Selection of applicants: Criteria that matter

Updated on: 13. May 2024

Imagine that you have a vacancy to fill and receive hundreds of applications. How do you choose the right applicants for interviews? Which characteristics do you use to decide for…

Imagine that you have a vacancy to fill and receive hundreds of applications. How do you choose the right applicants for interviews? Which characteristics do you use to decide for or against an applicant? It makes sense to structure the process from the beginning and define criteria for the selection of applicants. We can give you some tips.

Which criteria are important for the selection of applicants?

There are both professional and formal criteria for the selection of applicants:

  • Are all application documents present?
    • Cover Letter
    • Curriculum Vitae
    • Letters of recommendation
    • Work samples
  • The results of psychological tests like an assessment center
  • Professional aptitude
  • Other skills
  • Voluntary activities

Preselect the applications

If you have various documents from applicants in your applicant tracking software, it is now a matter of making a meaningful pre-selection and incorporating the above-mentioned criteria for applicant selection. Ask yourself the following:

  • What criteria must the applicant absolutely meet?What criteria can the applicant meet?
  • In order to find the right answers to these questions, it is sufficient to compare the applicant’s profile with the requirement profile.For example: Does the applicant have a “university degree in computer science” or do they speak “at least two foreign languages” as requested in the job advertisement?If not, this applicant will not make it onto the shortlist. Rule of thumb: Anyone who does not meet two of the required evaluation criteria for applications will not be invited to an interview.Don’t worry, you don’t have to match up dozens of CVs by hand.With modern applicant tracking software, this pre-selection can be accelerated, for instance by asking specific mandatory questions that the applicants answer in the application form.The software directly compares which candidate meets which criteria.

    Make yourself a checklist for the applicant selection

    This way you have already screened out the applicants who do not fit the job advertisement at all.

    Now you can evaluate the incoming applications based on formal criteria for applicant selection and compare the professional suitability of the candidates once more in detail.

    Decisive for the evaluation of applicants in the second step of the applicant selection are criteria such as:

    • Is the application complete, easy to understand, and free of errors?

    • Is the CV complete and up-to-date?

    • Does the professional suitability fit at least 80 or 90%?

    Create a decision matrix for further applicant selection

    Which applicants should be invited first?

    This is how you decide: Sort the received applications into three categories.

    This matrix for application documents determines the order in which you invite the applicants:

    1.  A-applicants: Applicants whose profile ideally matches the advertisement and who can be invited for an interview immediately

    2. B-applicants: Applicants with good suitability as second option
    3. C-applicants: Applicants with rather low chances of a final selection

    The next step in applicant selection: The job interview

    The next step in the applicant selection process is to get to know the suitable applicants personally.

    Inviting five to eight applicants is usually enough.

    During the interview itself, the rule is: be prepared.

    Just as you expect your candidate to be well-prepared for the interview, you should at least know the most important key details from your interview partner’s CV.

    Punctuality and a friendly demeanor should also be mutual.

    Short test tasks to get to know the skills of a candidate can be helpful.

    It is important that the tasks of a possible recruitment test are very close to the later daily business.

    For example, get your potential future social media manager to outline three ideas for posts on a specific topic.

    They could also describe the criteria they would use to select the right images.

    Here, too, applicant tracking systems can make the selection of applicants easier: The software by softgarden, for instance, allows you to define evaluation criteria for recruiting teams to assess the suitability of candidates.

    These data are clearly displayed in a scorecard.

    This way, you can easily select the suitable candidates.

    Ask questions that are as specific as possible when selecting candidates

    And of course you should also derive specific questions to ask the applicant from the requirement criteria of the job advertisement and the application documents.

    The answers individual talents give you will serve as essential decision-making criteria.

    During the interview, you will quickly get a feeling for the applicant’s motivation in the selection process.

    The magic word here is “discretionary energy”.

    Meaning: How much energy do you want to put into the job?

    Or, in other words: How high is the willingness to give everything for the job – even beyond the basic requirements?

    Choosing an employer: Applicants also have criteria

    Also pay attention to the selection criteria of the applicants.

    Be prepared for questions yourself, but at the same time be aware that the questions a candidate asks you will provide you with important clues.

    You can use the applicant’s way of asking questions to find out, for example, whether they would really feel comfortable in your company.

    This is an extremely important assessment criterion in an application: A poor cultural fit (i.e. how well applicant and company fit together in terms of ideals) reduces the chances of success in filling a position in the long term immensely – both sides would simply not be happy with each other, and employee retention is unlikely to be successful.

    It is therefore important to compare mutual expectations as closely as possible.

    Stay realistic and authentic

    Our tip: Offer your applicant very realistic information about your company in the question and answer session and make it easier for them to decide whether or not to work for you.

    Ideally, you have already defined one or more employer value propositions, which will distinguish you as an employer and which you can communicate here.

    Make authenticity the focus of your recruiting strategy from the start and also present your company realistically on career sites.

    You can read about how to design your career site in our detailed guide.

    As you present the arguments, pay close attention to how the applicant reacts to what you say.

    What do facial expressions and gestures reveal about them? Remember: The spoken word only makes up a small part of interpersonal communication.

    More than 80 percent of communication is non-verbal.

    Use this spectrum of non-verbal communication to assess your applicant!

    These impressions are also important criteria for your selection of applicants.

    The final decision in the selection process

    Is the job interview now over?

    Then now comes the big moment: A final decision must be made.

    Fortunately, you don’t have to make it alone.

    After all, others were involved in the application process.

    So you can make the final decision as a team.

    Without technical assistance, however, this can be challenging: meetings have to be scheduled, email votes clog up your inbox, and there is always the risk that not all participants are involved.

    These kinds of problems do not turn up at all with the collaborative decision support included in our applicant tracking software.

    It follows the basic requirements for effective and fast decision making:

    1. The dual control principle: All of an applicant’s qualifications are fully stored in the applicant tracking system. During the voting process, HR should have a look at the soft skills of the applicants, whereas the specialist departments are better at assessing the applicants’ skills and know-how. Both factors are important in order to fill the vacancy in the best possible way. With the comment feature within our e-recruiting software, everyone involved in the decision can first view the opinions of colleagues and then give their own feedback on an applicant.
    2. Everyone is on the same page: In order to make the right decision, everyone must have the same information. Within our recruiting solution, every step in the applicant selection process is precisely documented, which makes the decision easier for everyone involved. They can review the entire application process and make their decision based on this information.
    3. All information bundled in one central location: To prevent individual opinions from ending up in different e-mail inboxes, the recruiting software bundles all assessments in one central location that can be accessed by all participants. This makes it easy to stay on top of things.


    Good applicant selection methods need a little advance notice. It is quite possible that some stressed recruiters therefore tend not to specify the criteria for evaluating applicants in too much detail or tend to conduct the job interview less intensively in order to fill a position more quickly. But be careful: As a result, you tend to hire new employees who do not really fit the advertised position.

    See for yourself!

    Let one of our experts show the applicant management software of softgarden to you.

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