How to Reduce a Large Pool of Applicants to a Shortlist of Candidates

You’ll probably have a fairly lengthy list of applicants from which to select a new employee. Ideally, you’d interview all of them so that the best person is less likely to slip through the net. However, with perhaps 100 applicants or more to choose from, the time (at least 30 minutes or so per interview) and costs (your time, their travel expenses and so on) involved will usually make this an impractical approach.

Screening applicants by letter with or without a CV, telephone or application form allows you relatively quickly and inexpensively to compare them with the employee specification and each other. Outstanding applicants can be asked to come in to meet you and the remaining ones promptly eliminated. Normally, you’ll be expecting to interview perhaps six to eight candidates who most closely match your employee specification. It may be a good idea to extend this conveniently sized shortlist if you have many existing employees applying and want to maintain staff morale and work relations – or at least take rejected internal applicants to one side to carefully explain your reasons for turning them down.

Before studying the main screening methods, consider the guide­lines for choosing the right ones. Answering these questions may help you to reach the correct decision:

  • What qualities do I want to assess?
  • How would applicants most like to apply?
  • How much time do I have?
  • Which is the most cost-effective approach?

What qualities do I want to assess?

Check the essential and desirable requirements – and contra-indica­tions too. Ask yourself which screening method will best enable you to evaluate them swiftly and accurately. Often, it will be obvious which one you should select. If you’re trying to recruit a new tele­phone sales person, you’ll naturally ask applicants to ‘phone so you can hear how they speak, handle a conversation and so on. Should you be looking for a storekeeper who will have continually to fill out forms when working, you’d possibly prefer to use an application form to see how well he completes it.

How would applicants most like to apply?

Consider how various types of applicants, such as youngsters, racial groups and senior executives, would react to each of the four screen­ing methods available. School and college leavers, often inexperienced and nervous, may not yet be capable of chatting freely on the telephone. Racial groups could be unable to fill out an application form unaided and, incidentally, should not be eliminated because of this unless personally completing it is a valid test of the standard of English needed to do the job effectively. Senior executives might be impatient with application forms, preferring the informality of a ‘phone call.

How much time do I have?

Calculate how long you have to fill the vacancy and the speed with which the various screening methods allow you to complete this stage of the recruitment process, whilst still retaining accuracy. The telephone will probably provide the most immediate response as applicants may automatically reach for it as they finish reading the advertisement. Letters, curricula vitae and application forms, which have to be applied for, sent out, carefully read, completed and returned, could take much longer. Of course, you may not be in a hurry at all. Selecting a new employee is an important decision which should not be rushed.

Which is the most cost-effective approach?

Obviously, the expense in terms of money and the time involved should be taken into consideration when making a choice. The telephone, letters and curricula vitae are possibly less costly than application forms which need to be carefully designed, produced, distributed and so forth. Nevertheless, you may feel that the added expense is of secondary importance to getting the right person for the job.

Bear these four questions in mind, especially the first two, when looking at the different methods of screening applicants available to you.

Filed Under: General How To's


About the Author: Bruno Silva is an entrepreneur from Portugal with over 15 years of experience in Online Marketing. He is also a blogger and writes on variety of topics from online marketing to designs, cars to loans, etc.

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