Shortlisting candidates: template and guidance

Download our shortlisting template to help you identify which candidates to invite for interview. Find out how to make sure your process is fair and that you shortlist the right people.

Last reviewed on 13 June 2022
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  1. Download and adapt our shortlisting grid
  2. Use fair criteria and rely only on evidence outlined in the application
  3. Use the same panel to shortlist and conduct interviews
  4. Anonymise application forms 
  5. Collect criminal records self-declarations after you've shortlisted candidates
  6. Consider carrying out an online search on shortlisted candidates
  7. Shred and recycle the paper you've used

Download and adapt our shortlisting grid

Use the template to help you decide which candidates to shortlist for interview.

How to use it

  • Add all the essential criteria from the relevant person specification
  • Go through each application checking off whether the candidate has met the essential criteria for the role, and use that as the basis for shortlisting

Use fair criteria and rely only on evidence outlined in the application

Make your system clear and straightforward. Shortlist your candidates based only on:

  • Criteria taken from the person specification
  • Skills and experience outlined in the application that are relevant to the job in question

By doing this, if you're challenged you’ll be able to show:

  • Decisions were based on relevant criteria and evidence
  • You’ve considered each candidate fairly
  • That a candidate wasn't shortlisted because they didn't meet a shortlisting requirement

You don't have to investigate a challenge to a shortlisting decision. However, if you’re challenged on grounds of discrimination and fail to investigate and respond, you could risk having a claim made against you in an employment tribunal. Acas told us this.

Make sure internal candidates don’t have an unfair advantage

For internal candidates, you still need to rely only on the evidence they present in their application. You may find this more difficult, particularly if they haven’t written a good statement as part of their application.

Using a shortlisting grid to record whether they’ve met particular criteria can help you to make sure your process is fair. 

Use the same panel to shortlist and conduct interviews

The same people who will sit on the interview panel should also take part in shortlisting. 

This adds another level of fairness to the process and helps make sure shortlisting decisions aren't subjective. 

Using the same panel to shortlist and to conduct the interview also reduces the risk of a data breach (because it minimises the number of people who will have access to sensitive personal data).

Read more about who is eligible to be on a headteacher selection panel.

Anonymise application forms 

There’s no requirement to do so but it's good practice to avoid sharing applicants’ personal details with those who are shortlisting. This will reduce the possibility of discrimination, as such information could allow the panel to find out about a person’s protected characteristics.

This is explained in the statutory code of practice for employment from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (see page 228).

Separate any information about protected characteristics from application forms when you’re shortlisting. Acas told us this.

Collect criminal records self-declarations after you've shortlisted candidates

You should ask shortlisted candidates to complete a self-declaration form, according to KCSIE, paragraph 216. Your school leaders will manage this part of the process for you.

Do this after you've shortlisted based on how well the candidate meets the person specification. 

The purpose of the self-disclosure is to inform the conversations you have with shortlisted candidates, not to help you decide who to shortlist.

Consider carrying out an online search on shortlisted candidates

This could help identify any incidents or issues that have happened, and are publicly available online, which you might want to explore with the applicant at interview. This is explained in paragraph 220 of KCSIE for September 2022. Your school leaders will manage this part of the process for you.

If you are doing this internally (rather than paying a company to do it for you), you'll want to be very careful that you don't unintentionally form bias or break the law. For example, it's best to avoid looking at candidates' social media profiles – read more from Acas about using social media information when hiring. Stick instead to news articles and professional networking sites such as LinkedIn.

As an extra step to avoid bias, you might want to have someone who's not on the shortlisting and interview panel carry out the searches. This could be your school business manager or HR team, if you have one.

This advice came from our internal HR expert.

Shred and recycle the paper you've used

Recruitment is usually a paper-heavy process, so think about data protection and the environment:

  • Make sure you keep documents secure
  • Follow your school's personal data breach procedure if any personal data is lost, or seen by people who shouldn't have seen it
  • Dispose of the paper used throughout the process in a secure and environmentally friendly way, and in line with your school's records retention schedule
  • Speak to your data protection officer and school administration staff if you need help with any of these steps


The following experts helped us to write this article:

  • Jacqueline Baker is an education consultant who specialises in senior leadership recruitment. She supports schools through the recruitment process and helps them develop leadership capacity. Jacqueline also has experience as a chair of a governing body
  • Vicki Dennison is an HR advisor with HC Associates, and supports schools and academies with their HR issues

Article updates

13 June 2022

Updated in line with Keeping Children Safe in Education for September 2022 to reflect:

  • That schools should consider carrying out an online search on shortlisted candidates to help identify any issues that are publicly available online (paragraph 220)
  • Paragraph number changes

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