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Shortlisting For Recruitment And How does Shortlisting Candidate help?

What is Shortlisting? Top Criteria in shortlisting?

Recruiting and hiring is a very tedious process. It takes a lot of time and effort, from application to screening to interviewing some candidates. If the candidates are mostly qualified,  the process becomes doubly harder, for the assessment takes longer. It is the same thing if the company is meticulous, which, as a rule, it should be.

Some ways then of shortening the recruitment and hiring process were devised and developed. Having available personnel in every department and position is a must: it ensures that the company continues to run smoothly and never be derailed. It saves time, effort, and money. It also allows the company to fill in roster spot that needs to be filled as quickly as possible.

One of the more popular ways to facilitate recruitment and hiring is to do some shortlisting. Almost all companies employ this method one way or another, and others have developed variations of it to make it even more efficient in the recruitment process.

But what is shortlisting exactly? What does it do, and how does it impact the hiring process? What are its basic principles? And are there any applications or technology available for use in shortlisting? We hope to answer all of these questions.

What is shortlisting?

Suppose you had hundreds of applicants vying for one or two positions. You need a method, a shorthand, where a company can significantly reduce the number of applicants and cut it significantly to give the company an even closer look to the more qualified, deserving applicants, giving them more chance to shine and show what they got.

Shortlisting is that kind of methodological shorthand that allows you to do just that. You minimize, through applications of various methods, the number of applicants. To put it simply, you make a shortlist out of so many applicants and possible candidates who decided to apply but do not easily meet the criteria or standards that a company sets.

Making a shortlist comes after a company has advertised or publicized the need to fill a vacant position. Once the company has attracted a sufficient number of candidates and now has a pool from which to select and fill out the vacant post, shortlisting should start, and so does the selection process.

Shortlisting, then, is the last step towards attracting and recruiting talent and the first step towards an in-depth selection process. Though shortlisting itself does away with the more arduous, more complex, tedious process of traditional hiring and recruitment, the process of shortlisting also needs to be meticulous.

There are some steps that you need to follow, therefore, to make shortlisting genuinely effective. By effective, we mean here that those who are not genuinely qualified are the ones that will not make it, and the best, qualified applicants must be shortlisted.

The process of shortlisting

There are some essential steps you must take even before you do the process of shortlisting. It concerns shortlisting itself. Here are some steps that will help you in making a shortlist of possible candidates.

Step 1: Determining the criteria

Criteria are essential to consider as you prepare or make a shortlist of applicants in contention or in the running for the position. It determines the parameters, the standards, and everything that the company wants or needs in an applicant. It sets the plan, and this is what kicks off the recruitment process.

But the setting of criteria needs to be thought of carefully, meticulously planned and deliberated by the officials, and thoroughly reviewed. It must be as transparent as possible and must not contain ambiguities to avoid confusion. If possible, have everything in black and white to get the right kind of applicants.

Setting the right and proper criteria will make the shortlisting process quicker and easier, for it will quickly eliminate those who will not meet the required standards on the list. That is why criteria must already be stringent even at this early stage to make it more efficient in the shortlisting process.

Therefore, those who will pass must at least meet most if not all of the criteria set by the company or recruiting agency. It is expected that once very viable criteria were in place, more than half of the applicants would be considered ineligible, making the shortlisting process easier,

But what should be included in the criteria?

The need and necessity required by the vacant position should be the primary consideration in formulating the right, proper criteria for the applicants. What the position demands, then, will still depend on several factors. Among these factors are.

Educational Attainment

Does the position need a particular level of educational attainment? Some do not need it, while others require high educational attainment, even a postgraduate degree. Determining the needed educational qualification for a particular position will make the shortlisting process move quicker.

Career Experience

Previous work and other related experiences are also significant determinants on who would be included in the shortlist. One may include the length of experience; in this case, shortlisting could be quicker. Or the company could adjust the criteria depending on the need candidates for shortlisting.

Or one may decide to include the nature of work experience itself, again in tandem with the required length of experience necessary for the vacant position. Here, the criteria may be vague, so they have to include as many details as possible to make the criteria clear-cut and unambiguous.

Skillset and Knowledge

The skillset and the knowledge a particular applicant has will have a lot of bearing on whether he should be included in the shortlist or not. There must be criteria then about what kind of skills or knowledge are relevant to the position and whether the applicants have the necessary skills to perform what is expected of them.

If you have the criteria for determining this, those who have skills and knowledge will easily be shortlisted, and those that are not will not be considered. The shortlisting process then would be quicker and easier.

Core competencies

Aside from skills, talent, and knowledge, there might be other things or intangibles that the company is looking at in an applicant. Some competencies will make an individual an added asset to the company once hired and give the company that needed edge to make it over the top. These things that make some a cut above the rest could be a determining factor.

Step 2: Looking at the credentials

Criteria per se and scoring will give a company some ideas, but not necessarily deep, or even adequate knowledge, about a particular applicant or candidate. The devil is in the details, as the cliché’ goes. Only by looking at it will the company go deep regarding a candidate and then make a proper, informed assessment about the applicants’ chances, to be shortlisted or not.

And details could be quite a lot, and here it gets genuinely tedious. Just reading a CV will take you some time, what more hundreds of it? And we are only talking about reading, not yet of the usual talking points that may improve an applicant’s chances or doom him.

It is tedious because they have to assess whether an applicant meets the criteria and give him a rating based on the criteria. After that, they had to assess his skills and knowledge, and if he is qualified, his core competencies as well. Things do not get easier after this. They have to compare that applicant to probably hundreds of others, using the same technique.

