Candidate Screening

You've advertised, you've got a good response, you're almost been overwhelmed by how many candidates expressed interest in your job! Now you're looking at a stack of paper as high as your pot plant. What next? Well, there's no way out of it: you're going to have to read them.

First round cut: Have they read the Advertisement?

Do they have the qualifications you said were required?
If you listed specific qualifications - the qualifications should be absolutely essential to do the job and that means you've got no room to move. Don't cut candidates any slack on this; if the application doesn't list the qualification don't shortlist them.

Have they followed the format?
Did your advertisement ask candidates to follow a format? Is the material in the format you asked for? Does it include everything you asked them to include? If the applicant hasn't taken the trouble to read your requirements - if they haven't rung in to check out anything that wasn't clear, if they haven't covered every possibility - that's really not acceptable, so unless they have a Nobel Prize to balance that they go in to the out-basket.

Have they proofread?
Has the application got the correct job title on it? Are there any spelling mistakes, grammatical errors or other mistakes in the application? A clean copy doesn't prove they're reliable, particularly as they may have paid to have it done professionally, but a sloppy job does show a lack of attention to detail and care.

Can they communicate?
An error-free application is a minimum requirement, but you want more than that. You want someone who can write clearly and concisely and who can see what's wanted without too much explanation. If they look good, though, make a note to check this at the interview, in case it's been professionally prepared.

Second round cut: Do they know you?

Is the application adapted to your vacancy, or is it a standard, one-size-fits-all model that they send to everybody?
It's generally easy to pick the people who favour quantity of applications over quality. Have they addressed the specific criteria in your ad? If they haven't put the effort in, you don't have to either. Mark them down.

Third round cut: What's the pattern?

Are there any warning signs?
You have their employment history. Are there any unexplained gaps? Have they changed jobs frequently without moving up the scale of responsibility? Has their career plateaued? Is it going backwards?


And now you get to the actual assessment, where you need to grade their responses against your set criteria. Here you have to have done your prep work. The selection committee needs to have gone over the criteria and weighted each element - something like:

  • Relative experience25%
  • Relevant qualifications20%
  • Management skills20%
  • Grasp of the issues15%
  • Commitment to clients10%
  • Other10%

The trick here is to be able to link the criteria to job performance. You don't want to put up hurdles for the sake of it, or just to filter out prospective applicants and make the selection committee's job easier. The criteria should relate to what actually happens on the job. Scales like this may seem inflexible and unhelpful, but they do keep you to some kind of consistent approach to all the applicants; the risk otherwise is assessments will be affected by whether it's just before lunch (irritability and tough marking) or just after (contentment and lenient judgements).

Give each application that's made the cut a mark for each criterion, add them up, and you should have a priority list. Not all of them need to go through to the full committee; provided you've got a range to choose from you needn't include any that are clearly inferior to your best.

Click the button below for our candidate shortlisting template to score candidates.

Become a member of ICDA – it's free!