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Shortlisting 101-How To Quickly Find Your Strongest Candidates

Shortlisting 101: How To Quickly Find Your Strongest Candidates

With the right shortlisting tactics, you can rapidly pick out the best candidates from a large pool of applicants. Click here to learn more

When you’re receiving a high volume of applications for a job posting, the ability to quickly narrow down the strongest candidates is key. 

However, this is often easier said than done. 

According to a survey of talent acquisition leads, 52% of hiring staff found ‘identifying the right candidates from a large applicant pool’ to be the hardest part of recruitment. 

So how can you accelerate the shortlisting exercise while still ensuring that you’re selecting high-quality applicants? In this guide, we’ll explain how you can run a highly effective shortlisting process to rapidly discover the top candidates for a job. 

Be clear about shortlisting criteria 

The clearer your criteria are for the shortlisting stage, the easier it will be to identify the front-runners among your current applicants.

Be as specific as possible when it comes to the qualifications, experience, and technical skills that you’re searching for in a role. 

When you establish a clear set of criteria, you’ll be able to run through your applications and quickly separate non-starters from potential hires. The faster you can complete this process, the faster you’ll be able to find your top-tier applicants. 

You should also have a clear understanding of ‘mandatory’ criteria versus ‘preferred’ criteria. 

This way, you’ll be able to rapidly screen out candidates that aren’t qualified for the job, while still considering promising individuals who don’t necessarily tick every box. 

Watch out for unconscious bias 

Every single one of us holds some form of unconscious bias, and these biases can be hugely disruptive during the shortlisting process. 

In fact, 79% of HR professionals believe that unconscious bias exists in recruitment and planning decisions, so it’s vital that you make an active effort to combat it. 

Allowing implicit biases to cloud your judgement can cause you to overlook top candidates and make costly hiring errors. There are several ways that you can prevent unconscious bias from interfering in the shortlisting stage, including: 

  • Building a diverse hiring team 
  • Setting up unconscious bias training 
  • Improving the shortlisting process (i.e. blind hiring) 
  • Identifying biases through online tools 

If you want to learn more about eliminating unconscious bias from the shortlisting process, check out our detailed guide here. 

Create candidate scorecards 

Pulling together detailed candidate scorecards is a great way to run an efficient, standardised shortlisting process. 

Scorecards should include a range of criteria (e.g. education, experience, technical skills, qualifications) that can be ordered in terms of importance and assigned a numerical value. 

You can then produce an individual scorecard for each applicant, scoring them based on these key criteria and ending up with a clear list of front-runners. 

Not only can scorecards help to prevent discrimination and biased decision-making, but they can also make clarifying your best candidates much easier. 

Introduce technical assessments 

While technical assessments are often set up for late-stage interviews, nothing stops you from introducing a speedy assessment a little earlier to narrow your shortlist. 

Research suggests that up to 75% of initial job applicants may be unqualified, and an early assessment is an excellent way of removing non-starters and establishing a shortlist. 

This assessment doesn’t need to be particularly taxing or time-consuming, but it should be challenging enough to gauge the technical knowledge of your applicants. Depending on your industry, it could be anything from a basic maths test to a specific problem-solving exercise. 

Identifying your strongest candidates doesn’t need to come down to guesswork or instinct. 

By putting a few of these shortlisting techniques and best practices in place, you can effectively separate unqualified applicants from promising talent. This allows you to spend less time sifting through applications, and more time focusing on your best prospects.


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Looking for more advice and useful resources about managing applications? Click here.