Candidate Selection - Criteria, Process, and Examples |

If you want to get the very best for your organization, then picking the best candidates is going to be key. Good recruitment is the cornerstone of any successful business, and we will have all had experiences from a candidate’s perspective on what a good process and a bad selection process can look like. 

As you will discover in this guide, selecting a good candidate for the open position can be a tricky one and understanding just how important the selection process is to the success or failure of your work or organization is equally important. Remember, up to 85% of job applicants lie on their resumes. Without effective candidate selection tools in place, your business risks making bad hires.

In this guide we are going to discuss candidate selection, why it is important, the criteria you can use, common mistakes and how to improve your candidate selection process. 

What is candidate selection?

Candidate selection is the process of finding the right person to fill a given position at your organization. Importantly it covers all steps from initial resume screening to making a final hiring decision and preparing a job offer. It can include skill assessments, an interview, and a background check. Candidate selection is also part of the process required to evaluate job applications and CVs. 

The whole process will follow the usual steps which include things such as, application, candidate screening, candidate pre-selection, assessments, interviews, background checks, decision making and finally, job offers. 

Candidate screening - which can be commonly misunderstood as candidate selection - is where you either manually sift through CVs for good candidates or use application based technology to highlight any particular candidate based on the criteria you set - i.e. years of experience or keywords in the resume that may stand out. 

Candidate pre-selection is where you get to look from the shortlist provided from the screening phase in order to then bring in the candidates you want for further assessments or even begin the interview process if you have used assessments in the screening stage. 

Why is the candidate selection process important?

Good candidate selection is based on effective recruitment that happens from the get go. Being able to screen candidates, understand their level of skills, understanding of the role and even the abilities they have on a personal level is going to make the difference in finding a suitable employee. 

But candidate selection is important for many other reasons as well. As highlighted in the introduction, as many as 85% of job applicants lie on their CVs and that without the correct level of screening or procedures to find a suitable candidate, there is a risk of making bad hiring decisions which can cost the company time, money and even potential legal issues the further it develops. 

Finally, making a bad hiring decision can be bad for your organization but it can also be bad for the candidate as well. 

Candidate selection criteria

We have come to understand that finding the best candidate is not the easiest job and that making critical mistakes in this area can really have an impact on the future success of the business. That’s why being able to develop your own candidate selection process is essential but also why things such as qualifications, skills, knowledge and experience included in the person specification, form the basis of the selection criteria used throughout the selection process.


You need to be able to establish the criteria that is going to be used throughout the selection period. From the initial person specification in the job description through to making the job offer. 

This is why developing the appropriate selection criteria, often referred to as the person specification, is a crucial part of the whole recruitment process. Think of it like picking the most ideal person for your sports team or for a home project - you want to match what is required with the person that can achieve it. 

So what are the typical candidate selection criteria that you can use for your own process? Here are just some ideas.  

What’s essential for the role vs what’s desirable

Essential criteria are the qualifications, experience, skills or knowledge you must have to apply for a role. For example, filling the role of a database engineer will require someone who has the knowledge of this specific area of I.T. They will also have the necessary skills or knowledge to be able to complete tasks. 

Desirable criteria are skills and experience that an employer would prefer - following from the example above, this would be things such as a wider area of knowledge in I.T to be able to support other areas in the business or it could even apply to softer skills such as presentation abilities.

The realistic experience / skills / qualifications needed

Every business wants a superstar in their team. Every business wants someone who can hit the ground running and be able to solve problems or push the business forwards in leaps and bounds. This isn’t always possible though as expectations can sometimes out match what is being offered - or is truly required. 

For example, if you are recruiting from graduate level you will be trading off experience for skills and qualifications. If you recruit from a senior perspective, you may be trading off what you can offer in monetary terms vs all the years of experience, skills and qualifications. 

What’s needed for the future

You have to think about future proofing your business and your employee skill based requirements as well. Do you need someone who has the knowledge or the ability to learn the required knowledge to help the business in the future? Can you identify candidates with skills that can be adapted for other roles?

Any specialist skills / attributes required

There will be very specific criteria within the business or the recruiting managers area that needs addressing. What do you need from the ideal candidate that will allow them to complete the work required in the role? Answer that question to then include in the person specification. 

Metrics and measurements used in the selection process

The point of using metrics to measure the recruitment process is so that it can give you and your organization a view of what you are doing well and what you need to do to improve the candidate experience.

You want to create a positive candidate experience, which makes it easier for your employer brand to be able to attract the best candidates.

Using several different key metrics, depending on how and what you like to measure, being able to clearly identify what you want to measure is key. For someone who is new to key metrics and HR analytics, it can be difficult to keep track and understand what the different metrics are.

We are going to take a closer look at some of the metrics that can be used to measure the candidate selection and recruitment process, with a short explanation of each.

