The interviewing process is vital to ensuring that you choose the best person for the job, but you may have very little experience of vetting job candidates. Whereas personnel managers arrange and conduct interviews every day, small business owners might face the task once or twice a year.

So where do you start when you need to choose just one employee from hundreds of hopefuls? The first thing you need to do is draw up a shortlist.


Drawing up a shortlist involves cutting through the pile of applicants until you have a selection of candidates that you would like to invite for interview. If you have stipulated a level of qualification, skill or experience in the job advertisement, you should be able to reject some candidates out of hand – you’d be surprised how many people apply for jobs that they are obviously under-qualified for.

To reach your final selection, read the CVs and covering letters and pick the best ones. If the job involves a particular skill, it might be worth arranging a test for around 10 candidates to demonstrate their skill levels. This can be an effective way of eliminating applicants that seem suitable on paper but may not be up to the job in practice. For example, if you’re recruiting for a secretary, you could set a typing test.

Eventually you will have a final list of those that you would like to interview. A shortlist of five or six should be sufficient, and you’ll need to set aside a day for the interviews as well.

When you contact the prospective interviewees, make sure you provide clear instructions covering:

  • Where you are located and how to get there
  • What they should bring with them
  • Who they should ask for
  • How long the interview is likely to last
  • Whether they will be reimbursed for travel expenses