Should you rank candidates on a long list?

Whether you’ve had 20 or 200 applications for your vacant role, the process of screening candidates is going to be one of the most time-consuming stages of the recruitment process.

One way as a hiring manager you can speed this process up it to rank candidates on a long list. But what is a long list and how do you create one? And is it really necessary to rank candidates on the list?

 There are different types of long lists and different situations where long listing may or may not be suitable for you. Here are my recommendations for when you should and shouldn’t create long lists and rank candidates on them.

How to create a long list of applicants

Long lists can be created from candidates who have applied to a job advertisement. Screening these applicants to create a long list can be particularly beneficial when you have a large number of applicants and you want to narrow down the talent pool to the candidates who meet the basic requirements.

So, how does long listing work?

To create long lists, candidates’ resumes are scanned against the basic requirements of the position such as experience, education, and qualifications. The candidates that meet the basic requirements are then put on the long list.

Once the long list has been developed, you can start making some short qualifying calls to the candidates on the list to further qualify them. The calls at this stage should be short and brief focusing on questions regarding their salary expectations, where they are based, as well as their availability for an interview and for a start date.

How to source a long list

Long lists can also be created from sourced talent. Sourced talent are candidates sourced from within your network, referrals from people in the industry, past applicants, or candidates sourced from LinkedIn and Seek. Creating long lists from sourced candidates can be particularly beneficial if you don’t get a lot of applications to a job advertisement or you want to cast the net wider than active job seekers to find the right person.

When creating long lists from sourced candidates, you often will not have access to the candidates’ updated resumes. Therefore, if you want to rank the candidates on a sourced long list, this should only be done after an initial qualifying conversation with the candidate. As sourced candidates have not actively applied to the role, they will need to be contacted through cold calls, emails, or LinkedIn InMail. Through the initial qualifying call you are seeking to rule the prospect in/out of the long list due based on their interest, whether they pick up/return your phone call, or not respond to your emails or messages.

Should the long-listed candidates be ranked?

Candidate ranking typically uses a scoring framework in your hiring process. Every applicant gets a score based on how well they meet your defined requirements and specifications. Candidates are ranked as indicated by who is the nearest match to what type of person you are looking for.

There are both advantages and disadvantages to ranking candidates:

Advantages to ranking candidates:

  • Gives the candidates equal opportunity, as it avoids unconscious bias on the grounds that you’re focussing on the skills needed for the work rather than what university they attended or aspects of their background that is irrelevant to the role.
  • Focuses on key skills required in the role, as it ensures candidates are hired on the basis of the skills and talents they possess.
  • Can make the recruitment process more time efficient if there are a large number of applicants.

Disadvantages to ranking candidates

  • A resume doesn’t always tell the whole story about a candidate’s experience or technical expertise.
  • Scanning candidates resumes will not give you an insight to their personality or how they could culturally fit into the team.
  • Communication is an important skill for most roles. Scanning a resume will not provide insight to how that candidate presents themselves or how they communicate.

These disadvantages can be reduced by ranking the candidates on the long lists after the initial qualification call, rather than ranking them before speaking to the candidates. The candidates can then be scored based on their answers in the phone call, how well they communicate and present themselves, and their technical knowledge.

By using a candidate ranking system, you will have a clearer view of the top candidates that match your specifications. The candidates that are ranked the highest on the long lists after the qualifying calls can then be shortlisted.