Shortlisting and Screening - Weighting and Ranking

Shortlisting and Screening
The process outlined below can be applied not only to the shortlisting and screening of applicants, but also to interviewing and recruitment selection.

It is commonly known as weighting and ranking.
At the shortlisting stage, we need to refer back to the job description and person specification, our 'shopping list'. Having compiled our requirements, we then divide them into two categories, critical and desirable. Anyone who does not meet the critical criteria simply does not make it to the short list. Those were, after all our non-negotiable minimum requirements.

When drawing up a short list, it is important to be realistic about how many will make it to the interview or recruitment stage. This will be determined by the nature of the post and the time available. If the number is, let's say six, then some adjustment may be necessary at the screening stage.

If there are far too many applicants who pass the critical criteria test, then look at your desirables, and decide which one is the most important (see below). Promote this to a critical and re-screen. This can be repeated until the final six are determined.

If, however, your applications fail to make a viable short list, you may have to do the reverse; that is, demote one of your criticals to a desirable. It may be that you were asking for too many skills and abilities for the salary on offer.


In order to enable us to make the best decisions as to who will ultimately be appointed, we need to have a system which is robust, and against which assessments can be made at all steps of the procedure, from shortlisting to making an offer.

We have already divided our criteria into critical and desirable. All critical, by definition, stand as they are. The desirables, however, need to be weighted according to their relative importance to carrying out the job successfully.

With this in mind, we allot a weighting of 10 to the most important desirable. All other desirables are then given a weighting (1-9) according to their relative importance when matched against the top item. Note, whilst you only have one 10 score, it is possible to have more than one score of, say 7.

Let's take the simple example of buying a car. Critical criteria might be things like 'it must be a four-door hatchback'. Desirable elements might include things like: sound system; air conditioning; car alarm. We need to decide which of these is the foremost desirable. In this instance, we give the sound system a weighting of 10. Comparative weightings are then given to the other two, for example, air conditioning 8, and car alarm 4. This means that when we are assessing a range of cars, we give more importance to the sound system than the other two. The air conditioning is similarly more important than the alarm.


Having weighted our criteria, we now need to rank the candidates on the basis of the evidence before us. At the shortlisting stage, this would come from the application form or CV. At the appointment stage, this would come from the interview or the selection process.

Against each of the weighted criteria, the candidates are scored according to the evidence of their relative abilities. The best candidate, as with the weightings, scores 10 points. The others, in accordance with their relative ability, are scored on a sliding scale from there down.

Let's return to the example of purchasing a car. If there are three cars under consideration, they now have to be ranked against each criterion in turn, in terms of their relative features.

For the sound system, car B is best, so it gets a ranking of 10; car A is quite good, so is given a 7; whereas car C is pretty basic and only merits a 3. Next, we consider air conditioning. This time, car A comes out on top, so it gets the 10. Car C is next best, and gets an 8, with car B only meriting a 7. Finally, we assess against the alarm criterion. Car C scores 10; car B scores 6; and car A only 4.


In order to finally score the applicants, both weighting and ranking need to be taken into consideration. For this end, we need to multiply the weighting figure by each applicant's ranking number against each of the criteria. These scores are then totalled up and the highest score is the selection made.

So, in selecting which of the three cars to choose, all of them having satisfied the critical elements, we follow that process. For the sound system car A scores 70, B 100, and C 30. Against air conditioning the scores are A 80, B 56, and C 64. Finally, we do the same for the alarm, which gives car A 16 points, B 24, and C 40.

When these scores are totalled up, A ends up with 166 points, B 180, and C 134. Car B is the chosen car.
If this is applied to the recruitment process, then it provides a system, which will stand up if challenged by any individual who does not think they have been fairly treated and seeks to bring a case. The weighting and ranking scoring system alongside any written evidence you may have, allows you to justify why the decision was made.

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