How Short Should Your Candidate Shortlist Be?

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
The Ideal Candidate Shortlist Length

So, you’re hiring for a new role at your organisation and have just interviewed your first round of candidates. Creating a candidate shortlist at this point will help you to avoid a long, drawn-out hiring process. But how long should this shortlist be, how do you decide who makes the cut? 

What to Consider When Making a Shortlist

Core Competencies

It is important to establish what skills and experience levels are non-negotiable. Some skills may not be essential, and others can be learnt on the job, and differentiating those from the must-have requirements will help you to cut that shortlist down to size. From here, it will be much easier to weigh up relative strengths and weaknesses of each candidate and decide where priorities lie. 

Your Time

How much time do you have? An interview process takes time, especially if you’re providing the consideration and respect that each candidate deserves. Trying to interview too many candidates in too short a time frame could leave the prospects with a poor impression of your business, and negatively impact your employer brand. Consider how much time you have to interview candidates and provide thoughtful feedback to them. 

Organisational Culture

How well is the candidate likely to fit in with the existing team. The best skills and experience are worth nothing if the candidate can’t get along with others and creates a toxic environment. Finding team members who complement each other should be key in any recruitment plan, and one of your key considerations when deciding on your shortlist. 

Deal Breakers

We’ve all been on the other side of the interview table and know how nervous the situation can make someone. While some allowances can be made for stress, you should know ahead of time what your red flags are. This could include arriving late, not researching the company beforehand, being dishonest about skills and experience, or poor presentation. Picking up on these red flags can help you avoid the costly mistake of hiring the wrong candidate. 

How Long (or Short) is The Ideal Shortlist?

As cliche as it sounds, it’s really about the quality of the candidates, rather than the quantity. That being said, we recommend you try to narrow your shortlist down to between three to five. Keep in mind that this is not set in stone, and you should never cut candidates who tick every box or shortlist candidates who aren’t seriously being considered, just to make the number. 

There’s no magic bullet for building the ideal candidate shortlist. What you can do, however, is weigh up the core competencies, how much time you have, your organisational culture, and any deal breakers in order to pick out the frontrunners. From there, it’s up to you to decide what skills or experiences you value more within the candidates. 

Too many or Too Few Candidates?

If you find that you are not getting enough quality candidates, or receiving too many applications, it may be that you need to revisit the job listing. Ensure that the expectations you have are realistic, and consider altering your list of requirements to broaden or narrow your search.

The other option available is to allow a specialist to support your recruitment. A recruiter will be able to streamline the process by finding the right candidates, filtering through them, and providing you with a shortlist to review and interview. Doing so can allow you to drastically reduce your time to hire, and free up internal resources for other tasks. You can even stipulate how many candidates you’d like to receive as your shortlist from the recruiter too.

Who are the best recruiters? Find them on TalentVine, with recruiter profiles showing fees, reviews, replacement guarantees, and key performance metrics. Simply post a role on the platform and receive tailored bids from specialist recruiters that are available and able to partner with you.

Closing Remarks…

Ultimately, the ideal length for your candidate shortlist depends on a number of different factors. Whilst we recommend trying to narrow it down to around three to five, the number will vary depending on the needs of you and your organisation. 

When deciding who to shortlist, some key considerations include the core competencies required, how much time you have, your organisational culture and any deal breakers you decide beforehand. 

Once you’ve got your candidate shortlist, it’s time to get in contact with them and let them know. The last thing you want is to risk disheartening candidates because they didn’t hear from you. Open communication is key, so make sure to keep your candidates updated throughout the entire hiring process. 


If you are having trouble finding the right candidates, TalentVine can support you by connecting you to the best recruiters in any industry across Australia and New Zealand.

Workplace Families are Bad Employer Branding

Create Your Free Employer Account

No payment details required.

Are you a recruiter? Sign-up here instead.

By signing up you agree to TalentVine’s Terms & Conditions
TalentVine - Recruitment Martketplace

Post A Role

Let us know the ideal hire that you’re looking to make. You’ll remain anonymous and receive custom quotes from specialist recruiters that are able to help. There is no cost to proceed, and your details will never be shared without your permission.

Already have an account? Login here