From making tough decisions early on to eliminating the chance of offering any undue advantages to candidates, here are 12 answers to the question, “What are useful strategies you’ve used to shortlist great interview candidates?”
- Set a Firm Number
- Rejecting Run-Of-The-Mill Resumes
- Evaluate Work Samples for Candidates
- Using Behavioral Interviewing Techniques
- Test Job-Specific Hypothetical Knowledge
- Provide Assessments Sooner
- Build Connections and Give Them a Memorable Experience
- Monitor Their Learning Agility
- Don’t Compromise on Eliminating Factors
- Check References
- Analyze Social Media Presence
- Assign Points and Stick to the Final Score
Set a Firm Number
By limiting the number of people you can add to your shortlist each hiring period, you can help yourself make tough decisions early on. Decide how many candidates you want to move on to the next stage.
This can help you figure out what exactly you are looking for in the future if you limit your pool. If needed, you can increase this number as you interview, but try to keep the limits tight so you can see the criteria you need in this role.
Reject Run-Of-The-Mill Resumes
Our team straight-up rejects resumes that follow a run-of-the-mill format and fail even to come close to a resume belonging to the legal industry. It’s the same with resumes that have errors in them.
The reason is simple: a candidate’s resume is the first glimpse they offer of their personal and professional self to a potential employer; if the efforts do not show here, the candidate does not deserve the same consideration as others who have put in extraordinary effort.
This step makes it fair for everyone and only those candidates who show a genuine interest in the job through their resume will be considered.
Evaluate Work Samples for Candidates
An effective strategy for shortlisting great interview candidates is to review their work samples. By assessing past projects and portfolios, you can better evaluate potential hires in terms of their skills and capabilities.
One approach I’ve used is to give 24-hour writing assignments to freelance writers. This helps me identify which candidates best fit the criteria of my open position while also enabling me to understand how they work under pressure and deadlines before actually hiring them.
Carly Hill, Operations Manager, Virtual Holiday Party
Use Behavioral Interviewing Techniques
Behavioral interviewing is a technique in which interviewers ask candidates about their previous experiences and behaviors in situations related to the job they are applying for. By asking questions that require candidates to provide specific examples of how they have handled certain situations in the past, we gain insights into their problem-solving abilities, communication skills, and overall fit for the role.
We employ this technique by first identifying the key competencies and behaviors required for success in the role. Then, for each candidate, we create a list of behavioral interview questions that probe for these competencies and behaviors.
Test Job-Specific Hypothetical Knowledge
One strategy I have used for shortlisting great interview candidates is evaluating their answers to hypothetical questions. Introducing hypothetical situations specific to the role or organization that only those who are genuinely knowledgeable and familiar with can provide an accurate answer.
By giving candidates a test of the actual knowledge required for success in the job, I’m able to get insight into potential hires’ abilities without having to ask pointed starter questions. With this process, I’ve found it easier to spot which applicants show an aptitude for the role and can easily fit in with team dynamics.
Provide Assessments Sooner
Using assessments during the initial application process is one effective way to shortlist solid job candidates. For measuring career-specific skills, this is often already necessary, and it helps sort through large volumes of applicants.
The key differentiator of the assessment is the fact that it provides a no-nonsense way to truly determine if applicants are capable of the skills listed on their resumes, or if they are just listing them to get in.
Build Connections and Give Them a Memorable Experience
With a shortlist strategy, it’s imperative that, after you get a sense of who they are, your conversation becomes less about interviewing them and more about letting them interview you back.
A lot of times, in the first five to ten minutes of an interview, you can tell, “I like this person. I think this person’s gonna be a great fit.”
Start by asking them, “What questions do you have for me?” And leave a lot of time for that.
Then, take time to give them more insight into the role and why you think this role will make sense for them beyond what the job description says. It’s less of a sell and more about them being able to learn about you and convey things you don’t do with every candidate. Your goal should be to help them feel special.
Try to give them a memorable experience. People don’t remember conveyor belt-type hiring experiences. Instead, they remember the ones that built a genuine connection and where they learned something unique and valuable.
Monitor Their Learning Agility
Unfortunately, most organizations shortlist based on convenience rather than quality. Given the proliferation of ChatGPT and other language AI, shortlisting based on resumes alone is a little better than choosing at random.
When seeking to shortlist, regardless of the role, we evaluate a candidate’s level of learning agility, and their propensity to learn and seek knowledge. This trait uniquely underpins workplace potential for many reasons.
In emerging talent populations, learning agility ensures that new hires have the flexibility, curiosity, and motivation to learn, helping them make the most of any formal training on offer. In senior hires, the ability to learn quickly shows a dedication to continuous learning, showing a strong willingness to develop.
By assessing learning agility during the shortlisting stage, we ensure we offer only the highest potential candidates an interview, improving the quality of hire while also minimizing time spent interviewing.
Don’t Compromise on Eliminating Factors
We often find marketing professionals submitting information that is nothing short of impressive but might include a factor or two that we consider red flags. These could be an unexplained career gap, failure to ramp up marketing tech skills, or ignorance of organization-specific certifications.
We can’t deny that shortlisting such candidates is indeed tempting, especially when we know their strengths can come in handy on our team. But we make it a point to stick to our elimination criteria because we know that once we put these negatives behind us, we will stop being fair to other candidates. And if we hire this candidate, these setbacks will keep haunting our team. Instead, we stick to the plan and offer fair competition to every candidate.
Referrals are an excellent approach to assessing a candidate’s abilities and skills. To learn more about a candidate, contact previous employers or coworkers. I believe references can be especially useful if you are considering a candidate who has been out of work for a time.
They can tell you how the candidate fared in their previous job and whether they left, got fired, or were let go. When deciding between two individuals with identical qualifications, speaking with their references can be extremely beneficial. References can provide information about the candidates’ skills and limitations, as well as assist you in determining whether a candidate is a better fit for your firm.
Analyze Social Media Presence
In my experience, reviewing a potential hire’s social media activity is the most effective way to narrow down a pool of qualified interviewees. Keep an eye out for warning signs like inflammatory language, references to former employers in a poor light, or information that is otherwise inappropriate or unethical.
Consider the candidate’s internet standing and their potential to represent the company in a positive light. Although a candidate’s social media presence shouldn’t be the only deciding factor in their hiring, it can provide vital insights into their character and judgment.
Assign Points and Stick to the Final Score
Regarding certain positions where skills and expertise matter more than personality and promise, it is best to adopt a scoring system where you assign points to candidates based on their experience and certifications.
This way, you eliminate the chance of offering any undue advantages to any candidate and ensure that the final shortlist abides by the demands of the job position. The last step is to stick to the final scores and shortlist only those candidates who accumulate enough points to warrant a place in the following interview stage.
Although it is challenging to find out a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses through points alone, this method proves to be the only practical approach in specific hiring situations, such as tech positions where a candidate’s skills surpass other criteria.