The candidate shortlist is a great idea. It gives the prospective employer the opportunity to compare a range of candidates. But how practical is it in today’s environment? Is it still reasonable to ask three or more highly qualified candidates on your shortlist to invest their time, research, prepare and go through an interview when the prospective employer can only select one person? And let’s not forget the time it takes the employer to prepare for and hold several interviews. With a skills shortage upon us, it seems we need to change our approach or we risk losing the right person for the role.

In the current environment and considering our post-COVID-19 world, we are being told that the candidate shortage we are beginning to encounter is far greater than anything we have seen before. Australian recruitment industry blogger Ross Clennett suggests that as the market changes, good people are becoming harder to find. Recruiters and organisations need new strategies to ensure they ‘beat the impending candidate crisis’ and are not excluding potential candidates through traditional screening processes. In this challenging market where it is hard to find one person right for a role, it is even more difficult to prepare a shortlist with three people possessing the right experience, skills and behavioural attributes for the role, as well as a willingness to join you when you want them – now!

Anyone who has recruited for a role in the last one to two months is aware response numbers are poor. The exception to this is the highly desirable roles of which a limited number become available such as CEO roles, however most other roles are failing to attract the high volume of applications seen in the past.  Most roles still require a thorough campaign of advertising, searching and accessing networks and databases such as Seek and LinkedIn to generate any interest at all.

Seek’s 15 April employment report revealed the demand for people is increasing. They have recently recorded the highest number of job advertisements ever in Seek’s 23 years, however the volume of responses is the lowest they have ever had. With good people currently in such short supply, rather than taking your time compiling a shortlist of people – when you find one great match for your role, you should be moving fast.

I do understand why people want to have a shortlist, but there can be a downside…

Most employers like to see depth of market, so they understand the range of skills and experience candidates have that may be in the market. However, there is no point wasting the time of people that don’t quite fit the brief, or your time interviewing them and potentially setting unrealistic expectations just for a comparison or seeing market depth. Not to mention the time to coordinate three people through a series of interviews in a candidate-short market. This can cause you to lose your preferred candidate to a competitor.

So, let’s look at this differently…

If you have a well-documented brief with the mandate, responsibilities, performance measures, challenges, culture, person specification of skills, experience, competencies and behaviours (which I have spoken about a lot in the past in relation to our culture-fit process) then someone either meets and exceeds the requirements or they don’t. If they don’t, then why progress?

Our founder, Mike Carroll, used to say, “If you have to talk yourself into someone, don’t. If you can’t talk yourself out of someone, hire them as quickly as you can or someone else will”. If you are running the campaign through a trusted consultant who has worked with your organisation before, they will be able to give you a perspective on market depth from those they have recently interviewed and placed.

So, what are the advantages of not having a shortlist?

  • speed – single interview, less time interviewing and trying to align several people together
  • shows decisiveness – numerous prospective employees have said to me in a drawn-out process, “is this the way the organisation makes decisions”?
  • you will not run the risk of losing your ideal candidate because you are taking additional time to coordinate several candidates and maintain the feedback loop.

Next time you embark on a recruitment exercise, consider the relevance of only having a shortlist of one. As always, I am happy to discuss this further with you if you think this may be the way forward for your recruitment processes.

Happy recruiting,

Ian Hamilton

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash