Shortlisting Candidates – Part 2

Shortlisting candidates – Part 2

(…continued from part 1)
This is our second article on the shortlisting process and it deals with how to tackle problems that sometimes occur during the  process.

At the end of the shortlisting process you should have been able to cut the long list down to a shortlist of the candidates you want to interview. Of course, sometimes this doesn’t happen.

Personality and attitudes

You may find that the all the candidates on the long list have all the required and preferred criteria. In the situation where you need to hire many candidates this is fine; you now have to move forward with the mass interviewing. If you have only one position to hire for and you are still facing too many suitable applicants after applying all your required and preferred criteria then this is a sign that your person specification was not clear and defined. At this point the easiest mistake to make is to add in some new criteria, this may eliminate candidates and make the list easier to handle but bear in mind you have moved away from your process. In fact, the filters you should apply now relate to personality and attitudes criteria which are actually best assessed in interviews.

One solution to having too many shortlisted candidates is to write a short, focused question related to this position which would reveal attitude and/or personality in the answer, then email this question to each applicant. Make a very strict word limit and a short time-frame for replying. As the answers come in quickly assess them for showing whatever criteria you applied. This method is very likely to solve your problem.

The situation where you have an oversupply of qualified applicants for a position is less common than the opposite – you are unable to make a short-list because your applicants do not match your requirements. The outcome of this problem is that you are going to fail to recruit so you must now take firm, rapid action. The easy mistake to make is to say, ‘Well we must hire someone,’ and to push ahead and interview the least bad applicants. This is a recipe to either waste a lot of time and resources interviewing or make a mis-hiring.

Solving the problem

The professional thing to do at this stage is to go back to your strategy and person specification. Ask yourself a number of questions:

Does the ideal candidate actually exist?

Does my person specification describe the impossible? The action to resolve this is to write it, perhaps break the job into two jobs, perhaps remove or revise some of the duties and so change some of the requirements.

Did my advertising and search actually target the ideal candidate? If the ideal candidate exists why didn’t you reach him or her? You possibly need to re-advertise and try other channels.

Is my offer out of line with the market? Perhaps your research is out of date or flawed so your position was simply not appealing enough to attract the right applicants. You need to find more information about salaries and packages offered for similar positions, by checking other advertisements and researching your competitors. In fact, if you use a good agency as a channel this problem won’t happen because at the very start of the process they will advise you on whether your proposed salary matches market rates.

Is there a problem with my employer branding? This is a bigger problem with no quick-fix. If you are a start-up then this issue is something you must face but if you are a ‘known employer’ then for the long term you must look at this issue.

Stick to your process

The bad news is that you still have a long-list of applicants who do not match your requirements. This means you have only two immediate paths. If you are going to continue to be process-driven and systematic then you must go back and revise your person specification and strategy and re-start the recruitment process. If you are going to be driven by other factors like urgent needs or lack of time and resources (which happens very often) then be aware that you are acting outside the process and there is a very high likelihood that you will make a mis-hiring.


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