference form to request the factual information you want, such as dates of employment, duties, attendance records, and details of any disciplinary action. Most employers will rightly refuse to give non-evidence-based opinions of candidates.

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