Shortlisting candidates: meaning and why it is important in HR

Shortlisting candidates is usually a widespread practice in the initial stages of a company’s selection process. It is a crucial...
21 December 2022

Shortlisting candidates is usually a widespread practice in the initial stages of a company’s selection process.

It is a crucial phase to find those professionals that the company needs, and the basic requirements that candidates must meet to be considered for the job interview phase are established.

In this post, we will try to clarify why shortlisting candidates is so important and to investigate its meaning.

Shortlisting: meaning and uses

The ‘shortlisting’ meaning comes from the word shortlist itself. It is, in fact, the verb that captures the action of that word. 

To give you a hint of its meaning, we can turn to the Cambridge dictionary, which defines the word shortlist as:

A list of people who have been judged the most suitable for a job or prize, made from a longer list of people originally considered, and from which one person will be chosen.

Although the definition of the word itself is quite explicit, we will stick to the labor aspect of it. 

For HR professionals, shortlisting is the first phase of the personnel hiring process in which potential candidates for a job offered by a company are identified.

In other words, shortlisting identifies applicants who meet all (or most) of the requirements of the job offer published by the company.

What is a shortlist candidate?

If you are looking for shortlisted candidates meaning some strange thing, you will be happy to know that they are job seekers who have passed the first selection process and are, therefore part of a smaller sample. 

Having passed this first screening, they will most likely be called for a face-to-face or remote job interview.

Shortlisting candidates meaning and why it is important in HR

How to set a recruitment shortlist

The main objective of a shortlist is to simplify the selection process to save time and effort for HR professionals. Therefore, the better the list of candidates to be created, the better the chances of finding the best candidate.

In order to create an efficient shortlist and make good strategic decisions, we recommend the following steps:

What is the minimum you expect from a candidate?

The first thing we should do is to analyze all the needs of the position to be filled in our company. Once we have verified this, we will eliminate a number of candidates who do not match the level of training, experience, or other skills that are essential for the position.

What else do we expect or need the candidate to have?

Now that we have the basis of what we expect from a candidate, we can focus on other qualities, certifications, or knowledge that may be interesting for the position, even if they are not basic to develop it. 

A good reference can be to look at employees who have already been in that position and remember what they lacked or what additional skills did convince us of that person. This will help narrow down the shortlist a little more.

Decide the length of the list

If you are wondering how many candidates are usually shortlisted for an interview, the answer is easy: as many as you can take on in your team. 

It all depends on the time you have to conduct interviews, the urgency of the hiring, and the duration of your onboarding. The idea is to create an applicant pool that you have time to get to know partially. No more.

Begin with the favorites

When you have discarded those profiles you are sure will not fit in your shortlist, the best thing to do is to integrate those that you think may be the perfect profile. 

As you probably won’t find them, we recommend that you simply add those that have nuances that you like or that you want to know more about. This way you will create a list with potential and avoid forgetting those you think are the most powerful. 

Shortlisting meaning and uses

Make it a varied list

Even if you really like a profile with particular expertise, it is important to keep other doors open, so we recommend that you keep your list varied in that sense. Who knows, you may end up being more convinced by a person with certain skills that you were not expecting to hire. 

 Is your list too long? Shorten it!

 If you find it difficult to manage the list because it is too long, you can conduct some pre-interviews over the phone. You can also request some kind of online test to evaluate knowledge and be able to rule out more candidates. 

Rate each profile

Yes, like when you go to the movies or to a restaurant and then make a rating. You can set up your own scoring system with more complex variables or simply choose to rate the profiles you find from one to ten. This does not mean that you have to suddenly hire the one who gets a 10, but at least you will have a range to move in when previewing those profiles. Obviously, this is a live scoring and can change throughout the process.

Keep the list in a safe place

With all the work it has taken you to complete all the shortlisting process, the least you can do is to make backup copies and store the data in a safe place. All this information can be useful for future processes.

You can even use it for this same process if any of your first options fail. You can always go back to the list to look for alternative qualified candidates.

Summon candidates from the list for a final interview

Now you only have to go back to the list and contact the candidates you want to interview. If any of the first options fail, thanks to all the information you will have in this list you will be able to fill the gap with another interesting candidate. 

Remember that thanks to technology these interviews can be done virtually. In addition, thanks to proctoring solutions like ours, you can guarantee the integrity and security of the interviews. Ask now for your free demo, and we will show you how you can do it.


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