Shortlisting and dealing with applications | Christian Vocations

Shortlisting and dealing with applications

There are two main parts to the selection process – shortlisting the applications and then assessing / interviewing the applicants to decide who should be offered the job. This section concentrates on the shortlisting aspect.


During the selection process you need to ensure that all candidates are treated fairly and without discrimination or bias – it is surprisingly easy to discriminate, consciously or unconsciously. Decisions at each stage should be based on objective criteria related to the job, and on the candidate’s ability to perform the role, contribute to your organisation or church, and their potential for development. Other factors (such as previous knowledge of a candidate, their age or gender for example) if allowed into the discussions, might lead to bias or favouritism.


Whatever means you choose for candidates to submit applications (an application form or CV for instance), you will have to sift them to choose which candidates to take further. Sifting and selecting should be carried out in a structured and systematic way to decide who best matches the requirements to go onto a shortlist for the next stage (whether that is an interview or another method). It is much easier for those shortlisting to concentrate on relevant evidence if a standard application form has been used for all applications.

Ideally the same people will meet for shortlisting as met initially for drafting the job description and person specification. If not, then have at least one person who can play an active role at every stage. This group will ideally include the line manager the successful candidate will report to, others who are trained to interview job candidates (if at all possible), and a member of the HR dept (if your organisation has one) or someone who understands HR issues if not. At the very least ensure that two or more people are involved.

Ensure that all those involved clearly understand the job and requirements and have the job description and person specification to hand when shortlisting. However, note that it is better if only the criteria in the person specification affect shortlisting decisions.

How to shortlist

Draw up a scoring scheme/matrix for all those involved to use:

  • Base the scoring scheme on the items in the person specification.
  • Some aspects of the person specification are more important than others, so, if you wish to, use a weighting to reflect their importance (e.g. x2 or x3).
  • Choose a scoring system that works with the detail you are looking for e.g. from 0 to 3 or from 0 to 10 depending on how detailed you wish to be.
  • Explain clearly what each score means so that those shortlisting are sure of what they are looking for (for example: 0 - fails to meet criteria, 1 - partly meets criteria, 2 - meets criteria, 3 - exceeds criteria).                  
  • All those involved should be encouraged to use the full range of the scoring scale so that scores are not bunched together in a narrow range.

Ensure everyone involved knows what to do:

  • Each person involved should go through the applications independently, and bring their individual scores to a shortlisting meeting.
  • Score the applications one at a time.
  • Assess applications in relation to the essential and desirable criteria as detailed in the person specification.
  • Focus on the evidence presented related to the person specification (but have the job description to hand as well).
  • Score based on the evidence given that the person meets the criteria. For example, it is not enough for someone to say 'I have experience of setting and managing budgets’ – they need to explain how and give examples. 
  • Don’t assess the candidates on your ‘broad feeling’ about them from their overall application. Score each of the criteria separately and carefully, based on clear evidence, looking for responses in the applications to each of the items from the person specification.
  • Once scoring is complete, discard any applicants that score a ‘0’ in one or more of the ‘essential’ criteria.
  • Rank the remaining candidates in priority order, with the highest ‘essential’ criteria score first.
Making shortlisting decisions
  • Arrange a meeting to compare scores and agree on ranking of candidates.
  • If shortlisting is done carefully using the scoring methods as described above, the decision about who to invite to interview should become much more straightforward: just add up each persons’ scores and the highest scoring candidates are invited.
  • Where there is a noticeable difference in the scores reached, the selectors should discuss each in turn giving the reasons for their scoring, and come to a joint decision about who to invite in the light of the reasons given.
  • If there are too many candidates to interview, consider the scoring of the ‘desirable’ criteria to help shortlist further.
  • Agree on who to call for interview.
  • Keep a copy of all the score sheets as evidence of how the selection panel accepted or rejected the candidates. This information is important and useful to enable your church / organisation to show that shortlisting has been done fairly. It will also prepare you for giving feedback to non-shortlisted candidates as to why and where they did not meet the criteria, and will be valuable if an unsuccessful candidate challenges the selection panel’s decision.
  • Make brief notes of the shortlisting meeting including notes on initial score comparisons, further score discussions (if undertaken), and any other points of discussion concerning the applications and reasons for inviting to interview (and not). Make brief notes for feedback to candidates on their individual applications - ready for if they request it.

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