Shortlisting candidates is the most time-consuming (and tedious) part of a recruiter’s job. Because 75 to 88% of resumes received for an open req are unqualified, it takes approximately 23 hours to screen resumes and shortlist candidates for a single hire.

shortlisting candidates

Recruiters and talent acquisition professionals desperately need an effective tool for shortlisting candidates to speed up time-to-hire.

That’s why I created this list of the 6 best tools for quickly, accurately, and cost-effectively shortlisting candidates.

1. Job postings that shortlist candidates through job matching

Job postings are still the top source of hires: 31% of hires come from job search engines and job boards. Today’s job postings are more sophisticated than ever by allowing shortlisting candidates through some type of job matching function.

For example, a LinkedIn job posting will rank candidates by matching skills on your job description to applicants’ LinkedIn profiles. At, we shortlist candidates through job matching on salary, personality, and skills data.


A job posting is the top source of hires because it’s still one of the best ways for candidates to find your open req. A job posting with a method for shortlisting candidates can be a cost-effective and relatively low effort way to shortlist candidates for your open req.


A job posting with a simple method for shortlisting candidates can sometimes be gamed by candidates.

For example, similar to keyword stuffing on a resume, a candidate can artificially add skills to their LinkedIn profile that match your job description. This can result in false positives and prevent you from being able to identify who are truly the strongest candidates.

2. Talent marketplaces that use a shortlisting algorithm

One of the newest trends in candidate acquisition is the rise of talent marketplaces. Talent marketplaces are communities of candidates who get matched to open roles through a shortlisting algorithm, as well as human curation.

The process generally involves an algorithm for shortlisting candidates based on salary data, resume data, and other candidate data points. This shortlist gets pared down even further through human curation (e.g., talent scouts).  

The top talent marketplaces include for tech talent and for sales talent.


The biggest advantage of talent marketplaces is that all of the candidates have opted-in and are either actively looking for a new role or are very open to a new opportunity. This decreases the time wasted on trying to recruit passive candidates who aren’t interested in moving to a new position.

In addition, because talent marketplaces are shortlisting candidates based on salary matches, the hardest part of attracting candidates for a new role is pretty much done for you.


The disadvantage of talent marketplaces is that candidates often receive multiple job matches at once so you still need to compete for their attention with an attractive role and compensation package.

Interested in a tool for shortlisting candidates quickly and easily? Try Ideal.

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3. Shortlisting candidates using tech-enabled external recruitment

External recruiters are still an important source of hire with 10% of hires being recruiter sourced. Today, the most innovative external recruiters are leveraging data and technology to become faster, better, and cheaper at their jobs.  

One example of a service for shortlisting candidates using tech-enabled external recruitment is Indeed Prime for tech talent. They promise to “dramatically reduce time to fill” for “less than the cost of a recruiting agency.”

Another example is’s recruitment services for sales jobs that uses technology to reduce average time-to-hire from 41 to 28 days.


Tech-enabled external recruitment tends to be more cost-effective than traditional recruiting agencies and should in theory be faster at sourcing candidates for your open req because the technology allows for automatic shortlisting.


External recruitment tends to be a more expensive method of sourcing and shortlisting candidates.

The other disadvantages of tech-enabled external recruitment are the classic problems of using an external recruiter: not having industry expertise or having too many open reqs to pay enough attention to yours. The same carefulness you use in picking an external recruiter applies here.

4. Shortlisting candidates through pre-hire assessments

Pre-hire assessments for shortlisting candidates have been used for decades. However, it’s only recently that advancements in people analytics software have allowed pre-hire assessments to become cheap and accurate enough to be used with your entire candidate pool.

Assessments allow you to shortlist candidates through matching candidates based on desired personality traits, skills, job-related knowledge, and other abilities.  


Using pre-hire assessments for shortlisting candidates is one of the most objective and accurate way to screen candidates as long as the assessment technology you use allows you to assess your entire candidate pool and not just a select few.

As a bonus, shortlisting candidates through assessments helps you avoid unconscious biases in your decision making and helps increase workplace diversity: research has found that companies that use assessments in their recruitment process have more racially diverse workforces.

shortlisting candidates through pre-hire assessments


The main disadvantage of using a pre-hire assessment to shortlist candidate is that it adds time to the candidate application.

Although the quality of candidates who complete an assessment tends to be higher, one precaution you can take is asking a potential assessment vendor what their drop off rates look like in their candidate application process.

5. Shortlisting candidates using an ATS

Using an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) that automates resume screening is the classic first step in shortlisting candidates. 94% of recruiters and talent acquisition professionals who use an ATS state it has improved their hiring process.


There’s no doubt about it, a good ATS will dramatically speed up screening resumes and shortlisting candidates, especially if it allows you to screen out candidates using knock out questions.


The biggest weaknesses of an ATS are the potential for false positives and false negatives because candidates can game the system through keyword matching.

The other limitation of an ATS is that it tends to be a “dumb” technology that wasn’t designed to learn and improve its shortlisting function. That means each open req is like re-inventing the wheel even if you’ve filled the role previously.

6. Shortlisting candidates using an ATS plus intelligent shortlisting software

The newest innovation in shortlisting candidates is intelligent shortlisting: applying machine learning to candidate information.

Intelligent shortlisting is software that lives inside your existing ATS that uses your existing resume database to learn what predicts success for a particular role based on successful and unsuccessful hires.    


Because intelligent shortlisting uses data to create a success profile for a role, it automates the shortlisting of candidates consistently, accurately, and quickly.

The machine learning the software is based on continually learns as you feed it more resumes and improves its shortlisting criteria to theoretically identify for you better and better candidates out of the entire candidate pool.


Shortlisting candidates through machine learning tends to require a lot of data, which means intelligent shortlisting works best for high volume recruitment roles like customer service and retail sales.

The takeaways:

Shortlisting candidates is still the most time-consuming and frustrating part of recruitment. Luckily, recruiters and talent acquisition professionals have a variety of tools at their disposal to help:

  1. Job postings that shortlist candidates through job matching
  2. Talent marketplaces that use a shortlisting algorithm
  3. Tech-enabled external recruitment
  4. Pre-hire assessments
  5. An ATS
  6. An ATS plus intelligent shortlisting software

All these tools for shortlisting candidates have their pros and cons. First, assess what your recruiting needs are and then match the best shortlisting tool to find candidates faster, cheaper, and a whole lot easier.

Get a free Intelligent Shortlisting Demo

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Ji-A Min

Ji-A Min

Head Data Scientist at Ideal
Ji-A Min is the Head Data Scientist at Ideal. With a Master’s in Industrial-Organizational Psychology, Ji-A promotes best practices and data-based HR. She writes about trends and research in talent acquisition, people analytics, and workplace diversity.
Ji-A Min