Selecting candidates

Selecting candidates

Once a pool of candidates has been drawn through the recruitment process, the most appropriate candidates are identified through a selection process.

Good practice principles for designing your selection process include:

  • Use selection methods that are most appropriate to the job requirements and are consistent and fair.
  • Base your selection on job-related selection criteria - critical skills, knowledge, qualifications, experience and behavioural attributes required for competent performance in the role.
  • Provide all candidates, both successful and unsuccessful, with a positive and professional experience of the University.

Selection methods

Screening

Longlisting

If you receive a large volume of applications, it is helpful to filter out applicants who do not meet the basic qualifying criteria for the role before you proceed to a more detailed shortlisting process.

Longlisting can be conducted by the hiring manager or chair of the selection committee (often it is the same person), or one or more selection committee members.

Questions to consider when creating the longlist:

  • Has the individual applied for the right job?
  • Does the applicant have the required qualifications or relevant equivalent experience?
  • Does the applicant have the required technical skills (if critical to the role)?
  • Does the applicant have the required industry experience and professional knowledge critical to the role?

Telephone screening

After establishing a longlist of applications, you may wish to conduct brief telephone interviews to further refine your list.

Typically, at this stage of selection, telephone interviews are not in-depth assessments and a 20-minute telephone conversation should be sufficient.

It is good practice to ask the same set of questions of each candidate – for consistency, use Telephone Screening Guide (PDF) | Telephone Screening Guide (Word).

Shortlisting

Shortlisting is a more in-depth process that involves reviewing applications and identifying a smaller pool of candidates to progress to the next stage (typically interview and any other additional selection methods).

Applicants are assessed against the selection criteria, and those who most closely meet the criteria are placed on the shortlist.

It is good practice to:

  • consider each application against the same set of selection criteria
  • use the same shortlisting method
  • have more than one person conducting shortlisting (ideally all of the selection committee)
  • ensure each member involved in shortlisting assesses applications on their own to prevent bias and being influenced by each others views.

There are different ways to shortlist applications. Before you start shortlisting, the selection committee should agree on the shortlisting method. For example, you can:

  • create “yes”, “no” and “maybe” lists
  • use a scoring scale: for each candidate allocate a score against each selection criterion, e.g. 1-5 where 1= just meets criteria and 5 = exceeds criteria
  • use a scoring and a weighting scale: in addition to the score allocate a weighting to each selection criterion, e.g. 1-3 where 1 = desirable, 2 = important, 3 = very important.

Selection committee members should allocate scores individually, and perform final ranking on a collective basis.

Look for evidence of a candidate’s critical skills, experience, qualifications and behavioural attributes that are essential from day one for the effective performance in the role.

Consider:

  • Are the experience, skills and qualifications relevant to the role and Macquarie University’s context? Are they at the right level?
  • What is the candidate’s motivation to get this role? Have they customised their CV to reflect the requirements of the role? Why are they interested in the role, e.g. what are their career objectives or have they done study in a relevant field?

To help you select the best talent, it is important that those involved in the selection process focus on job requirements and don’t introduce bias in the process.

The following strategies can help you avoid bias in shortlisting:

  • Use consistent job-related criteria based on inherent requirements of the role.
  • Focus on how candidates describe their responsibilities and achievements, rather than on how many years of experience they have. The former is more inclusive of candidates who had career breaks, for example due to parenting responsibilities.
  • If possible, remove or blank out personal information from the applications (e.g. age or sex).
  • Avoid making assumptions about candidates not based on factual evidence. For example, don’t assume that an individual with a visual impairment can’t do a job that requires a lot of reading. There are technologies available to support reasonable adjustments.

By this point you should be ready to form a candidate pool from your applicants.

