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5 Ways to Narrow Down Your Candidate Pool When Filling a Role

Allie Kelly

Narrowing down your short list of qualified candidates can take up too many hours of the day. To optimize your list early on in the process, consider these tips:

1. Make your descriptions more specific

If your HR department is getting bombarded with unqualified applicants, the problem could lie within your job descriptions. A valuable description is not so vague that it encourages everyone to throw his or her resume on to the pile. However, it should also not be so specific as to discourage qualified candidates from applying.

If a specific skill is an absolute requirement of the position, make sure it is included in the description and explain why it is necessary. Likewise, the details like education requirements and prior experience should be a part of a bulleted list for increased visibility.

2. Get salary requirements early

There are few things worse than forming a relationship with an excellent candidate only to discover in the final stage that you cannot afford his or her salary requirements. To avoid this mistake, simply ask for a desired salary range at the beginning of the process. Doing so will eliminate candidates you can’t afford, so you can focus on other qualified individuals. If your organization uses a proprietary application form, an algorithm can automatically disqualify candidates with excessive salary requirements.

3. Ask for specific work examples

Candidates are difficult to judge based on resumes alone. Does it really matter if one candidate has a higher college GPA than another? How do you quantify a candidate’s previous professional experiences? These questions are much more easy to answer when you have the candidate in front of you or on the phone. In fact, a quick phone interview can be a great tool as you narrow your search. During the phone call, ask candidates about specific projects from their previous professional and academic experiences. candidates who truly understand their value to your organization should be able to explain how their previous efforts benefited their previous employer.

4. Use knockout questions

Knockout criteria is another powerful way to narrow down your candidate list. Prior to posting the position, establish questions that can automatically disqualify candidates. For example, if the position requires a specific professional certification, you should ask candidates if they possess this certification during their initial application. Those who answer in the negative will be removed immediately, so you can focus on candidate’s qualified individuals.

5. Leverage assessments for skilled positions

Digital assessments are another great way to disqualify candidates who aren’t the right fit for the position. candidates can take a digital assessment at any time of the day, without the supervision of an HR professional. This frees up hiring managers to engage with qualified candidates who have proven they possess the skills required of the position.


To narrow down your candidate list, try:

  • Making your job descriptions more specific.
  • Asking for salary requirements on the initial application.
  • Requesting work examples with quantifiable results.
  • Using knockout criteria early in the process.
  • Giving candidates digital assessments prior to phone screening.

To learn more about how to optimize the hiring process at your organization, schedule a free demo of JazzHR today.

Allie Kelly


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