How To Get On The Short-List And What This Means

In the normal context, getting on the short-list means passing the preliminary interview vetting stage and being amongst the chosen few that the employer has decided to bring back for a second showing. It means also that:

  • You have passed the test of broad suitability
  • Everything else you have done so far is OK

Getting to meet the decision makers
If consultants and human resources specialists have run the show up to now, the short-list stage could be where they step aside and let the real decision makers take over – the people who will have the final say on whether you are going to get the job or not. In other words, you will have to stand up to a completely fresh round of scrutiny by different people. It does not necessarily follow that these people will take the same view of you that the first interviewer took. Indeed, there are many instances where candidates have come out of preliminary interviews with flying colours only to fall flat on their faces when they got on to the short-list.

In terms of quantity, the competition you face when you get on to a short-list is less formidable because of the simple fact that a large number of candidates will have been rejected already. In terms of quality, however, the reverse applies. It pays to remember that the candidates you are up against now will be those who have also impressed – from here on it is going to get much tougher.

Warning – do not relax the effort
A temptation when you get on to a short-list is to feel that you have done the hard part and the rest should be plain sailing. Do not succumb to this temptation. Because of the competition, you need to be on your mettle when you reach the final stages of any selection process. Feeling you are almost home and dry will not help you when it comes to giving your best performance.

Seeing the same interviewer again
Selection procedures do not follow a standard pattern and so there is always the possibility that your second (short-list) interview will be with the same interviewer. This is more likely to happen where a human resources specialist or consultant is not involved at the first stage. For example, where a manager is handling the recruitment exercise without any professional help and the purpose of the second interview will be:

  • To confirm a view already taken at the first interview
  • To view the cream of the candidates on an occasion when there is more time available to spend with them

Fine points
It is interesting that final selection decisions in competitive employment situations are often made on very fine points. For instance, it is not unusual at the end of a series of interviews and re-interviews for an employer to find that he or she is faced with a number of candidates who would all be perfectly capable of doing the job. Who to choose? This is where it gets difficult and the balance can be tipped in a candidate’s favour by relatively minor items in his or her portfolio. Even here, employers can still be pushed to make a decision.

Getting turned down
Nothing is more disappointing than attending several interviews and doing selection tests, to discover at the end of it all that the job is offered to someone else. You find it hard to understand why you were not chosen and you rack your brains searching for the reasons. Did you commit some awful gaffe at the final interview? Or was there something wrong with the way you presented yourself?

Tormenting yourself with questions like these is largely pointless. If you got on a short-list for a good job, where there was an abundance of applicants, then you did well and this is the way you should view it. The message to you now is ‘keep going’ because you are getting it right and sooner or later a good offer will come your way. The fact that you got pipped to the post on this occasion is neither here nor there. In any case, the final selection decision was probably made on some very minor point and it would be a mistake to view your rejection as a signal to start overhauling your whole approach.

Arriving at the final decision
There is no guarantee that a selection decision will be made once the short-list interviews have taken place. The employer may decide to bring some of the candidates back for another showing (a short, short-list). Alternatively, they may pick out one candidate who they prefer to the rest and parade them in front of someone like the chief executive (a ‘rubber-stamping’ exercise). The possibilities and combinations are almost endless.

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Althea Burghardt is an expert in field of Human Resources, her inspiration to succeed is company like Robert Gerberg’s ACT, a professional job hunting company. Follow her on twitter @AltheaBurghardt

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