If the selection committee have difficulty identifying a suitable shortlist, consider the following:

  • Shortlist is too small: Even with a small shortlist it may still be possible to make a successful appointment. It is not unusual to have a small shortlist for highly specialised roles. It may also mean you have selected high-calibre candidates. However, it may be useful to review your shortlisting method to ensure you did not exclude candidates too early in the selection process.
  • Shortlist is too large: Adjust your shortlisting methods or consider increasing your maximum shortlist number.
  • Lack of consensus on the shortlist: If the Committee disagrees about some candidates, these candidates could be placed on an ‘on hold’ list and revisited in a further selection process.

If there are no suitable candidates to progress to interview, review your recruitment strategy and re-advertise the role.

Interview

Structured formal interviews by the selection committee are required when recruiting for permanent and fixed-term positions at Macquarie University.

You can interview candidates in person, via telephone or video call.

Interview questions should be based on the selection criteria and, for professional staff positions, relate to the Position Description. The focus should be on objective information gathering about the candidates’:

  • skills and knowledge
  • work history and professional experience
  • education and training
  • behavioural attributes

Keep in mind that an interview is a two-way process. It helps you determine the candidate’s suitability for the role, but also provides an opportunity for the candidate to learn more about the role and decide if the role is right for them.

Use Interview Guide (PDF) | Interview Guide (Word) to structure the interview, record notes and evaluate the suitability of a candidate.

It is good practice to:

  • Ask a set of standard questions of all candidates. This enables direct comparisons between candidates and allows for a more objective assessment. In addition to the standard questions, you can also ask follow up questions to clarify certain areas, which may be different for each candidate.
  • Ensure your questions relate to the selection criteria and the Position Description.
  • Use behavioural questions as your main interview questions. Behavioural questions ask a candidate how they acted in the past in a specific work situation and are a good predictor of the candidate’s future performance. When preparing a behavioral question, use the SAO method (Situation/Action/Outcome):
    • Situation - ask about a past situation
    • Action - ask what action they took
    • Outcome - ask what was the outcome/result of that action

Refer to the Interview Questions Bank for examples.

Preparation

  • Interviewers should have a good understanding of the role and what it requires.
  • Brief the selection committee members on the format of the interview.
  • Prepare interview questions ahead of the interview in consultation with HR and selection committee.
  • All interviewers should have access to the candidate’s application ahead of the interview and be familiar with it.
  • Agree on the role of each committee member during the interview, i.e. who will be asking which questions and who will be taking notes.
  • Make sure any specific requirements due to a disability are catered for (e.g. providing interview materials in alternative formats, booking an Auslan interpreter or allowing the candidate to bring a support worker or aide).

Communication with candidates

  • Let the candidate know the details of the interview ahead of time including:
    • the time and location of the interview
    • who will be interviewing them
    • any preparation requirements
    • any additional assessment methods
  • It is good practice to ask all candidates proceeding to interview if they have any accessibility or other requirements to participate in the interview.

Venue

  • Interviews should be held in an appropriate, welcoming and professional environment – somewhere quiet, well-lit, without distractions and with enough space for all parties to sit comfortably.
  • The interview venue needs to be accessible for applicants with physical disability as necessary (e.g. a room on the ground floor without steps, or in a room accessible by a lift).

During the interview

  • Ensure enough time is allocated to the interview. Where possible don’t run interviews back to back.
  • Put the candidate at ease at the start of the interview and ensure they have everything they need before you start (e.g. a glass of water).
  • Take notes to assist you in recalling the key points about each candidate.
  • Be polite and attentive - remember you are representing Macquarie University.

Interview Guide (PDF) | Interview Guide (Word) can help you structure the interview, record notes and evaluate the suitability of a candidate.

Hiring managers are encouraged not to rely solely on one interview, but use interview in combination with additional selection methods.

Other methods

Hiring managers are encouraged to supplement a formal interview with additional selection methods to enhance the effectiveness of the selection process.

Additional selection methods must be relevant to the selection criteria and requirements of the role. When using additional selection methods, it is important to let the applicants know in advance.

