Axcis Guide to Good Recruitment Practice – Part 4: Shortlisting

Recruitment can be a bit of a minefield. Credit Flickr cc

Recruitment is a bit of a minefield. Getting it right takes time and sometimes a lot of patience. By following the Axcis Guide to Good Recruitment Practice, you can increase your chances of finding that perfect candidate the first time. In part three I talked about writing an effective job advert. Part four covers the shortlisting process.


Once your advertising efforts start to gather momentum, you should start to receive application packs and/or CVs. You do not need to wait until the closing date for applications to start to screen applicants. In fact, starting the screening process straight away can ensure that any fantastic applicants are not lost due to waiting for the application deadline to pass. You should, of course, give due consideration to all applicants up until this date, and you should not appoint a new employee until all applicants have been considered.

CV/Application pack screening

In part 2, I talked about how to write a person specification. This is an essential document for the screening process and should be used to establish whether applicants fulfil the “essential criteria”. It will be useful to divide your CV/application packs into three categories:


  1. Definite rejection – candidates who clearly do not fulfil the essential criteria required for the role. Some employers would also reject candidates who they feel are over-qualified for the role. I would encourage you to consider these applicants since training and induction needs will be low and they may have a very good reason for wanting to take a step down from a more senior position. In addition, if you consider that they probably have both the desirable and essential skill sets, they should be considered in a fair and equal recruitment process.
  2. Maybe shortlist – candidates who fulfil the essential criteria for the role but not any/all of the desirable criteria
  3. Definite shortlist  – candidates who fulfil both the essential and desirable criteria as outlined on your person specification


Telephone Screening

Having spent a decade in the recruitment industry, one of the key things I have learned is that when you have a fantastic applicant, you really need to jump on them fast before you lose them to a competitor. This is where a telephone screening stage to your process can be very helpful. It will also help to streamline your recruitment process by saving time, and as a result – money!

Telephone screening can be a valuable part of your recruitment process. Credit Flickr cc

There may be people reading this who consider this to be unfair, and who would argue that no applicants should be contacted until the closing date for application has passed. While I agree that no formal interviews should take place until this time, I do feel that a brief chat on the phone to establish whether there is good potential with a candidate can be very helpful. I would encourage a quick chat with all candidates who make it to the “definite” or “maybe” shortlist. For fantastic potential candidates, this is also an opportunity for you to “sell” the role a little and to get your applicant excited at the prospect of being shortlisted for a formal interview. In this way, they are likely to hold off on alternative job offers until they know the outcome of their application to your school or company. On the other hand, applicants who were on your “maybe” shortlist and who do not come across well on the phone or seem particularly interested in your position could potentially be rejected at this stage, saving you (and them) the time and money involved in taking them forward to a formal interview.


Criteria for telephone screening

Before starting to contact applicants, I would encourage you to have a short telephone screening template which can be used for all calls. In this way, you can keep this stage of the process fair for everyone you contact. Your screening questions might include things like:


  • What they understand about the role and your company – you can use this to gauge their level of interest
  • When they are available to start a new role – there seems little point in bringing in people for interview if they can’t start when you need them to
  • Their eligibility for work in the UK – this is a good opportunity to check that there are no legal restrictions to your applicants being able to start the job
  • Whether they have other commitments which could interfere with your role – if applicants can’t commit for the required hours, there is little point bringing them in for a formal interview. However, commitments outside of the requirements of the role should not be held against applicants (for example if they have children and may occasionally require time off work if childcare falls through).
  • Whether they are available on the days you plan to hold interviews – if they can’t attend anyway you can discount these applicants at an early stage.


I would encourage you to keep telephone interviews very brief – this is just a quick chat to confirm interest in the role, and whether you feel the person should be invited for a formal interview. It is important that if more than one person is helping with the telephone screening process, that you use the same questions/criteria and keep a record of your conversations so you can review them fairly later. In this way, you can easily decide on your final selection of candidates to invite to a formal interview.


Final Selection and applying for references

Using a matrix/grid to note which applicants meet which criteria can help you to create a sort of “scoreboard” for applicants so they can be compared with each other fairly. Credit Flickr cc

Once your deadline for application has passed, you should review all applicants on the “maybe” and “definite” shortlist and make a final decision on who to invite for interview. You should ensure that all applicants have been compared fairly against your person specification. Using a matrix/grid and keeping score of who meets which criteria can also prove very helpful. At this point you may also decide to apply for references for these candidates (provided they have given permission for them to be contacted) as this will help you to make a final decision on who to invite for a formal interview. For example, if you are recruiting an ASD Teacher, and one of your essential criteria is “excellent behaviour management skills” and your potential employee had great experience in this area on their CV – but you now have references stating that they require further support and training in behaviour management – you may decide that they do not therefore meet one of your essential criteria and should be rejected at this stage. Again, this can help to streamline your process and save you time/money.


Once you have your final selection of candidates, it is time to start inviting them for interviews!


If you’d rather let someone else do all the hard work


Axcis has friendly consultants ready to take your call if you'd rather hand the recruitment process over to someone else!

Axcis has friendly consultants ready to take your call if you’d rather hand the recruitment process over to someone else!

The recruitment process is labour-intensive and time consuming. Many organisations now rely on recruitment consultancies to do the vast majority of the hard work for them – which is why recruitment as an industry is worth over 25 billion pounds and growing year on year. For special educational needs positions, at Axcis, we have an extensive database of candidates with valuable skills and experience. We do the advertising and interviewing, pre-screen interested candidates and negotiate pay on your behalf. We also undertake all relevant compliance checks. So if you’d rather let someone else do the majority of the hard graft, contact Axcis with your vacancy now to see how we can help. Our recruitment service is absolutely FREE OF CHARGE until you find your perfect candidate and want to hire them for a temporary or permanent role. So, if we don’t find you anyone you feel is worth hiring, you won’t pay a penny! So, what have you got to lose?


If you’d like to read more of our series on Good Recruitment Practice, the following articles are available:


Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.