4 Shortcuts for Shortlisting Candidates

4 Shortcuts for Shortlisting Candidates

So you’ve got an influx of CVs and cover letters, but you don’t know where to start.

The truth is, shortlisting is one of the most critical elements of hiring (sorry).

It’s the process where you discard large numbers of applications and have to take a giant leap of faith.

One wrong move and you could end up rejecting a potential diamond in the ruff.

Naturally, it’s important that you get through these CVs and cover letters as quickly as possible – seeing as time is a valuable commodity to all businesses.

However, you shouldn’t rush if you genuinely aren’t 100% sure.

This is especially true if you’re trying to fill a senior vacancy or one with an industry shortage of professionals.

So what is the key to quick but effective shortlisting?

Here are a few of my favourites tips.

Create an ideal employee specification

Before you start placing applications into your yes and no piles, you should define what your ideal new employee should be like.

This can include anything from specific qualifications and experience, right through to their personality type and current location.

Once you’ve created a list, you’ll know exactly what you’re looking for.

As a word of warning, you should always create one of these ideal employee specifications for every type of department and specific position.

Let’s face it, an IT employee probably isn’t going to work well within the hustle and bustle of a marketing department.

Prioritise your specification

One of the worst things you could do is to expect an applicant to tick every single box on your dream list.

Let’s be honest, if we all did that, nobody would have jobs.

With this in mind, you should prioritise your list using M.E.P.

  • M = mandatory minimum requirement – this is the absolute minimum requirement.
  • E = essential – a candidate needs to demonstrate these skills.
  • P = preferred – the nice to have attributes and experience.

This technique will give you an easier way to score an applicant during the shortlisting process.

You could take notes, scoring 1 point for every M scored, 2 for E and 3 for P.

Whoever ends up in the top few places should make the cut.

Implementing this will then make it a lot easier to interview these shortlisted applicants too, as you can get them to demonstrate or prove their mandatory and essential skills with a series of specific questions.

Take things in stages

The quickest way to procrastination or making a mistake is to try and be too thorough with one applicant right from the start.

Think of it this way, if you spend 10 minutes scoring an application at the start, by the end of the day you’ll be exhausted and will probably start getting sloppy.

It’s during this careless stage where you could discard a top professional.

Instead, break each process into stages.

For example, do a quick run through checking for the mandatory requirements and getting rid of the blatantly bad applications.

The next stage could include taking a peek at the remaining candidates’ LinkedIn profiles. And so on.

To effectively do this, put together a quick spreadsheet or use a database to score each applicant.

At least you can then go home at the end of the day knowing exactly what needs to be done the following day.

If you’re feeling extra nerdy, you could even use formulas on your spreadsheet so that it ranks each applicant after every stage!

Lead with your brain

It’s so easy to just use our guts instead of our brains when it comes to shortlisting a few tight candidates.

But the bottom line is that this method is wrong.

Your gut feeling is a quick-fire way of making a biased hiring decision on behalf of your business.

Stick to the M.E.P system and don’t be afraid to ask other colleagues to give their opinion on the matter.

In fact, an effective way of quickly shortlisting applications and ensuring that you don’t overlook anything is to get more than one person to help.

This way, you can compare your scores and thoughts at the end, which will make it a lot easier to bring numbers down before the interview stage.

Pro recruiter top tip

Struggling to single out one or two applications from the pack? Don’t panic. Here are some quick and dirty tips to help speed up the process:

1. Carry out a keyword shortcut to see which CVs and cover letters use necessary buzzwords.

2. Check for typos using grammarly.com.

3. Look for any strange employment gaps.

4. Double check candidates’ details are truthful by using special software or by just getting in touch with a reference.

If you found those tips handy, you might want to read our previous blog: ‘5 Shortcuts to Finding a Brilliant CV in 30 Seconds’.

Final thoughts

Whatever you do, just make sure that you are thorough and don’t just go on a ‘gut feel’.

There’s no harm in taking an extra 10 minutes to make a thorough assessment before shortlisting.

Doing so could be the difference between finding a star candidate and overlooking one.

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