Various applications and tracking systems are available to help companies deal with large numbers of applicants’ resumes. The algorithm was designed to screen candidates based on their answers to specific questions and listed keywords, skills and competencies matching, and other metrics to determine whether the applicant has what it takes to be shortlisted.

Though the system is not necessarily foolproof, and there are some drawbacks like screening out genuinely qualified people and false positives that allow the unqualified to sneak in, the trackers are helpful. Companies overall have benefited from using those applications. It has mitigated the difficulties inherent in the screening process.

Step 3: Evaluating and Rating the applicants 

Based on the criteria, the company can give scores to the applicants. Each criterion mentioned should have equivalent points, and according to how they met the requirements or how they performed in some tests, they would be judged and given points. As one performs better, the higher the score.

Each applicant will have total cumulative points. The scores added will be matched to the desired score set by the company, and based on it, applicants would be rated, either from highest to lowest or those who met the required passing average by the company.

The scores themselves will not determine who will be shortlisted. It does, though, to determine, for the company, which among the applicants have the highest or lowest ratings. It will be indicative of the candidates’ chance to be shortlisted. Obviously, those who failed in every criterion need not be shortlisted.

It also allows the company to assess the broad field of applicants, on what areas are they weak or strong. Others need to be tweaked, length of experience or educational attainment, for instance. Sometimes companies need to be liberal in some areas to make sure that there would even be a list of candidates that will be shortlisted.

However, some must not be sacrificed at all, especially if it will compromise the competency of the position. The company, however, will know whether which of the criteria should be liberal enough to accommodate some. However, it is crucial to note that some criteria are essential and could never be changed, but some need to be adjusted depending on the situation.

How long is the shortlist?

Depending on the need, a company may predetermine the number of applicants to be shortlisted. For those engaged in mass hiring, for instance, can have a very long shortlist, and those who may pass the scorecard could be shortlisted. For a few vacancies or one vacancy, an even smaller number of applicants to be shortlisted is desirable.

The history of a company’s recruitment process will serve as an ultimate guide regarding the length of shortlisted candidates. Simply put, how many hires does the company has for a comparable number of applicants, shortlisted ones, interviews, and offers?  Based on their history, they will know how many of them needed to be shortlisted.

However, it is safe to argue that a certain percentage of applicants will be shortlisted based on what we discussed. On average, roughly ten percent of the applicants could be shortlisted after passing the criteria, assessment, and other tests.

 It is a safe number, considering that some of them will not meet the criteria, some will withdraw their application, and some will have hesitancy as the application process progresses. It is a safe number, though the company will surely know how many they need, based on the number of applicants and positions available.

Shortlisting Best Practices

Aside from everything mentioned, there are some things that companies must follow for the shortlisting process to be efficient and successful. Among these are:

Must be as objective as possible

The process, the questions, and the method must reflect the objective conditions of the company, the practical needs of the position, and bring out the best and true potential of the applicants. It could only be possible if the process itself is objective and untainted with bias and personal opinions.

To do away with biases and opinions that may alter or sway the recruitment process is a must. The company must ensure that none of it will ever make its way on the process of shortlisting candidates, much more in eventually hiring them. Screening of questions and objective application of criteria and scoring, therefore, must be implemented.

Must be transparent as possible

The whole process of recruiting, shortlisting, and eventual hiring must be above board. For it to be so, there must be transparency every step of the way. From recruiting, to the formulation of questions and the setting up of criteria, tabulating scores and rating, and assessing credentials in resumes and other submitted documents, methods must be fair and square.

Transparency involves everything, and the applicants must also know why they cannot make it to the shortlist. They must be informed on where they failed miserably, thus leading to their exclusion from the shortlist. Being transparent, of course, must be without prejudice regarding company policy on privacy and confidentiality.

Limitations of artificial intelligence

Tracking systems are efficient in quickening the pace of shortlisting possible candidates. It has its pitfalls, however. Over-reliance on tracking systems may lead to the prevalence of false positives, those who make the cut even though they do not meet specific criteria or requirements, and false negatives or those who failed to make the cut even though they are very qualified.

Tracking systems, however, cannot assess the credentials of the applicants qualitatively. Instead, automated tracking systems rely on an algorithm that measures certain things quantitatively, like hits on specific keywords in their resume or their answers to certain questions. Keywords and algorithms alone cannot tell the whole story.

Efficiently combining an automated tracking system and manual checking will be the best guarantee against those drawbacks. Manual checking could serve as the necessary counterweight, and thus, companies could never do away with it. But if there is something on which a tedious process would pay, this is it.


Establishing the criteria, giving scores to applicants and ratings based on it, assessing the applicants and candidates through their resumes and curriculum vitae, and determining the number of candidates to be shortlisted is how the companies usually do the shortlisting.

These are not foolproof methods, and as the recruitment progresses, there may be some missteps for the company assessing the applicants. Suffice it to say, however, that the steps mentioned, in general, help all companies make a shortlist of candidates. Considering the usual, the sheer number of applicants in a position shortlisting is a necessity. No company can do away with it.

One can also use available technologies that employ artificial intelligence to facilitate further the shortlisting of applicants. They quicken the pace and allow the company to have an available shortlist if used effectively.

Used effectively, that is, for it has its drawbacks too. Overall, however, an effective combination of manual processing and an automated tracking system will do the trick.

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About the author


Brian is the Managing Diversity & Inclusion Lead (Chief Diversity Officer) at Diversity.Social. Brian has years of experience working at Fortune 500 companies in diverse environments and building diverse teams in Asian, Europe, America, and Canada.

Brian believes that building diverse and inclusive working environments isn't a luxury for resourceful organizations only, it should be leveraged and start from the grassroots.

Brian is a serial entrepreneur and has founded high technology ventures throughout his career. Diversity Leadership Directory