The summary will specify what the key metrics mean, why they are useful and most importantly, how you calculate them in order to be able to work with them today and take your candidate experience to a new level.

Application completion rate

This measures how many started applications are completed.

Understanding the quality of the application process and making sure that you do not lose candidates even before the applications. If you are not scoring highly, this would indicate that you have too much of a complicated application process. 

Calculate by taking the number of started applications vs the number of completed applications. 

Time to fill the role

Measures the number of days it takes to fill an open position, from the date a job requisition is posted to the date a new hire accepts the position. This metric is often expressed as an average number of days when divided by the total number of hires or positions filled.

Calculate this by taking the average time for the number of days it took from the first contact with a candidate until the candidate leaves the process.


90 day & first year attrition

It’s sensible to assume that if new hires are leaving within the first three months, that's the sign of a bad hire. The estimated costs of a bad hire differ between sources but can be between 50% to 200% of their annual salary. 

You want to analyze this figure carefully so that you are not creating a more critical HR incident and ensure that your selection, onboarding and management of new hires is done with care and attention. 

This is also applicable to the 1st year attrition rate which has less of a financial implication but equally shows areas for improvement.

Candidate experience

Candidate experience is based on the metric of how long your candidate will choose to join your organization. Naturally, candidates would have a time to hire of two weeks rather than two months. A faster time to hire will lead to a better candidate experience. 

Measure this through regular assessments, attitudes and feelings towards the company and so on.

Selection process funnel effectiveness

Your recruitment process goes through a funnel with multiple steps, and knowing the effectiveness of those steps, helps. 

For example, you don’t want 50% of your 100 applicants to pass through the interview stage otherwise you will have a very long winded process taking too much time. Yield ratio is a valuable way of analyzing how effective your candidate selection process is. Yield ratio is a recruiting metric that indicates the percentage of candidates that move from one stage of the recruitment process to the next.

Quality of hire

How well is a new hire performing after a year in the job? This is usually rated by their manager in an annual performance appraisal. If the quality is consistently good, it is an indication that the selection process works.

Candidate net promoter score (CNPS)

This measures the candidate experience during the recruitment process. 

A good candidate experience increases the chance for candidates to re-apply if they didn’t get the job first time round or recommend others to your recruitment needs. 

You want to better understand from candidates just how likely it is that you would recommend Brand X to a friend or a colleague. If the candidate answer 0-6 they are a Detractor, 7-8 are Neutral, 9-10 or Promoters. The CNPS results are shown on the range -10

First year churn

This is a measure of how many new hires quit within the first year. 
You want to ensure that the quality of your hire is reflected in how effective your recruitment is. Important to maintain competency within the organization.

Calculate this by counting the amount of new-hires who quit within the first year / Amount of new-hires.

Common mistakes and pitfalls in candidate selection

There is a need for organizations to be aware of common mistakes and pitfalls in the candidate selection process in order to avoid them. By doing this early in the selection processes, you can avoid costly mistakes. 

These common mistakes can include:

Unstructured candidate selection process creates a bad impression

The candidate can feel that they are being overlooked or treated unfairly throughout the whole process. Things like taking too long between interviews, not sending across the correct assessment documents or being completely unstructured during an interview can leave candidates feeling disillusioned with the role. 

Unstructured processes are not scalable

The less structure, the less possibility to extend this across the business. You want a uniform process that any department can pick up and manage. 

Roles often require role-specific selection processes

This is what skills assessment tests are specifically for - especially in some very technical or engineering roles where the role is predicated on having the necessary knowledge to complete the task at hand. Taking into account role related skills, competencies, experience, qualifications etc.

Long, drawn out selection processes lose candidates

If you leave the interview stages with months in between, you risk losing a candidate because they have lost interest in either you, the role or they had a business willing to invest in their time and potential. 

Never discount the data

Some recruiters and managers rely on their ‘gut instinct’ rather than data. This can lead to mis-hires. Think about how standardization can limit this process, you are basing ideas on who has the more skills, problem solving solutions or criteria that you can measure freely from the selection process. 

Overlooking candidate experience

Clearly, finding someone with experience is important and can help with the general business as well. A mentor's voice for younger or inexperienced candidates is a prime example of this. But the whole selection process needs to have a sense of experience and not just simply overlooking it.

Failing to take up references

It has been noted that selection processes sometimes fail to check prospective employee references and background checks. This is a dangerous tactic as this phase of the selection checks can reveal how truthful the candidate has been or if they have the necessary skills or knowledge to deal with the role. 

Elements of the candidate selection process

The candidate selection process can be broken down into these steps / stages.


