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How Do You Create a Shortlist for a Job?

Reviewed by Brendan Sullivan, Indeed Recruiter
4+ years of experience, 150+ roles filled

Screening job applicants and selecting the top candidates is a challenging but essential step in filling an open position at your company. Before you start going through dozens or hundreds of job applications, make sure you’re prepared with strategies for building the best possible shortlist of candidates who meet your requirements.

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What is a shortlist?

A shortlist is a collection of all of the top candidates in different phases of a job application. It is a list of the candidates whose application made you want to learn more about them. The shortlist represents all the people who meet your criteria and could be a good match for the open position.

You might create several shortlists throughout the hiring process. For example, imagine that 50 people applied for a job opening. Your first shortlist would be a list of all the candidates whose resumes met your requirements. You might select 20 candidates to take an online assessment that further vets them for the position. After reviewing the results of the assessment, you could make another shortlist of candidates you want to interview. Finally, you can create a post-interview shortlist of people you want to offer the job to or keep on standby if your first choice does not accept.

Related:Pre-Screening Your Employees: What You Should Know

What is the purpose of making a shortlist?

The purpose of a shortlist is to streamline and organize the hiring process. It’s a clearly defined way to select candidates who you will seriously consider for a position. Because it’s not practical to interview everyone who applies for a job, shortlists are essential for sorting through large volumes of applications. They allow you and your team to be productive with your time during recruitment. Shortlists can also give you a list of possible candidates to recruit for other roles in the company or reach out to if the position they applied to opens up in the future.

How to shortlist candidates for a job

Make the hiring process more manageable by having a plan before you start screening candidates. Developing a strong shortlist is essential for finding a great candidate and making wise, strategic staffing decisions. Follow these steps to create an efficient shortlisting process and select the best candidates to move to the next hiring phase:

1. Identify minimum requirements

First, sit down with the job description for the open position and decide what your absolute minimum requirements are. This will help you eliminate candidates who are ineligible for further consideration. Include education level, skills, certifications and experience as minimum requirement metrics.

2. Determine additional qualifications

After you decide the baseline of what candidates need to have on their resume, create a list of additional qualifications that would be nice to have, even if they aren’t essential for the position. Knowing the next tier of qualifications that would help someone succeed in the open position is a great way to narrow down your shortlist, especially if you have a large number of candidates who meet the minimum expectations. Choose the qualities and skills of top employees who have filled that role in the past.

3. Decide how many candidates to shortlist

Choose a number of candidates to put on the shortlist based on the resources you can commit to the screening process. If you can only spend one day conducting phone screens, determine how many candidates you can talk to in a single day and set that as the limit for your shortlist.

4. Start by selecting top candidates

Once you’ve eliminated candidates whoaren’t qualified, start adding candidates you’re most excited about to the list. Instead of looking for a single perfect candidate, look for elements of each application that you would like to learn more about. By looking for candidates with potential instead of simply eliminating unqualified candidates, you create an intentional, focused shortlist of people who have potential.

Related: How to Read an Applicant Resume: Resume Review Tips

5. Consider the applicant pool as a whole

When preparing your shortlist, cultivate a diverse pool of applicants. Choose applicants for the shortlist who have different strengths and weaknesses, allowing you to have a range of skill sets to select from during the interview. This also allows you to reach candidates who may be stronger in-person than they appear to be on a paper application.

6. Add additional screening steps

If your shortlist is too large or unmanageable, add additional screening steps. Perform short phone screens or have applicants take online assessments to determine their competencies in core performance areas for the job.

7. Assign a score to each candidate

Develop a scoring system to help you sort through each candidate’s qualifications compared to your criteria. Some people assign points to each year of experience a candidate has and additional points for each related skill. You don’t have to automatically hire the highest-scoring candidate, but ranking candidates in this way can help you identify the best potential matches for further screening.

8. Contact the candidates

Once you have your final list, reach out to the candidates to inform them about the next steps in the hiring process, whether it’s an interview, an assessment or a job offer. Tell the candidates that their experience and skills impressed your hiring team and you want to learn more about them.

9. Save the list

Keep the shortlist on file as part of your hiring materials. This can help you improve the hiring process in the future and give you potential leads to fill other positions, even if a candidate was not ultimately selected for the role they applied to and encourage them to review other open roles at your organization where there may be more of a fit.

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Frequently asked questions about shortlists for hiring

How many candidates are usually shortlisted for an interview?

Employers should reach out to candidates who are not selected for the position. Write a respectful email or letter explaining that there was a large pool of candidates and unfortunately a job offer cannot be extended.

Brendan Sullivan is an Indeed recruiter based in Austin, TX with 4+ years of experience. You can usually find him enjoying one of the several amazing coffee shops in Austin or organizing his record collection.

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