The shortlist – how to write one, and get on one.

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Employers are always wanting the best possible entries on the list, and candidates often wonder how to ensure they get onto it!

There is a process recruitment firms take to create a shortlist, and knowledge of this can inform how candidates can put their best foot forward and stand out from the crowd, and of course how employing firms can get that best list.

What’s it all about?

The shortlisting process can vary between recruiting firms and assignments, but in all cases the goal is to initially assess which candidates align best to the role in question.

There are multiple critetria that recruiters focus on to identify candidates for specific roles. Typically they’re spread across technical (skills, quals, capabilities, experience etc) and cultural (Emotional Intelligence, leadership style etc) qualities. Both of these categories contribute to a successful appointment and onboarding process.

First step – the longlist

Funnily, the first step in shortlisting is creating a longlist! This is done by recruiters either just compiling the list of candidates applying to a role, and/or using professional network tools such as LinkedIn to gain a rough idea of potential candidates and their fit for the role.

Networking platforms are also a great opportunity to speak to a candidate about their career goals as an often overlooked factor in shortlisting is whether the role will meet a candidate’s wants and needs, not just whether they are qualified for the role.

Second step – the shortlist

A recruiter will assess all of / interview some of the candidates on the longlist in order to decide who will progress onto the shortlist. To keep the process objective, each criterion on the position description (Key Selection Criteria or KSCs) is given a weighting according to its importance. This is used for evaluation, with an initial rating for each candidate against all criteria resulting in a (relatively) objective initial rank order.

Criteria that are often considered includes, but is not limited to:

  • Current & prior roles / types of past employers
  • Years of experience
  • Qualifications
  • Specific achievements
  • Location
  • Salary expectations

Once the initial criteria have been reviewed, the shortlist is honed further. This can include reference to:

  • Skill relevance to the position
  • Career and personal aspirations of the person
  • Potential cultural / team fit

Recruiters sometimes find that candidates who could potentially fit the criteria for a shortlist have not presented their capabilities so as to be immediately obvious and it’s difficult to evaluate them fairly against other candidates. Really, it’s particularly up to the candidate to ensure they do present themselves in the best possible light.

Once the shortlist is finalised (with evidence supporting the shortlisting decisions), we present it to our client to enable them to assess their preferred candidates for interviewing – that’s the very short list.

How can you stand out from the crowd?

It’s important that both the candidate and the client find the right fit – one that supports the goals and aspirations of both parties and ensures success in the appointment.

For employers:

  • The absolute critical factor is to get your key selection criteria (and associated weighting factors) right. This means you have identified in advance what you are looking for. This is a first step in adding logic and science into the process.

For candidates:

  • Ensure that your CV is well formatted, and that important details – such as your experience, qualifications, relevant past appointments etc. – do jump out from the page;
  • Follow up with the hiring manager or recruiter after applying so that your interest in the role is obvious (but don’t overdo it, get the balance right);
  • Prepare and present well at your interview – make sure you present yourself in the best possible light and hopefully leave a good impression

For more information on how to manage your search if you’re an employer, or search the market if you’re seeking a new role, contact Paul Murphy by emailing, or follow our LinkedIn or Facebook pages.

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