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Step By Step Guide To Shortlisting For Accounting Jobs

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Written by Steve Evans

Step 1: Determine your shortlist criteria

The purpose of shortlisting is to assess candidate’s suitability and identify those who best meet the selection criteria and who are most likely to be capable of carrying out the duties of the job.

Review the job description/person specification and select the essential and desirable criteria needed to do the job and the minimum level that the shortlisted candidate should have. 

Developing the right criteria is a balance between standards that are high enough to ensure good quality candidates move forward, but not too strict that you’d be unnecessarily screening out a lot of qualified candidates.

Candidates should be assessed against the selection criteria and not against each other. New selection criteria should not be introduced at the shortlisting stage to ensure that the process used is consistent and fair and that the decisions made comply with legal requirements.

Your shortlist criteria should be based on:

  • the qualities and traits of top performing employees currently in the role

Your shortlist criteria should not be based on:

  • personal opinion or gut feeling of what managers think are required for success
  • personal similarities of the candidates with the recruiters or hiring managers
  • A short note on legal and discrimination issues: Using criteria that are correlated with job performance to shortlist candidates helps you avoid legal and discrimination issues.
  • Make sure your criteria doesn’t discriminate against any legally protected classes in the first place. The important thing here is to apply your criteria consistently, fairly, and objectively across all candidates.

Shortlist criteria can include:

  • Education
  • Work experience
  • Skills and knowledge
  • Personality traits
  • Competencies

Differences between essential and desirable criteria:

Essential criteria are the ones that a candidate must meet to be considered for the role.
A simple example of an essential criterion is whether the candidate is legally able to work in the country. These types of criteria are often called knockout questions because either the candidate has it and can move forward or they don’t and gets screened out immediately.

Desirable criteria, on the other hand, are ones that would make someone a stronger candidate for the role. These are often considered nice-to-haves. An example of a desirable criterion is a professional certification.

In a lot of cases, the difference between essential and desirable criteria often becomes blurred. For example, a hiring manager may desire a minimum of three years of experience in a particular role. If the majority of the candidates have at least three years of experience, that criterion becomes essential by default when candidates with less experience get screened out.

Remember to keep your process consistent across all candidates to avoid discrimination issues.

Step 2: Create a shortlist Grid

Take the essential and desirable criteria you’ve identified above and create a shortlist Grid or Scorecard for your candidates. 

A shortlisting grid is the most effective and easiest way to produce a shortlist. A list of the names of candidates together with the essential and desirable criteria and a rating system next to each criteria allows for a clear way to distinguish the candidates you wish to shortlist.

Review our shortlisting grid if you do not already have this tool available to you. 

Step 3: Screening CV's to Shortlist Candidates

Each member of the shortlisting panel (ideally made up of 3 people with an in depth understanding of the role and required competencies) should assess the CV’s and covering letters on his or her own to help prevent bias.  A rating should be given to each candidate using the shortlisting grid and determine/agree the final shortlist - usually between 3-5 candidates.

Step 4: Managing Candidate Communications

It is critical to manage candidate communications well during this phase of the recruitment process. Unsuccessful candidates should be notified by email or phone as soon as the decision is made not to proceed with them as part of the shortlisting process.

If you have the time, it is a good idea to provide some constructive feedback to the candidate. A bad candidate experience can damage the employer brand and may lead to a lowered view of products & services especially if the candidate shares their experience on social media or posts a low rating on a job board.

If the shortlisting panel concludes there are no suitable applicants for interview, it is best to revisit the job advertisement and recruitment marketing channels and make the necessary adjustments.

Shortlisted applicants can be notified by email or phone and scheduled to attend an interview. 

Step 5: Obtain an Employment Application from Each Candidate

All candidates who are shortlisted and scheduled to attend an interview will need to complete and return an employment application form prior to this meeting.

The employment application provides a regular format with the same questions that must be answered by each person who applies for the open position. This allows the selection panel to compare applicant credentials that are listed in the same order on a form, impartially and without regard for formatting and presentation.

An application form is fundamental in obtaining specific information about the candidate. Namely, it provides reference checking contact details, relevant disclosures, verification of the right to work in NZ, work availability and the applicants signature declaring the information provided is correct.

The Privacy Act requires that written consent be obtained from applicants prior to carrying out reference checks, so the hiring manager must ensure a signature is obtained on the declaration page.




About the Authors

Giles Pearson FCA was a PwC Partner for 18 years before jointly setting up Accountests.  

Steve Evans has a whole career dedicated to enabling employers to attract, recruit, develop and retain talented individuals and teams, with particular expertise in candidate testing and assessment before setting up Accountests.

Accountests deliver the world’s only online suite of annually updated and country-specific technical knowledge tests designed by accountants for accountants and bookkeepers.

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