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Is your Shortlisting Process Actually Losing You the Best Candidate?

Hiring Managers are often despondent about what they see as ‘a lack of decent candidates’ when they’re recruiting. Knowing the tricks of effective shortlisting, the psychological traps that all humans fall into, and how not to fall foul of Australian anti-discrimination legislation not only speeds up your recruitment process but guarantees you’re on the right track to the best hire possible.

Bernadette Eichner
Bernadette Eichner
Candidates for shortlisting process

We recently helped a client here in Australia who was frustrated by what they said was ‘a lack of suitable candidates’ from their advertising campaign. Rather than exploit the situation and take a full recruitment brief straight up (we’re nice like that), we asked them to share their applicant list with us to first see if they had actually missed any good candidates.

And they had! Three, in fact. They had what they were looking for right there but had missed them.

How did they not see what they were looking for?

The truth is they had approached the whole shortlisting process the wrong way. They weren’t clear on what they were looking for, they hadn’t quickly researched the company names they didn’t recognise in the applicant backgrounds so were unable to compare their business with the person’s experience, and they had sub-consciously stereotyped applicants based on their names and gender.

With a bit of help from us, using our Pay as You Go recruitment model, they brought all three candidates in for an interview and made a successful hire.

Why do you need to invest time in a solid shortlisting process?

Shortlisting is one of the key components of a successful hiring campaign. It’s that initial application of your selection criteria against the applicant’s resume – do they have the skills and background you’re looking for?

Because you’re not going to spend time interviewing someone that can’t demonstrate what you’re looking for on their resume, right?

A solid shortlisting process makes sure that your time and money are spent effectively and efficiently. That is, you are halfway to sourcing the best candidate before you even start the interview process.

Sadly, many suitable candidates often get rejected at the shortlisting stage for reasons that often have nothing to do with their ability to do the job.

Why does this happen and how can you make sure your shortlisting process is capturing the very best candidates on offer?

I’ve written about how to successfully shortlist in the past but it seems a reminder may be due!

5 steps to make your shortlisting process work for you

1. Be clear about what you’re looking for

Ideally, you had a solid job description in place before you started your hiring process. You know what the person will be doing, why they will be doing it, and what skills and experience they need to do it.

You would also have thought about the type of person you’re looking for – one who will ‘fit’ into your existing team – their personality, their values, their work ethic.

2. Choose your selection criteria carefully

The selection criteria are the things that the person needs to be able to demonstrate on their resume in order to be considered a potential candidate for the job. Criteria would include education, skills, industry background. While you may want to put ‘happy disposition’ on the list, you can’t identify personality, values or work ethic from someone’s resume, so resist the urge to try to!

3. Separate your selection criteria into Essential and Desired

We all know we’ll never find someone with 100% of what we’re looking for. Why? Because perfection doesn’t exist. What does exist is ‘best fit’.

Once you have your list of selection criteria, go through and mark them essential or desired.

Essential criteria are the deal breakers – if they can’t tick the box, they don’t get shortlisted. But try to keep this list tight – too many criteria will eliminate too many potential hires. Things like professional qualifications (you can’t be a lawyer if you don’t have a law degree and a practising certificate), technical skills (you don’t want an accountant who can’t use your accounting software), experience (you may not want someone who doesn’t have any team leadership experience heading up your sales team) are solid criteria.

Desired criteria are the ‘nice to haves’ – the things that aren’t going to be a deal breaker but would make the applicant more attractive. Industry experience for example, or a Uni degree, or a stint with a particular company.

A ‘best fit’ applicant is one that meets all the essential selection criteria first and then ticks some of the qualities on the desired list.

Here’s a tip… use a spreadsheet to build your review matrix and determine who best meets the criteria. Names down one side and criteria across the top.

You’ll be able to see very quickly which applicants you should interview in the first instance – they’d be the ones with the most ticks!

4. Resist the urge to stereotype!

One of the biggest reasons employers miss out on great candidates is that they subconsciously stereotype and judge a candidate’s ability based on spurious characteristics like race or gender. This isn’t the same as saying you’re a racist. It’s just that embedded belief systems built up over generations don’t naturally predispose us to consider people outside our ‘group’.

A stereotype is a fixed general image or set of characteristics that a lot of people believe represent a particular type of person or thing. You know what I’m talking about here – for example, think of a time when you may have unfairly assessed someone’s skills based on their physical appearance alone.

It’s a mistake that all humans make. The trick when recruiting is to be aware of it and ensure that you’re not doing it. Apart from which, in Australia, it’s illegal to discriminate based on these things.

I’ve written a bit over the years about this common mistake – why we do it and how to avoid it, and why it’s bad for business for starters.

5. Respond to your applicants quickly

Speed is everything in recruitment. And especially now in what is one of the tightest candidate markets Australia has ever experienced. Candidates are not available for long these days! Between applying for a job and you looking at their resume, they’re most likely already interviewing somewhere else.

If someone meets the selection criteria, pick up the phone to them for a chat immediately! If you find that experience engaging and enlightening, then the next step is to get to a face to face interview as quickly as possible. Do not delay!

Take the stress out of your next hiring project by nailing your shortlisting process

Recruitment can be an overwhelming exercise – not just here in Australia but everywhere – the process itself, the wading through an Inbox full of applications, the objective evaluation of applicants, ensuring compliance with Australian legislation, and making the decision about who to interview and so on can become quite stressful. Particularly if it’s not your area of expertise. This can result in time delays and poorly made decisions.

But if you’re clear about what you need and why, aren’t distracted by things that really don’t matter, are making decisions based only on the information and evidence provided, and act quickly when you encounter someone who ticks the boxes, then you are well on your way to a successful hire.

Professional recruitment and fair pricing? Yes, it‘s possible!

At Just Right People Recruitment we‘ll give you the flexibility to choose between three different pricing models. And we guarantee each one will deliver a high-quality recruitment outcome tailored to your job, your budget and your specific needs. Now, that’s fair!

Learn more…

Bernadette Eichner
Bernadette Eichner

Bernadette Eichner, Cofounder and CEO of Just Right People, is a recruitment industry entrepreneur and thought leader in Australia, totally committed to improving the recruiter experience for clients and candidates alike. Her secret to life is to “just do the next thing that needs to be done”.

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