6 Tips To Narrow Down Your Candidate List

Hiring isn't easy but what happens when you are spoiled for choice? If you have a group of strong candidates, try these 6 tips to narrow your list and find the one you want to hire.

In a perfect world, it would be easy to make hiring decisions. You post a job description, a handful of qualified people apply, you hit it off with the right one and bam, new employee. Sounds like a nice dream, doesn’t it? Reality is usually a far cry from this perfect hiring bubble, however. Instead, there is a myriad of other factors that impact the hiring process, not to mention we’re talking about people’s livelihoods here and the impact they have on your business. How to hire is not a question that should ever be taken lightly. Recruitment comes down to finding the right person but what happens when you have multiple right people? When you have a strong group of potential contenders, it can be hard to narrow your candidate list down and focus on your top picks. There might even think, “they’re all stellar, any one of them would work.” And to some extent that may be true. But even in a group of excellent candidates, you should look for your best hire. Here are a few tips to help you narrow down your list.

Identifying the best candidate

What should you do when faced with a list of candidates who all have great skills and might be perfect for the job? With the right methods, any hiring professional can determine who to reject and who to move forward in the recruitment process. 

1) Face value is usually wrong: This may go against popular convention, but a resume is not an accurate way to hire people. Sure, a resume offers up a lot of valuable information about a candidate, but much of the time it’s embellished, incorrect, and misleading. Think of it like the cover of a book. The intention is to peak your interest enough that you want to have a look inside at the contents. You may or may not find it so thrilling once you do. This also goes for the way the person presents himself or herself. People can put on a nice suit to impress you, and this says they know what’s expected of them, but it doesn’t tell you anything about who the person is, what their values are, or if they are any good at the skills they list on their resume. 

2) Assessments are useful: Before you even think about hiring someone based on what they tell you they can do, it’s far better to run them through some cognitive or personality assessments. This can tell you more about the candidate, such as how comprehensive their abilities are, how quickly they process information, their worldview, and their potential future performance. 

3) References and background checks: Never dismiss candidate reference checks and background screening. People sometimes hide the truth about themselves or try to represent themselves more positively. By doing your due diligence and checking the backgrounds and references of all candidates, you can weed out those who do not have the right qualities for your company. Be sure to ask for at least 2 additional references during the screening interview, which can provide more insight into the character and performance of the candidate. 

4) Purposeful interviews: The methods and steps you take in the interview process are critical to making your new hire selection. Take the time to screen all candidates, then bring in the candidates who meet your initial criteria for hiring. Conduct an in-person interview, using around 75 percent behavioral interview questions and 25 percent general interview questions. Bring back candidates who pass this round and conduct a brief series of interviews to include the future supervisor and teammates of the candidate. This reduces any personal bias you may have, and gives you the impression from each person who meets with the candidate. Oftentimes, others may pick up on something you don’t see in someone, good or bad. 

5) Put them to the test: One effective way to determine which candidate to hire is to assign them a paid test project that they can complete in 48 hours or less. You can do this as part of the process when interviewing the candidate by assigning the task at the end of your meetings. The candidate who gets excited about this opportunity and completes it with flying colors is worth your time to hire them. This demonstrates they are already thinking of solutions to support your team and they want you to know they have the ability to pull it off. The candidate who reluctantly takes on the task or fails to complete it in the given parameters is probably not worth your time. 

6) Hire more than one: Still can’t decide? This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You have a couple of candidates who are right for your company. Shop them around to the supervisors and department heads in your organization and see who may be looking for an outstanding candidate (or two). Maybe an employee has just given notice they are leaving? Or perhaps it’s time to thin the herd and get rid of a few non-productive employees this season? Sometimes there are needs within a company you aren’t aware of and if you have incredible candidates, it might be worthwhile to tell others about them. 

What to do with the rejected candidates                      

While it is awkward, the most professional thing you can do is notify the candidates you have not chosen to move forward with. You can do this with a rejection letter, promptly written and emailed out. Be kind and let the candidate know that you appreciated their time and effort during the recruitment process.  Advise the candidate you will keep their information on file and consider them for future positions. You may also ask the candidate to provide any feedback they’d like about the experience, which can help you to improve the recruitment process. And remember, while candidates might not be a good fit right now, they may be in the future. So don’t ghost anyone and keep those lines of communication open for the future. You never know when you might need to brush off those resumes.

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