HR ยท 10 September 2015

The dos and don’ts of selecting a shortlist and sifting CVs

Nina Mufleh caught the attention of Airbnb after her creative CV went viral online
Nina Mufleh caught the attention of Airbnb after her creative CV went viral online
Our recruitment expert Margaret Keane on the sometimes overwhelming task of sifting CVs and what you can do to make the process easier and more effective.

Okay, now you?ve got a pile of applications for your vacancy. So what do you do next? I’m going to walk you through the process of setting up systems, sifting through CVs and shortlisting candidates, remembering that we must not lose sight of how vital communication and brand image are to the process.

Setting up systems ?to use technology or not?

The size of your organisation will often dictate whether you manage the process manually or embrace technology. A recruitment management system or applicant tracking system that is simple to use and has adequate functionality can be a great asset to speed up and automate the recruitment process, therefore requiring less admin and reducing costs. Choose a system that works for you. Ideally, it needs to be quick, easy-to-use and value for money. If the practicalities or affordability mean that a system is out of the question, then setting up spreadsheets with standard emails will be the way to go.

Despite the necessity of technology to make the process of recruitment manageable for large organisations or those with regular recruitment needs, it is vital that technology embraces all that is good about the ?human touch? in the process. Ultimately, you want to reflect the image of a caring organisation that really wants to engage with its employees in a very human way and is not faceless and cold. It is vital that the entire process creates a good impression that uses your employee brand to the maximum positive effect.

How to shortlist

You may be faced with just a handful of CVs, or there could be hundreds depending upon the type of role advertised, where it is advertised, the location of the role, your brand image and company, and the pay and benefits offered. If you are using technology to help you, it may well have automatic shortlisting functionality to help make your job easier. If not, then you need to do this yourself. Follow this system to ensure the process is fair and yields results that will work for you.

(1) Log all applications, either manually on a spreadsheet or on your technology if this process is not automatic for you

(2) Go through the Job Description and Job Specification if you have a separate one and list the essential criteria and the desirable criteria for the role

(3) If applicants do not meet the essential criteria mark them as a ?regret? and make a note on your spreadsheet or system if this is not done automatically for you

(4) Go through the remaining CVs and score them against the essential criteria, disregarding any where attention to detail, grammar, spelling, etc., do not measure up to the requirements for the role

(5) CVs can now be ranked in order of suitability

(6) Go through this ranked order and look at the desirable criteria and re-rank considering essential with desirable criteria. ?Regret? any that do not fit.

(7) It is helpful if you know how many applicants you would ideally like to interview. If you have too many to interview then just take the highest ranking candidates for essential and desirable criteria that fit against the number of applicants you want to interview.

(8) Ensure all applicants get a response, even if it is just an automated email. Remember the importance of your brand reputation.

If you have to undertake this process manually, it may seem like a lengthy process, but it is vital that it is carried out in a considered way like this to yield the best results.


Good communication at all stages of the process is critical. Throughout the recruitment process, candidate engagement is vital and, considering that recruitment is mainly candidate?led, you must impress. At this stage, communication with the applicant about the progress is key. If using technology, then an automated response can be sent to thank them for their application, confirm its receipt, and give approximate timeframes for your next communication. If using a manual system, then send out a generic email to confirm as above. Then provide all candidates with feedback, whether they are successful or not.

Lack of common courtesy and respect is reflected in poor or no communication, which will have a direct and indirect effect upon your company?s reputation and the success of your recruitment process. If you communicate well, applicants will be engaged and tell others about the quality of your recruitment process, which will reflect positively on your employer brand. This is easy to do yet so many companies today simply do not bother ? this smug, indifferent attitude does not pay off.

Your brand

Never underestimate the power of the brand. A recent report by LinkedIn revealed that a company?s reputation was more important than pay and benefits when candidates were deciding whether to apply for a vacancy. Factors negatively influencing reputation include poor job security, dysfunctional teams, and poor leadership and communication. A bad reference from current or past employees through word of mouth or social media such as Glassdoor could do you great damage. Of course, not only does this make it harder to recruit, it also makes it costlier in terms of recruitment, retention and engagement.

Next month we will be looking at interviewing to make sure you choose the right candidate. We?ll cover interview methods, how to interview, the appropriateness of testing and testing methods.

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Margaret Keane is the managing director of Outsourcing HR, an HR consultancy that helps businesses succeed by providing practical, cost-effective human resources management and recruitment services. In addition to being an experienced HR professional, Margaret has a successful track record in general management roles. As a result, Margaret is focused on ensuring that HR contributes to the bottom line.

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