Step 2 - Guide to Shortlisting and Selection

Guidance on shortlisting and interviewing candidates.

Setting up a selection panel

Decide who will shortlist and interview job applicants. The panel should:

  • consist of at least two people to decrease bias. It’s also easier for one person to take notes while the other is asking questions.
  • include at least one person who has attended safer recruitment training within the last 5 years. To find out more about safer recruitment training contact 01865 323457 or email alisonbeasley@oxfordshire.gov.uk

The panel must agree the shortlisting criteria from the job description.

Shortlisting

  • Assess each application against the job’s essential and desirable criteria.
  • Use one of the short-listing grids below, to score and record your assessment objectively and methodically.
  • Identify applicants that meet the criteria to invite for interview and those that should be rejected.

Using the grid enables you to see a full picture of all the applicants and is more effective than making notes. It will also help give feedback and defend your decisions if challenged.

Important: Check all applications carefully for:

  • Incomplete or missing information
  • Unexplained gaps in employment
  • Repeated or frequent job changes
  • Anomalies or discrepancies in the information provided

Make a note of any gaps or anomalies that you want to explore with the candidate at interview.

Here are two template shortlisting grids to choose from:

Unsuccessful candidates at shortlisting stage

Inform unsuccessful candidates in writing within 10 working days of the vacancy closing date.

Template letter for unsuccessful applicant – shortlisting stage (doc format, 25Kb)

Candidates may ask for feedback to understand why they were unsuccessful. Give brief, clear reasons e.g.  you do not meet the essential criteria of having relevant experience.You don’t have to go into a lot of detail; a summary of the main reasons for not selecting will be sufficient.

Decide whether to give feedback by phone or whether it would be more suitable to write or email.

Invitations to interview

Invite shortlisted candidates to interview, here is a template letter - invite to interview (doc format, 31Kb).

The letter should include:

  • Names of panel members, length of interview and details of any selection activities you will be asking candidates to take part in e.g. presentations, testing, meeting pupils/governors, delivering a lesson or teaching session, preparing a lesson plan etc.
  • Date, time and location of interview.
  • Let candidates know about parking facilities and anything else they need to know about access arrangements such as reporting to reception, whether there is a lift or stairs only.
  • Remind candidates that the interview is assessing their suitability for the post itself as well as their suitability to work with children.
  • Ask the candidates to let you know if they need any adjustments so that they can fully participate in the selection process.
  • Remind them to bring all relevant documents, such as their last DBS certificate if they have one, qualification certificates, proof of identity and right to work in the UK. Send them the Pre-Interview Checklist (doc format 81Kb) to help them know what documents to bring.

Only original documents can be accepted. If copies are provided at interview, the successful candidate must provide the originals before being confirmed in post.  You must take photocopies of documents and keep them on the personnel file of the successful candidate.

Pre-interview references must also be requested at this stage (See below).

Important checks to carry out before interview

Request References

As soon as candidates have been invited for interview, write to the referees to request a reference. See template pre-interview reference request (doc format).

References are an essential part of the selection process to check the background and suitability of applicants and help you make good recruitment decisions.

Always seek references directly from the referee. Do not accept open references or testimonials submitted by applicants.

If the candidate has indicated they do not wish you to contact their current employer on their application form, you must now seek their permission to do this.

It is not acceptable for candidates to ask you to wait to see if they are successful before requesting a reference.

You need reference information before the interview so that you can:

  • explore any concerns arising from the reference with the referee and the candidate at interview
  • examine any conflicting information from the candidate's application form, the reference and their answers at interview. Waiting until after the interview means this opportunity is lost.
  • gain information about any past disciplinary action or allegations and carefully examine the facts to help assess suitability, including for teachers, information obtained from NCTL Employer Access on-line checking process. 

If teachers are not currently employed, check with the school, college or local authority they were most recently working for, to confirm details of their employment and their reasons for leaving.

The pre-interview reference cannot include questions about health, disability or absence record. See next section

Establishing fitness and health

It is unlawful for an employer to ask questions about an applicant’s health before they are shortlisted or offered a job This is intended to protect disabled people from discrimination during recruitment.

Therefore, health questions cannot be asked via a reference, as information disclosed may influence the panel’s decision and could be regarded as discrimination.

Health information should be requested after the job has been offered. See post-conditional offer reference request (doc format, 34Kb)

Preparing and conducting interviews

Face-to-face interviews must be carried out with all shortlisted candidates.

This is the stage at which it is easiest to make judgements about an applicant based on instant, subjective and sometimes wholly irrelevant impressions.

Assess candidates against the requirements of the job and the job criteria.

Follow this good practice:

  • Choose a quiet, comfortable setting e.g. temperature, refreshments, seating. Avoid interruptions.
  • Think about the room layout. A table may be needed for refreshments and papers but avoid creating a barrier. The layout should help put people at ease.
  • Be prepared, read each application and have all relevant paperwork.
  • Before the interviews, the panel should agree a core set of questions to ask all candidates and the key points they are looking for in model answers.
  • This doesn’t mean you can’t ask other probing questions, to explore areas further or points from their references or application form.
  • Avoid discriminatory questions. Prepare questions based on the person  specification and job description and the information in the application form; avoid questions that are not relevant to the requirements of the job.
  • Agree who will ask which questions, take notes, collect the candidates and keep an eye on timing.
  • Where possible, make any necessary adjustments for candidates who have requested them, or be prepared to make adjustments on the day.
  • Be professional, respect the candidate’s feelings, put them at ease but set a suitable level of formality from the start.
  • Make notes of the answers using a matrix interview planning and assessment pro forma (doc format).

Other selection methods

Other selection methods can help you make good recruitment decisions, rather than relying solely on the interview. You can use exercises such as presentations, testing, meeting pupils/governors, delivering a lesson, preparing a lesson plan etc.

  • It’s essential for the panel to agree the purpose of a particular selection activity and what skills and competencies you are looking for.
  • Decide how to score candidates fairly.
  • Assessment of all the selection activities should be collected on a structured assessment sheet - the candidate assessment matrix (doc format) will assist with this process.

The Candidate Assessment Matrix should be kept with a record of the interview sheets and application forms

Unsuccessful candidates after interview

Inform unsuccessful candidates as soon as you can, but usually after your preferred candidate has verbally accepted your offer.

It is good practice to phone candidates with the news and then follow up in writing.

Offer feedback and where this is requested, use the notes the notes made during interview and give feedback against the job/person specification.

Template letter for unsuccessful candidates – interview stage (doc format)