How to Quickly Shortlist Job Applicants

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Seven Methods for Shortlisting Applicants and Resumes

Let’s start with the first big step: Reviewing resumes and shortlisting candidates for interviews. The good news is, there are certain best practices you can follow to make shortlisting easy.

The following section explains a 7-step shortlisting process. You can tweak it according to your company’s industry, resources, and needs.

Step One: Finalize the upper limit of interviews.

In an ideal world, you could interview all applicants. But in today’s fast-paced, mega-competitive world, that’s neither practical nor desirable. In today’s world, you need to decide on a “final number” of interviewees early on in the shortlisting process. This final number will help you determine how rigorously candidates need to be eliminated.

Let’s say you are recruiting to fill two vacancies. After posting your ads, you receive over 100 applications. You then take each job’s importance into consideration, along with time and resources available. In the end, you make the decision to interview 15 out of the 100 applicants.

By finalizing this number, you have weeded out the 85 other resumes – and the 85 other potential interviews.

Step Two: Establish elimination criteria.

To start paring down your resume pile, you must establish “bare minimums” that can be used as elimination criteria. These can include basics such as educational qualifications, work experience, and job-specific skills. Make a separate list of this criteria to be used in step four.

Note that your purpose at this stage is elimination, not selection. Because of this, you need to be careful with selecting criteria. Also note that the more criteria you add, the faster the elimination process will be. Adding more criteria may be helpful if you have many candidates to sift through, but may be detrimental if your applicant pool is small.

Let’s imagine that you forgot to specify the ideal years of experience required in the job posting. Now, to your dismay, you have a stack of applicant resumes in front of you.

Depending on your business’ needs, you can establish elimination criteria based upon years of experience. By applying this to each resume, you can easily weed out applicants who lack sufficient experience.

Step Three: Decide upon the selection criteria.

While step two focused on how to handle and pare down applications, step three is about finding top-notch candidates.

Begin by preparing a list of “top notch” characteristics that your ideal candidate will have. These golden traits are the desirable qualities that you are looking for in your top hire. They are the qualities that will give the right candidate an edge over all other candidates.

Realistically, this list should vary from business to business, and from job to job. However, these are nine qualities that all top talent possess:

Enthusiasm – Enthusiasm is one of the most valuable skills a new hire can bring to your workplace. The tone of a candidate’s resume and cover letter offer a great way to gauge this characteristic.

Communication Skills – Effective interdepartmental communication is a vital characteristic of successful organizations. Every new hire should contribute and cohere to that flow of communication effortlessly. To get an understanding of an applicant’s communication skills, sift through their application. Focus on grammar and language choice. Both of these are a good indicator of how strong their communication skills will be.

Innovation and Creativity – Innovation and creativity apply to many jobs, not just technical or creative positions. Their use and application go far beyond what most people think. For example, innovation does not only apply to new products and prototypes. Innovation can also refer to changing how things are done within an organization. Likewise, creativity does not only apply to marketing or digital production. It is also applicable to solving problems in unique and imaginative ways. In light of this, it always pays to look for innovation and creativity in your new hires.

Team Spirit – Great companies are built on the foundation of great teams. For a team to succeed, its members must be able to motivate, encourage, and cooperate with each other. They must know how to co-exist with the rest of the team. Look for top-notch talent who have team-centric work or projects on their resume.

Confidence – Lack of confidence can inhibit an employee’s ability to make effective or efficient decisions. When searching for top-notch talent, try to get a sense of a candidate’s confidence level by examining the flow and tone of their resume or cover letter.

Discipline – Discipline is what ensures that a candidate’s work and behavior meet the expectations of your organization. To gauge discipline levels, look for project details and work summaries.

The Ability to Work Under Stress – High-pressure environments are the norm in today’s workplace. Top talent should have what it takes to not only perform, but to perform well in these environments. To help gauge this quality, look for project descriptions that might illustrate how well candidates cope with stress and maintain their cool under pressure. Other areas on the resume might offer additional insight, so be sure to read carefully.

The Ability to Meet Strict Deadlines – Deadlines are important, and the ability to meet them is a necessary skill for any efficient employee. You will want potential hires to be capable of setting strict deadlines and meeting them. Many candidates who possess this skill are candid enough to mention deadlines on their resume.

Subject-Specific Knowledge – Finally, you want a candidate who has expert knowledge in the field for which they have applied.

Be aware that this knowledge is over and above the bare minimum mentioned in the job posting. Bare minimum requirements are essentially the basics, such as academic qualifications or work experience.

Subject-specific knowledge, on the other hand, is a candidate’s personal expertise. Indicators of expertise can include any extra training, courses, internships, or projects mentioned in their resume. Academic or professional engagements are also indicators of subject-specific knowledge.

Step Four: Eliminate candidates.

Scan resumes for your listed elimination keywords and remove any unworthy candidates. Applications that have not been eliminated will be reviewed for selection in the next step.

Step Five: Select candidates.

At this stage, merely scanning candidate resumes will not suffice. To choose the best applicants, you will need to invest time into reviewing each resume. Key areas to examine include a candidate’s academic qualifications, previous experience, skills, and achievements.

Step Six: Check social media.

If your final list of selected candidates is close to the number decided in Step One, that’s a good sign. You may go ahead and invite each candidate to join you for an interview.

On the other hand, if you still have too many candidates, you need to trim the list further. Reviewing the social presence of your selected candidates can help decide if they will be a good fit for your business’ culture and values.

Google the candidates from your selected list and quickly review what you see online. Look at the organizations and activities they “Like,” “Follow,” or are connected to. Check any posts that they may have shared (if visible).

Do you see any candidate that might fit with your company?
More importantly, do you see any candidate who is clearly not the right fit? Eliminate them to shorten your list.

Step Seven: Prepare a merit list.

Create a final “merit list” based on the likelihood of each candidate being “top notch.” To get the most out of this list, create a ranking system for your candidates. Assign scores (say from 1 to 5) to each candidate for each of the key skills or traits you are looking for. Then, calculate the total score for each candidate and create a merit list based on those scores. Place the candidate with the highest total score on top.

Then, all you need to do is invite your selected candidates to interview. When sending invitations, start from the top of the list and work your way down. Stop when you have invited the number of candidates decided upon in step one.

Chapter 9 – How to Interview Job Candidates >

Additional Resources on Quickly Screening and Shortlisting Job Applicants: