Take a sneak peek into our assessments

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Curious how applicants at Shortlist show us what they can do? Come take a tour of our assessments!

Hiring can be extremely time-consuming. A study we published last year showed that for a single mid-level hire, Kenyan SMEs are spending around 18 hours screening CVs, and then 19 additional hours interviewing candidates — almost a full week of work for each role! Thankfully, adding assessments into the mix as a bias-free screening tool can improve both the efficiency and predictiveness of any hiring process.

User-friendly assessments to increase the predictive quotient of hiring.

Our assessments are the “secret sauce” of our hiring platform. They help us screen thousands of potential candidates for the skills they need on the job — before the interview. We really care about empowering candidates before and throughout the assessment process. To ensure this, we use a combination of fun yet challenging questions that make candidates feel good, and informative messages so that candidates always feel prepared.

We help candidates know what to expect before they start the assessments

We aim to level the playing field for all candidates by allowing them to demonstrate potential beyond what’s on their resume.

Take a sneak peek into how our assessments work…

An approach backed by research

A famous meta-analysis over 80 years of research showed that in combination with an assessment of general mental ability (GMA), work sample tests and structured interviews are the most predictive of a candidate’s future performance on the job. Shortlist assessments typically contain a mix of questions on general mental ability and role-specific scenarios (i.e., “work sample tests”). But these aren’t your average case studies…

Predicting on-the-job performance

Our assessment library contains over one thousand questions. The questions are usually multiple choice, fill in the blank, or free text — depending on the competency we are trying to assess. Keeping the total assessment length for each application between 10–40 minutes helps us get an accurate view of the applicant’s strengths and weaknesses, while maximizing completion rates (i.e., making sure the applicants don’t abandon the process). Each question tests for on-the-job performance in one or more of the following ways:

  • General Mental Ability: Questions that determine how well a candidate can process and apply information. For example, interpreting text, conducting mental math, or spotting errors in content.
  • Functional Skills: Questions that require candidates to work through tasks they will have to perform on the job. For example, drawing conclusions from data, identifying appropriate sales channels, or designing operating processes.
  • Domain Knowledge: Questions that gauge how well candidates understand the subject matter. For example, knowing Excel commands, coding in Java, or building financial models.
  • Situational Judgement: Questions that test for how candidates will handle situations that may arise on the job. For example, meeting deadlines, prioritizing actions, or managing a team.

We also assess for ‘softer skills’ such as leadership, empathy, and learning ability through voice recorded questions, short phone interviews, and detailed structured interviews.

Most of the questions on our online platform look like this.

We try and keep the context universal and the question prompt straightforward:

Creating world-class assessments that identify the best talent

To kickstart building our assessments, we underwent a competency-mapping exercise where we reviewed over 100,000 job descriptions of different role types across thousands of companies. This allowed us to identify the core competencies required to succeed in a few common functions such as sales, marketing, and finance. We then created a range of questions around each of these competencies with varying industry context and difficulty levels. We now use various combinations of these questions to create customized flows for each role that we hire for. Our assessment team, in collaboration with external experts, is continually adding questions for key competencies across several domains including finance, tech, and data science.

How do we know that our questions accurately predict job performance?

We try to be thorough with our internal and external validation and have even automated a few of our validation techniques. Internal validation involves checking for appropriate pass rates, conducting distractor analyses, and designing for a normal distribution on the scores. External validation involves correlating on-the-job performance scores of candidates we’ve placed with their assessment scores from the application.

No two jobs are the same — so your assessment flows shouldn’t be, either!

We begin each engagement with our clients with a consultation, which includes a job-task analysis to identify the key competencies required for a job. This informs the mix of questions we select from our library.

Assessments for a progressive global audience

We like to believe that we’re slowly eliminating bias from the hiring process through our job-relevant assessments. We make it a point to use egalitarian, current language in our assessments to change conventional mindsets about the workplace. For instance, we promote flatter organisation structures by using terms like “manager” and “colleagues” instead of “boss” and “report” and normalizing women in leadership positions by referring to a CEO as “she” instead of “he.”

Introducing the Talent Gallery by Shortlist

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A new way to curate talent

Hiring — it’s both an art and a science.

While our assessments-driven approach at Shortlist definitely brings the science, we get that there’s an element of nuance when you’re building your team. Just like picking out a piece of art, reviewing candidates is all about balancing objective factors and that “special something.”

We’re excited to introduce the Talent Gallery by Shortlist, a new way to view and curate talent. In this easy-to-use hiring homebase, you can review candidates based on their performance, skills, and experience, while learning more about what makes them unique — perfectly combining the art and science of hiring.

We met with dozens of employers to observe how they review candidate data and learn which features should be included in the hiring dashboard of their dreams. A huge thanks to each of these partners who helped to shape this product!

To get started, request a demo — or keep reading for some highlights of the Gallery.

Here’s what’s in store

  • Your hiring homebase: When you enter the Gallery, you’ll see an overview of every job you have running with Shortlist, along with key stats on each job and helpful links and tips about the Shortlist process.
  • Getting started: Your dashboard for each job shows you exactly what you need to do next to keep the hiring process moving. Here you get a sense of how many candidates are in each stage. You can easily share your Job Description across channels right from your Talent Gallery if you want more candidates in your funnel!
  • Sort and filter to easily compare candidates: By far our most-requested feature! See your list of candidates with all their details and sort by the factors that matter most to you.
  • Go beyond the CV: In the Talent Gallery you can learn much about each candidate! Review assessment performance, read Shortlist’s notes about the candidate, and more.

See for yourself!

We’d be delighted to show you around the Gallery — sign up for a demo here. You can experience the Talent Gallery for yourself during your next Shortlist engagement — get started today.

We’re excited for this next step in helping employers curate the team of their dreams! And there is WAY more to come. Have ideas? Get in touch with me at rachlovesideas@shortlist.net.

Happy hiring!

Two tried and tested ways to recruit all-star teams

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Imagine you’re the coach of a basketball team (a dream that my high school self imagined all the time). How would you run your try-outs? Would you look at the list of other teams the athletes have played for, or awards they’ve received, or ask them about their aspirations to play professional basketball? Would you have them talk about a time they missed a shot and needed to bounce back?

Probably not. Most likely, you’d put them on the court and see how they play.

Sure, past experience and accolades matter, but resumes (in sports as in life) are rarely as good a predictor of performance as good old “show me what you can do.” The idea of selecting someone without gauging her or his performance seems nonsensical, but in the absence of a different framework, and with limited time to make decisions, this is actually how many small and growing businesses (SGBs) approach talent acquisition.

Hiring is hard

Startups around the world struggle with human capital. In fact, when Village Capital surveyed its portfolio of over 400 entrepreneurs, the respondents cited talent acquisition and retention as their number one barrier to growth, even higher than financing. And without following best practices, it can also be incredibly time-consuming: a report we published this year with FSD Kenya shows that for a single mid-level hire, Kenyan SMEs are spending around 18 hours screening CVs, and then 19 additional hours interviewing candidates — and if anything this number feels low!

I saw this dilemma firsthand while investing in fintech startups for Accion Venture Lab: Many organizations are so focused on raising financial capital that they are blindsided by the difficulty of running effective hiring processes, a necessity for scaling successfully. They would spend hours screening hundreds of CVs, interview some of the candidates (often selected based on university, brand name company experience, or personal connections), and make a decision based on who they liked the most. Not only is this method rife with bias, but it does little to predict who will perform best on the job.

What’s an SGB to do?

At Shortlist, we use competency-based assessments and structured interviews to hire high-performing, best-fit candidates for our clients (and also to build our own team). Aside from being tried and tested through our work with over 100 organizations, these methods are also backed up by countless studies, including this meta-analysis of over 80 years of research. Let’s take a closer look at these two approaches and how you can adopt them in your organization:

Assign work sample or competency-based assessments to test candidate ability: There are two ways to go about this: 1) Give candidates a sample assignment that mimics what they would do on the job (e.g., Excel exercise or social media drafts), and score their performance. Or, 2) Identify the core competencies needed to perform on the job (whether hard or soft skills) and create exercises that test them (e.g., present a fictional situation around reaching deadlines and ask applicants to prioritize actions, to assess for project management skills). At Shortlist, we use a mix of the two.

Here are some tips for implementing assessments at your organization:

  • Avoid making an exhaustive list of competencies and skills your ideal applicant would possess — instead, hone in on the top 3–4 that are absolutely critical.
  • Make sure you can objectively measure assessment performance — make a grading rubric, or create multiple-choice questions that have one right answer.
  • Implement this step (or at least part of this step) before an interview, not after. That way you’ll only spend valuable in-person time on pre-vetted candidates.

Start doing structured interviews: Studies show that judgments made in the first 20 seconds of a job interview can predict the outcome; interviewers often spend the rest of the meeting asking leading questions and interpreting answers in a way that confirms their initial hypothesis about the candidates. A great way to overcome these subconscious biases is the structured interview method, which keeps interviews consistent, predictive, and fair. These are the key elements of a structured interview:

  • Every candidate who is interviewed is asked the same set of questions, regardless of the interviewer, and interviewers agree in advance what they are looking for in a good answer.
  • Questions are explicitly linked to key competencies required to do the job, avoiding common “getting to know you” questions that perpetuate biases.
  • A standard rating scale is used by interviewers to grade candidate answers.

Why does this matter?

Getting hiring right is important for all organizations, but is especially true for SGBs. Let’s go back to the basketball example. With only five team members on the court at once, every player counts. Similarly, in a startup or small organization, every new hire is critical to building on your momentum and solidifying your team culture. On a macro level, looking past pedigree and refocusing on potential is the first step towards a world where everyone gets a shot at fulfilling professional experiences.

I hope this was a helpful starting point for you to reframe your hiring practices and find your next all-star! For more hiring tips and resources, visit our blog and follow us on Twitter.

Paul Breloff is the CEO and co-founder of Shortlist, which helps growing enterprises in India and East Africa hire based on skills and potential, rather than pedigree.

Looking to build your own all-star team? Let Shortlist help you; we offer a wide range of recruitment solutions that help companies build great teams.

Build your all star team with Shortlist

Past blogs in this series on hiring:






Upcoming blogs:

  • Martha D. Karimi and Manuela Müller, Founders, Edge Consulting — Onboarding, setting up for success in a resource constrained environment
  • Lyndsey Vandament, Kerry Nasidai and Sarah Ngima, Head of Talent Practice, Open Capital Advisors — Where do you want to be in 5 years? Leveraging SGB-tailored talent tools.
  • Rebecca Harrison, CEO and Co-Founder, African Management Initiative — Moving from entrepreneur and hustler to manager and leader: How to embed the management practices that will support your business at scale
  • Caroline Gertsch, Director, Amani Institute— Is your team performing to the best of its potential?
  • Ayla Schlosser, CEO and Co-Founder, Resonate — How can you use storytelling to drive results?

Candidate Spotlight: Meet Samson, Credit Officer at Lendable

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At Shortlist, we’re constantly amazed by the talented, passionate candidates that we meet through our platform.

Today we’re kicking off Candidate Spotlights, a Q&A series to learn a bit more about the professionals who’ve found jobs on Shortlist. Follow the series to learn new job search tips, advice on professional development, and all about the positions and companies we’re hiring for on Shortlist. First up is Samson Wawire, Credit Officer at Lendable, the first debt platform designed specifically for African alternative lenders.

What is your professional background, and what were you looking for when you started to apply for jobs on Shortlist?

I have worked as a financial analyst for four years now. My job is all about understanding a company through numbers — we typically do this to highlight key issues facing a potential investor or financier that would affect performance of their investment in the company.

I was looking for a financial analyst role at a challenging and dynamic company so I could continue my professional growth. Thanks to Shortlist, I was able to attain my current role at Lendable!

Lendable is the first debt platform designed specifically for African alternative lenders.

Tell us about your new job — what is your favorite part?

In my new job, I get to meet exciting alternative lenders that help uplift the lives of ordinary people. Most of the companies we engage with provide loans to people looking to start or grow their business so they can create and improve their livelihoods — from motorbike financing to dairy cows funding.

My favourite part about the job is visiting the branches of these alternative lenders and going to the field where you really see the impact on customers. It’s one thing to read on a company page that they have a certain number of customers and they have provided a given number of loans; it’s another thing entirely when you meet these same people and see how they have benefitted from the work that the alternative lenders do and how their lives have been transformed.

How would you describe your team at Lendable in three words?

Creative, fun and easygoing!

What’s your professional superpower?

I’m amazing at crunching numbers! My job is all about finding the story behind the numbers so this is something I’m particularly good at!

What’s one professional development or networking tip that you’d like to share?

You should always look for traits that you admire in your colleagues and try to nurture this same attribute in yourself. Everyone is typically eager to give advice on how they excel at something, so you can get their own personal feedback on how they excel at that one thing you admire the most. This way, the whole team can be your mentors!

What advice would you give to current jobseekers?

Know your worth and what you’re bringing to the table. Once you’re able to communicate this clearly to your future employer, it becomes easier for them to say yes and hire you. In the words of John F. Kennedy, modified slightly, ask not what your organisation can do for you — ask what you can do for your organisation. This way, your employer will be glad to reciprocate after you demonstrate your value proposition to them.

What’s the most surprising or interesting question you’ve been asked in any job interview?

The most interesting question would have to be one that I was asked four years ago when interviewing for my first job: “What would you do if you were awarded 100 million shillings to spend?” That was an interesting question because it was fun to ponder and at the same time the interviewer got to understand my view on money and whether I would spend it responsibly.

Interestingly, my answer has evolved as I have grown as a professional and I think right now I would spend the money way better than I would have 4 years ago!

Thanks so much to Samson for sharing his insights and tips for our very first Shortlist Candidate Spotlight. Want to find a great job like Samson did? Visit our job seekers page to learn about open jobs at leading companies (like Lendable!).

Check back soon for new posts in the Shortlist Spotlight series!

talent recruitment

Talent Recruitment: How to crack the talent test

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By Paul Breloff & Shloka Nath

Running a social enterprise is hard, particularly when catering to “base of the pyramid” customers. Marketing to low-income customers, infrastructure and distribution challenges, razor-thin margins, raising money from investors — these challenges would test even the hardiest entrepreneur! Then, of course, there’s the major task of talent recruitment.

In other words, hiring and retaining great people. Although this challenge around talent recruitment is typically overlooked, it is probably the greatest factor driving the success or failure of the social enterprises we’ve worked with.

When Village Capital surveyed its portfolio of over 400 entrepreneurs in 2012, they cited talent acquisition and retention as their number one barrier to growth, easily surpassing financing. In 2015, a survey of C-suite executives by Bain & Company for Accion Venture Lab identified human resources as the biggest organisational need across 21 enterprises.

The challenge exists throughout the talent life cycle — from initial recruiting to training, ongoing development and retention — across hierarchies, from junior unskilled workers to senior executives. Unfortunately, it’s not a challenge that can be magically solved with more money.

Why are human capital challenges tougher for social enterprises?

Let’s be honest. Hiring and talent management is a challenge at all companies, but here’s why talent recruitment is far harder for social enterprises:

Mission, not just skills: Beyond finding skills and experience, most social enterprises also need to see a demonstrated passion for the organisation’s mission. For many, this shrinks a small talent pool into a puddle, making it even harder to find a fit.

Unknown brands: Most social enterprises are relatively young, small and little known beyond specialised circles. With less inbound interest in the company, it becomes more of a sales job than an HR one to convince candidates and, sometimes, their families, who might prefer they join more established organisations.

Talent doesn’t come cheap: As revealed by a 2012 Intellecap report, early-stage social enterprises cite low salaries as a key constraint to hiring and retention. Personally, we don’t believe there should be an inherent trade-off in compensation when choosing a career of meaning and impact, and it is encouraging to see this slowly changing. But, for now, social enterprises often pay a fraction of what talented people could be earning elsewhere.

It’s not an easy life: To top it all off, many social enterprises operate in remote areas with few creature comforts. Five-star hotels are traded in for village cots. Express trains and Uber make way for motorbikes and rickety rickshaws. High-speed internet and stable electricity are swapped for molasses-slow Wi-Fi and off-grid living. This is obviously not always the case (and for many this experience can be a draw), but some companies find it challenging to convince senior talent to take the plunge.

So, what do we do about talent recruitment?

Yes, talent recruitment at social enterprises is hard. The good news is there are many ways to make it better:

At a system level

  • Enmesh impact with education: We need more secondary and tertiary schools and institutions of higher education that present opportunities for students to learn about social enterprise and encourage the pursuit of careers of meaning and impact. This is happening increasingly, particularly at business schools globally, but classes and clubs on these topics at undergraduate universities are just emerging.
  • Create access to real experience: We must make it easier for students to get access to internships or projects to help ignite a career passion. This could be promoted by colleges, governments, investors or the companies themselves. Global impact investor Acumen Fund, for example, runs a programme to recruit fresh graduates into an apprentice scheme, giving exposure to grads while also reducing the cost and effort of recruiting and training new talent.
  • Make mid-career transitions possible: Support more programmes that help talented mid-career professionals transition from mainstream to impact, like Impact Business Leaders.

At a social enterprise level

  • Start early: Even when you’re not actively hiring, be on the lookout for great talent, particularly inbound inquiries from people acutely drawn to your mission and impact. Keep your talent recruitment pipeline of candidates warm and engaged so that when the time comes to bring on new folks, you already have a pool to start from.
  • Invest in employee referrals: Actively engage your existing team to probe their networks and bring in great people. Having employees who are brand ambassadors can be particularly effective for lower-level jobs that require community and local language knowledge.
  • Build a strong brand: Not only does having a strong employer brand increase the visibility of the social enterprise, it aids in employee retention. By strategically building strong credibility in the health sector, Aravind Eye Hospital routinely receives job applications from all over the world, despite the organisation’s strict policy of not advertising for job placements.
  • Mentorship and training: Your employees are your future leaders. Create effective training and mentorship programmes that can target specific skill development. A RippleWorks survey found that entrepreneurs as well as employees reported higher degrees of satisfaction with increased and frequent engagement with mentors.

So where does this leave us? While money will always be a concern, human capital is often more important. Luckily, we believe there’s something to be done at all levels to drive talent recruitment and help bring that talent to the social enterprise space while supporting job seekers in finding dream jobs at impact businesses.

Perhaps social enterprises have the most to gain or lose in solving this, and we hope to see more social enterprises recognise the importance of getting their team and talent equation right.

We’ve seen many times at companies globally that to create something persuasive and extraordinary in the marketplace, one must often first create something persuasive and extraordinary in the workplace. This principle may hold even more strongly for social enterprises, who must create a unique kind of mission-driven soil to attract and grow a talent foundation for scale and impact. If we get this right, the chain reaction of impact will extend beyond the enterprise to customers, employees, and the world at large.

This article was originally published on India Development Review on September 20, 2017. You can access it here.

Co-author Shloka Nath is Director, Development and Publishing, Jnanapravaha Mumbai, India’s premier Cultural Institute for the Arts. Prior to this, Shloka co-founded and was Managing Partner, Sankhya Women Impact Funds.


Related Article: Talent acquisition trends 2019: Top seven in Kenya