  • A candidate’s initial application is used in the selection process
  • You are waiting for the candidates to reply to a job advertisement. This is a passive process

Resume screening

  • Reviewing lots of CVs is time consuming and error prone
  • You need a CV review process, something that can make the process run smoother and minimize errors
  • You may select a digital screening platform to do this part of the selection
  • Reviewers need to be aware of inaccuracies and lies in CVs.
  • Note aspects to assess further at the interview stage

Skills assessment testing

There are many ways to perform skills assessment exams and dependent on where you have selected the candidates into their respective piles - “promising”, “maybe”, and “disqualified” (naturally, the last ones will not be sent a skills assessment) 

A skills assessment is a standardized way to understand just where the candidate's skill level is and what can be done to best measure against other candidates. 

There are a variety of skills tests that may be used such as: 

  • Cognitive ability tests - e.g., reasoning, perception, memory, verbal and mathematical ability, and problem solving
  • Numeracy tests - it is designed to assess the testee's ability to manipulate basic mathematical concepts without the help of a calculator
  • Language tests - this is the practice and study of evaluating the proficiency of an individual in using a particular language effectively
  • Problem solving assessment - problem-solving abilities can be assessed in three ways: by asking for examples of times when you previously solved a problem; by presenting you with certain hypothetical situations and asking how you would respond to them; and by seeing how you apply your problem-solving skills to different tests and exercises
  • Role-specific skills assessment - a role specific skills assessment is based on a skills assessment but only for the role being applied for


Screening calls

  • Screening calls might be carried out by telephone / video-call - this is becoming more common as it helps to speed up the total assessment phase
  • This helps to save time for everyone involved and give assessors the information to make a decision
  • They enable both candidates and prospective employers to ask useful questions about the role, the business and what is expected of successful candidates


  • The formal interview stage comes after a lot of candidate selection and shortlisting has already been carried out - minimizing wasted time
  • The interview stage is the most expensive in this process - hence the need for efficiency in the previous stages
  • Video interviews help to cut costs and also make interviewing more accessible for those that can not afford travel costs
  • There is a need for candidates to sometimes undergo multiple interviews - and these interviews will have different specific requirements to be checked off

Background checks

  • There is a need to carry out pre-employment background checks. They are hugely important to the success of the candidate and of the business
  • For some roles (e.g. teaching, coaching, working with children or special needs patients), background checking is mandatory

Reference checks

  • Be sure to check all references and that the candidate hasn’t lied about previous experiences or where they have worked
  • Although this stage has been listed at the end - it is often best carried out before the interview stage as it provides useful feedback that can be used in the interview

Once completing this process, it's time to make a decision (or decisions). It’s not all about the candidate with the best qualifications and relevant experience - future needs must also be considered. What direction is the business going? What are going to be the necessary things to pay attention to in the future that the candidate needs to be equipped or qualified to do. 

There is also a case of understanding the candidate’s attitudes, positivity, drive and inclination to learn must also be considered. The process will end with a job offer(s) going to the best candidate(s).

How to improve your candidate selection process

There are some practical recommendations that can be used to improve an existing selection process. For example these can include: 

Review and revise your current selection process

  • Make certain the process is up to date and include video call and interview stages

Optimize the application process

  • Recognize that the job vacancy / application is likely to be the first point of contact for many prospective candidates
  • Aim to give them a great experience and first impression

Get more from screening calls

  • Pre-prepare with a list of questions
  • Recommend to candidates that they too draft some questions they want to ask
  • Be sure to have read the candidate’s resumes and possibly derived some references
  • Do a search of their LinkedIn profile to get an understanding of their qualifications and skill base as sometimes this is more up to date than their CVs

Make the interview process more objective

  • As noted - interviews are the most expensive stage in the selection process
  • Aim to keep the number of interviews to a minimum
  • Use structured questioning
  • Provide candidates with interview details including:

- Interview duration
- Interview scope
- Details of those present (name / roles etc.)
- Date and time
- Location
- What the candidate should bring along / be prepared with (e.g. questions they might want to ask).


If you want to get the very best for your organization, then picking the best candidates is going to be key. Good recruitment is the cornerstone of any successful business, and we will have all had experiences from a candidate’s perspective on what a good process and a bad selection process can look like.

Candidate selection is important for many other reasons as well. As highlighted in the introduction, as many as 85% of job applicants lie on their CVs and that without the correct level of screening or procedures to find a suitable candidate, there is a risk of making bad hiring decisions which can cost the company time, money and even potential legal issues the further it develops. 

Turn to assessment tools to help give you a balanced, non-biased idea of a potential employee's characteristics and capabilities and be sure to log the best candidates in a tool that will help identify talent for the future of your business. The Thomas Recruitment platform helps your business by bringing together a candidate’s whole portfolio via specialized recruitment tests. From C.V. to assessment scores and for eventually successful candidates, the onboarding process. 

If you would like to find out more, please speak to one of our team.