How to pick the right candidates for interview

Written by: Kaley Foran | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

Perfecting the interview shortlisting process is a vital stage of recruitment and helps you to find the right talent for your school. Kaley Foran sets out some tips for navigating the shortlisting process, including ensuring your process is fair and being prepared for if a decision is challenged


Use fair criteria and rely only on evidence outlined in the application. Make your shortlisting system clear and straightforward. Shortlist your candidates based only on:

  • Criteria taken from the person specification.
  • Skills and experience outlined in the application that are relevant to the job in question.

Use a checklist to help you decide which candidates to shortlist. You can tick to indicate where criteria are met. Alternatively, use a scoring system to help you decide the extent to which a candidate meets a particular criterion. For example you could use the following scoring system:

  • 0: No evidence to meet the criterion.
  • 1: Evidence does not fully meet the criterion.
  • 2: Evidence meets the criterion.
  • 3: Evidence exceeds the criterion.

Set a points threshold for candidates to progress to the next round. Your threshold might be the total score if a candidate gets two points (evidence meets the criterion) in all criteria, for example. You might set the bar higher or lower depending on the amount of experience you are looking for in candidates.

By doing the above, if you are challenged about any decision you make you will be able to show that:

  • You based decisions on relevant criteria and evidence.
  • You considered each candidate fairly.
  • A particular candidate was not shortlisted because they did not meet a shortlisting requirement.

According to ACAS, you do not have to investigate a challenge to a shortlisting decision. However, if you are challenged on grounds of discrimination and fail to investigate and respond, you could risk having a claim made against you in an employment tribunal.

Unfair advantages

You need to ensure that internal candidates do not have an unfair advantage. For internal candidates, you still need to rely only on the evidence in their application. You may find this more difficult, particularly if they have not written a good statement as part of their application. Again, using a shortlisting grid to record whether they have met particular criteria can help you to make sure that your process is fair.

Have a shortlisting panel

Ask all members of the interview panel to shortlist the candidates. You can then meet to compare and agree decisions. This adds another level of fairness to the process and helps ensure that shortlisting decisions are not subjective.

Anonymise application forms

There is no requirement to anonymise application forms, but it is good practice to avoid sharing applicants’ personal details with those who are shortlisting. This will reduce the possibility of discrimination, as such information could allow the panel to find out about a person’s protected characteristics.

This is explained in the statutory code of practice for employment from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (2015, see p228).

According to ACAS, you should separate any information about protected characteristics from application forms when you are shortlisting.

Arrange interviews for a convenient time

Get in touch with your shortlisted candidates as soon as possible to arrange an interview for whenever works best for you. Try, though, to be flexible and allow for candidates to carry out childcare responsibilities, take part in religious occasions or to fit the interview around their current working hours. For candidates who live far away, you could do the interview over the internet via a tool like Skype.

Shred and recycle the paper you have used

Recruitment is usually a paper-heavy process, so think about data protection and the environment:

  • Make sure you keep documents secure.
  • Follow your school’s personal data breach procedure if any personal data is lost or seen by people who should not have seen it (see below for further information from the Information Commissioner’s Office).
  • Dispose of the paper used throughout the process in a secure and environmentally friendly way, and in line with your school’s records retention schedule
  • Speak to your data protection officer and school administration staff if you need help with any of these steps.

  • Kaley Foran is a lead content editor at The Key, a provider of intelligence and resources for education leaders.

Further information & resources

  • This guidance was taken from The Key’s article, Shortlisting candidates: Template and guidance, which was created in partnership with Jacqueline Baker (education consultant) and Vicki Dennison (HR advisor with HC Associates). Visit
  • ACAS (the advisory, conciliation and arbitration service) provides free, impartial information and advice to employers and employees on all aspects of workplace relations and employment law. This includes a free helpline and online guidance. Visit
  • Employment: Statutory code of practice, Equality and Human Rights Commission, September 2015:
  • Personal data breaches – guidance from the Information Commissioner’s Office:

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