Chris Russell

3 min read


Shortlisting Candidates: Best Practices for Recruiters

The shortlisting of candidates has always been one of the most time consuming pats of the sourcing process. That’s why so much rent HR technology has attempted to help automate this process for recruiters.

But despite efforts to automate candidate sourcing the challenges of sourcing, recruiting, hiring of talent still remain. A number of industry studies have pointed to the fact that most employers struggle with attracting the right candidates. One stats reveals that 52% of companies said the difficult part of recruiting was identifying and shortlisting enough of the right candidates from large pools of talent.

While shortlisting remains a major problem inside talent acquisition departments, there are steps being taken to overcome this hurdle. Namely by building a strong employer brand, nurturing talent communities, and boosting wages and benefits. The more attractive the job, the more people will apply. It is now more important than ever to invest in this pull versus push talent strategy.

Defining Shortlistingcandidate shortlist

It’s important to understand where shortlisting occurs in the hiring process and how it’s defined. Shortlisting is often performed by sourcers who search for candidates inside talent and resume databases online. It’s the process of finding people and vetting them to ensure they meet the general qualifications of the job as well as their openness to hearing about your job opening.

Shortlisting happens after the sourcing step and comes before the interview. Resumes are screened and assessed for fit before the candidate is contacted. As you screen, the best candidates (on paper) get moved to the shortlist.

How Shortlisting Works

A balance must be struck when developing the proper criteria between the minimum qualifications you need to ensure a good quality candidate. You can’t be too dismissive of someone if they don’t meet all of your standards so be aware of this going in. Keep your options open.

Your criteria for shortlisting can be based on the skills and traits of your best employee currently working in the role. Leave out personal opinion or “gut feel” since these can often be biased decisions that limit your available talent pool. Diversity and inclusion is important to keep in mind, so apply your standards objectively among your candidates.

Criteria for Shortlisting;

  • Past experience
  • Education
  • Skillset
  • Personality
  • Training

You can also use results of skill or personality based assessment tests.

Separating Essential Versus Desirable Criteria

shortlisting with chatbotEssential Criteria (aka Must Haves) are those you absolutely need to have for each candidate. Are they eligible to work in the U.S.? Do they have the minimum years of experience? These ‘knockout questions’ force candidates into a yes or no bucket, especially if asked during the apply process.

The ‘nice to have’ or desirable criteria are things like professional certifications or experience with a certain software. The differences between must have and nice to have can overlap. For instance a hiring manager may insist on 5 years of experience even though 3 would suffice. This scenario happens a lot in hiring circles but is part of the job you’ll have to deal with.

Use Scorecards to Shortlist

It’s helpful to create a scorecard for candidates to jeep the process fair and your questions on point. It also helps you to visualize their candidacy in an easy to understand format.

How Many to Shortlist?

So how many candidates will it take to get a successful hire? Most recruiters I’ve ever worked with say it’s probably between 5-10 candidates. Anymore becomes too unmanageable. If you find yourself working high volume roles you probably need technology to help. 

Tools like recruiting chatbots, screening by text messaging and self selecting apply processes will need to be used. Some surveys peg the average application to interview rate at around 12% which will mean for every one hundred applicants;

  • You’ll need to shortlist at least 12 of them
  • 2-3 of them might receive an offer
  • 1-2 will accept the job offer

Shortlisting Resumesshortlisting resumes

Most of the applicants you’ll receive in your ATS will not be qualified. Some estimates peg that number at 75%-85%. So with that many unqualified applicants, it becomes obvious why shortlisting is your most time consuming task as a recruiter.

That’s why ATS providers have embedded ways to screen for you through knockout questions and a customized apply process. Those employers that take advantage of these features can greatly affect the number of shortlisted applicants.

Summing up Shortlisting

We are slowly but surely moving to an era where AI recruiting software will automate at least part of the shortlisting function. Tools now exist that will search for, screen and serve up candidates automatically to recruiters.

But in the meantime, use your scorecard to evaluate and judge applicants in a fair and equitable way. The technology will soon catch up to your efforts.

About Emissary

Emissary is a candidate engagement platform built to empower recruiters with efficient, modern communication tools that work in harmony with other recruiting solutions.

Book a Demo

Stay in the loop!

Subscribe to our bi-weekly newsletter and keep up to date with the latest Recruiting and HR tips and trends.

By clicking send you’ll receive occasional emails from us.

Ready to speed up your hiring process?

Start texting candidates and get better results today.
Book a Demo