4 Quick Ways to Shortlist Candidates

4 Quick Ways to Shortlist Candidates

Staring at heaps of applications?

Knowing where to start is probably one of the biggest challenges in the recruitment process.

And then there’s time.

Spending too little on each application can result in a bad hiring mistake while doing the opposite can drag the process out for much longer than required.

So how do you cut through the pretenders and shortlist all of the true contenders?

Here’s our time-saving, highly effective and extremely decisive way of narrowing down your options.

Produce a perfect employee persona

Before you begin, it’s important to have a think about what you want your next employee to be like.

For instance, what kind of qualifications do they need? Is there a particular personality type you think will fit well within your current workforce? Does the candidate need to live or be willing to relocate to a certain area?

Once you’ve listed every trait, skill and qualification you desire, you’ll be able to form an ideal employee persona.

This will then give you a clear indication of what you’re looking for while shortlisting.

However, it’s worth remembering that you’ll need to create one of these for every department and job type.

Otherwise, you could end up with a shy IT guy when you want a confident marketing professional!

Score them using M.E.P

While creating an ideal employee persona is one thing, don’t use it as a ‘must-have’ tick box exercise – because, let’s face it, not every candidate will have every single attribute, skill and qualification you wish for.

Instead, prioritise your list of applicants by using the M.E.P system.

  • M stands for mandatory minimum requirement – this is the absolute minimum requirement.
  • E stands for essential – a candidate needs to demonstrate these skills.
  • P stands for preferred – the nice to have attributes and experience.

You can then allocate 1 point for every M scored, 2 for E and 3 for P. By the end, this will give you a score for each applicant.

This will also make it a lot easier to interview the shortlisted candidates too, as you’ll be able to pinpoint potential weaknesses or get them to demonstrate their skills.

Break the process up

If you try to conduct a thorough M.E.P process for every single candidate, you’ll burn yourself out after an hour or two.

Just think, if you put all of your efforts into doing every check for the first handful of applicants, by the end of the day you’ll start to lose concentration.

This isn’t fair on the unlucky bunch of candidates whose CVs are looked at later, plus it’s also the easiest way to discard a top professional.

The best way to avoid shortlisting burnout is to break it up into stages.

For instance, start off by running through all of the applications looking for only the mandatory or essential requirements.

Once you’ve finished that stage, do a bit of light research into the remaining candidates’ LinkedIn presence, and so on.

If you feel like you want to take it to a completely new level, you could even put together an Excel spreadsheet to help you keep tabs on applications.

Other stages you could include to help separate some top-level applicants in a speedy manner is to:

  • Conduct a keyword shortcut to search for certain buzzwords.
  • Look for typos using free plugins and apps like grammarly.com.
  • Keep an eye out for any obvious gaps in employment. (Feel free it check with a candidate on this one, as there might be a reason behind it.)
  • Use software or get in touch with one of the candidate’s references (if allowed) to see whether the information that they’ve given is factual.

For more quick and dirty tips on shortlisting CVs, take a look at our previous blog:

Follow your brain

Shortlisting burnout or plain sloppiness can lead to some people making a snap decision based on their gut feeling.

However, this doesn’t always necessarily mean that you’re going to make the right decision.

Stick to the facts and use your brain. The M.E.P system was designed to give you structure and order.

And for the best results, get someone else within the business to help you shortlist applicants. After all, they do say that two heads are better than one!

You’ll then both be able to compare results and come to a more conclusive decision on who to put forward to the next stage of the recruitment process.


So there you have it! Hopefully, you found this article useful and can go away with a more decisive system in place when shortlisting.

Hopefully, you found this article useful and can go away with a more decisive system in place when shortlisting.

Just always remember to:

  • lead with your brain and not your gut
  • use the M.E.P system to identify top candidates in a fair way
  • break the process up
  • create an ideal employee persona to guide you.

If you follow these points, you’ll make the interview stages easier and ensure that you don’t miss out on a star professional.

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