How to pick the right candidates for interview

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

Interview shortlisting is a vital stage of recruitment. Kaley Foran looks at how to ensure your school’s shortlisting process is fair and can stand up to scrutiny if a decision is challenged

Criteria and evidence

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 scores two 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, you will be able to show that:

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

According to the advisory, conciliation and arbitration service, 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.

Internal candidates

Make sure internal candidates do not have an unfair advantage. For such 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 ensure your process is fair.

Have a shortlisting panel

Ask all members of the interview panel to shortlist. You can then meet to compare and agree decisions. This adds another level of fairness to the process and helps make sure 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.

Convenient time for interviews

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 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.
  • 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 admin staff if you need help.

  • 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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