How to Build a Candidate Shortlist in 3 Simple Steps

By Paul Slezak - Sep. 28, 2016
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Nobody enjoys having to jump through hoops to try and find the right person to fill a position. Sourcing for candidates is a daunting task. Trying to find that one person that is a perfect fit for your company is time consuming and challenging.

You need someone who has the right experience, skills and personality to excel at the position, yet to find that person you must first wade through possibly hundreds of other applicants. It can be like trying to find Waldo.

To get to that prized shortlist of 2-3 exceptional candidates to interview, there are three essential steps you need to perform.

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1. Have a detailed position description

To find Waldo, your elusive ideal candidate, you first must make sure that he is in the picture!

The scope of your talent search must be broad enough, with the right amount of intrigue, to find the cream of the crop. If you want the best, you should assume that they are not just looking for any job; they want a position that excites them and is worthy of their talents.

There are two keys to this first step: the job description and the scope of your search. To get Waldo to join the group of candidates, you need him first to see your job posting and then find it interesting enough to apply. Unfortunately, often this is where many companies fail.

Let’s start with the job description. Just listing role responsibilities, skills required and benefits is not enough to spike the interest of the most talented people looking at job ads. Instead, the description should read more like a marketing message, selling your company to the elite talent that you want ultimately to hire.

As for the scope of your search, you need to consider where the best place is to advertise for the person you seek.

Where is Waldo at right now? Is he in the same city? Where would he look at potential positions?

You need to get your job ad in front of the type of audience that would include Waldo. If your sourcing efforts are successful, you should have a large group of candidates that have responded to your job ads. This is where the real fun begins.

2. Create your shortlist

Your long list of candidates needs to be narrowed down to a manageable group to screen. You need to weed out anyone that doesn’t meet the basic requirements based on performing a CV or resume screening. You must assume that your Waldo will meet these basic requirements and make it to the next part of the screening process. This is your first shorter list, getting you closer to the top candidates to consider.

Remember, though: When you are looking to bring somebody new into your business, what do you think is more important: the candidate’s ability to get the job or the candidate’s ability to do (and ideally excel) in the role?

In the same way that an Olympic coach would define the performance of an elite athlete in terms of wins, record race times or prize money, as an employer looking to hire somebody new, even before they come on board you should be able to define their performance in terms of the successes you hope they will achieve. And successes can apply to every single role in the business.

3. Screening For Waldo

So now you have a list of people on paper that are capable and qualified to do the job. This is where it becomes tricky and potentially time consuming.

If you have 30 people on this list, you need to gather enough information about them to determine whether they are the right fit for the position and your company, then either pass or put them on the shortlist. Screening may include looking closer at their LinkedIn profiles, then using a brief, tailored phone interviewing or video interviewing process to choose the top few candidates that deserve a full interview.

Not only will the actual answers to these interview questions tell you a lot about the candidate’s goals and motivations. You will also get a good feel for their communication skills and also whether they have even thought about your specific role, or whether your position just happened to be one of 25 jobs that they applied for overnight because the job title matched an automated keyword search.

Finding the person that will be a true asset to your company is not easy. It requires being innovative efforts to attract and obtain the right candidate. Dedicating the time and effort needed can be exhausting, which is why hiring an expert recruiter is often worth the investment. The right recruiter can find your Waldo, wherever he or she may be, to ensure you get the best candidate for the job every time.

Cofounder and CEO at RecruitLoop. I've been a hands on recruiter, manager, trainer, coach, mentor, and regular speaker for the recruitment industry for nearly 25 years.


Paul Slezak

Cofounder and CEO at RecruitLoop. I've been a hands on recruiter, manager, trainer, coach, mentor, and regular speaker for the recruitment industry for nearly 25 years.

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