This is an extract from our full guide ‘Shortlist Candidates for Interview’.

Review the job description/advert

The first step of this process is to review the job description and/or the advertisement for the position. This will help remind you of key qualifications, skills and experiences that are required for the role. It is important to identify what qualities are essential and what are desirable.

Skim read each application

Look for the key criteria you identified previously. Every CV is different in style and format so key information will be found in different places. A good idea is to award a point for each of the essential and desirable skills and qualities. Then tot up the score for each applicant to see who is best suited for the job.

Sort into three piles

Once you have a pile of applications, sort them into three separate piles according to whether the candidate is ‘qualified’, ‘possibly qualified’ or ‘unqualified’. Those in the ‘qualified’ pile will have all of the essential qualities and some desirable; those who are ‘possibly qualified’ will have most of the necessary qualifications and some of the desirable ones; and those who fall under the ‘unqualified’ bracket will be short of skills and qualifications in both categories.

Thoroughly sift through CVs again

Now you can sift through the CV’s for a second time in the ‘qualified’ pile and perhaps ‘possibly qualified’ if your choice is limited. Some things to consider include:

  • Does the candidate have other desirable educational qualifications or have they received any training which is significant to the position?
  • Are there any work gaps?
  • Does the applicant’s previous work history build up to this position?
  • How long did the candidate stay at their previous jobs?
  • Are there a high number of jobs within a short space of time?
  • Does the candidate have a good range of transferable skills?
  • Are there many quantifiable achievements that show he/she were an asset to his/her former employer?
  • Has a salary requirement been mentioned? If so, are these within the range of acceptability?
  • Have they provided a notice period within a reasonable time scale?

Don’t be put off by any spelling and grammatical errors when reviewing CVs. A job seeker who has stayed with an employer may not have a clue about CV writing but could be your most loyal member of staff.

Legal requirements


Everyone involved in the selection process must be aware of relevant anti-discrimination legislations in order to avoid negative reputational consequences.

It is vital that sensitive personal information such as gender, religion and sexual orientation are excluded from all CVs going for review.


Your screening process must be clear in order to minimise the risk of being accused of unfair short-listing techniques.

Train your staff

Brief all employees involved in the short-listing process on what they are looking forward to ensure consistency. Work through the first CV together to put into practice and to ensure employees fully understand what type of person you wish to recruit. You can also use this as an opportunity to ensure their awareness of legal obligations of shortlisting employees.


It is advisable for two people to review each CV to prevent any discrimination or stereotyping. One should be a line manager; the other should be an HR person. The benefit of having two people is that it ensures that good applicants aren’t missed and a less biased decision is made.


Keep a record for each CV stating why it was accepted or rejected. Be prepared to give applicants a reason if they ask for it. Whilst it is not mandatory for you to give a reason, it minimises the risk of an applicant claiming they were discriminated against.

To Summarise

In order to shortlist candidates effectively you need to ensure you have completed the following five simple steps:

1. Review the role description/job advertisement and identify the necessary and desirable qualities
2. Identify key skills, abilities and qualification within each application
3. Score each CV by awarding points for each other the attributes the candidates mention
4. Sort the scored applications into three piles according to whether the candidate is ‘qualified’, ‘possibly qualified’ or ‘unqualified’
5. Go through the ‘qualified’ pile and if required the ‘possibly qualified’ pile to select the most suitable candidates for interview

Become a Recruitment Genius

As featured in