A second formal interview can be conducted either with all shortlisted candidates or with those candidates who have been successful in the first interview. You may decide to hold a second formal interview to:

  • gain a ‘second opinion’ on the candidate, by including different interviewers on the selection committee
  • involve more senior members of staff in the selection process
  • provide colleagues or managers with an opportunity to assess individuals with whom they will be working
  • focus more closely on specific aspects of the role.

A second interview could either:

  • be structured around the similar set of topics as the first interview to gain greater insights, or
  • form a new set of questions to assess technical ability, specific competencies or potential organisational fit.

Informal interviews or meetings encourage dialogue between the candidate and the hiring manager and/or other key stakeholders, without the formalities expected in a traditional formal interview. Informal interviews can be held:

  • before the formal interview with all shortlisted candidates to clarify role expectations and to observe the candidates’ personalities and communication styles, or
  • after the formal interview with the preferred candidate to talk one last time before finalising whether the candidate is a good fit.

Such meetings may be with one or more key stakeholders, for example:

  • the hiring manager
  • members of the selection committee
  • team members
  • staff in similar roles from other departments/ work areas
  • clients.

Examples of skills testing include Word and Excel tests where they form an inherent requirement of the role. Skills testing can be done before or after the interview.

Contact your HR Client Team representative for more information.

Presentations can provide an insight into the candidate’s verbal and written communication skills, their ability to work under pressure and the level of their strategic thinking. You could either:

  • give the candidate advanced notice of the presentation topic so that they can prepare before the selection day, or
  • give candidates topics and time to prepare the presentation on the day.

Presentations could either focus on a topic of interest to the candidate or ask to present analysis and recommendations for a real organisational issue.

At the end of the presentation, allow sufficient time to ask questions and probe the issues put forward in the candidate’s presentation.

A work sample test requires the candidate to carry out tasks like those that would be performed in the actual role. A work sample could be:

  • a series of short questions e.g. ‘What would you do in this situation?’
  • more complex scenarios that a candidate needs to analyse or
  • several exercises to be completed in a limited period of time.

For example, if you are recruiting for an administrative role where the most important job-related criteria are ‘written communication skills’, ‘accuracy’ and ‘organisational skills,' a work sample exercise could include drafting a letter, data entry into a spreadsheet and a prioritisation exercise under timed conditions.

Requesting a candidate to provide a response to a business issue identified in a case study.

The final selection decision should be based on the overall information about the candidate gathered during the recruitment and selection process.

Providing feedback to candidates

All candidates (successful and unsuccessful) should be notified in a timely manner about the outcome of the recruitment process.

Who notifies candidates of selection outcome?

HR notifies applicants who were unsuccessful at shortlisting. The hiring manager should provide HR with the list of applicants unsuccessful at shortlisting.

The Hiring Manager, or a nominated member of the Selection Committee, should contact the preferred candidate to advise them they are the preferred candidate and that the University intends to make a formal offer of employment. For more information, see Offer.

The hiring manager, or a nominated member of the Selection Committee, is also responsible for notifying candidates who were unsuccessful at interviews. It is recommended to do this via phone where possible (or in person for internal candidates, if possible).

Do you need to offer feedback?

Candidates who were shortlisted and took part in the selection process will have invested time and effort in the selection process. It is good practice to offer them feedback on the reasons why they were unsuccessful.

It is also good practice to offer feedback to any internal applicants (even if not shortlisted), particularly if they are known to the hiring manager.

Tips for providing feedback

Feedback should be based solely on the selection criteria and competencies required for the role, with supporting examples where possible.

On occasions where a candidate asks for feedback, consider giving a brief overview of how they matched (or didn’t match) each of the selection criteria. In doing so, you could highlight both the areas of strengths as well as those in which they did not meet the criteria.

The hiring manager should wait until the preferred candidate has accepted the employment offer before informing second- and third-ranked candidate about the decision. This should not be more than a few days after the job has been offered to the preferred candidate.

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