5 Steps to Beating Candidate Shortlist Blues

If you’re not happy with your final candidate shortlist, a ‘debate-off’ might not be the best answer to find the winning applicant – but don’t rule it out either!

The chances are that if you have been the hiring manager or worked as part of the HR team involved in the decision making process behind a position this may be a situation you have experienced before. What should you do if after all the time spent and effort exerted, none of your final candidates are really a likely winner?

1. Don’t go (straight) back to the drawing board

The time that has gone into your particular hiring process has to be taken into account in this instance, if months of work has gone into the search you’ll naturally find yourself under more pressure to close the position. Even if it has only taken a short amount of time to get you to the final shortlist don’t rush to the conclusion of starting over, seek confirmation and consultation of your dissatisfaction from other stakeholders involved in the hiring process. Answer this question; Is the problem only seen by you?

2. It’s not me it’s you!

Look in the mirror. Now that you have consulted other stakeholders, try to have them get more involved to see if they notice the problems that you see. Put another interview in the mix with you outside of the room. That final shortlist deserves another shot before you call it quits.

3. Is It About Cultural Fit?

Sometimes you just have a gut feeling someone might not work out well at your organisation. But you can never know if this is an accurate indicator or the result of some unconscious bias on your part. In fact, often with interview processes nowadays being so process driven and conducted in formal settings, the ability of your candidate to build rapport with interviewers might be seriously impacted. My advice is to hit any gut emotion head-on. Set up a meeting on neutral turf, face to face, and give the candidates another chance to build rapport. It’s one the most important factors to making a hire work out for both the company and the candidate.

4. Get Better References

I can’t stress enough how important unbiased references are to making the best hire possible – especially when you are down to the final names on the candidate shortlist. This means carrying out some detective work. Obviously you cannot go out and ask people at your prospect’s current place of work, but try look for people who may have had a relationship with the talent before. Ask the candidates how they feel about you contacting their previous places of work for the purposes of a reference check. Don’t be afraid to use the names of the people in those companies if you know them.

How do they react? Does their body language change at all? You might not even have to carry out the reference check depending on the reaction of your candidate.

5. Is It A Skill-Set Issue?

There are plenty of tools to assess talent of many different backgrounds and your HR team should be armed to the teeth with suppliers and technology. However, if you are still not convinced, then consider setting your own test.  Use a real business case or build a scenario that your current team members and colleagues already have a challenges with on a day to day basis, then have your final prospects from the candidate shortlist attempt it. Success in this type of assessment is dependant on the type of position being hired, so focus on the steps they take to reach an outcome rather than just the end result.

Candidate Shortlist Best Practice

Remember to consult, confirm, be human and do some detective work before you give up on the final candidate shortlist.  No process of investigation should be as difficult as assessing Clinton or Trump, but then again I don’t think all the time in the world would help with that!

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