Shortlist stories

Take a sneak peek into our assessments

1051 675 Shortlist

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.”

The Power of Swashbuckle: How Shortlist Decided What’s Important

1600 1059 Shortlist

By Paul Breloff, Simon Desjardins, Matt Schnuck (Shortlist Co-Founders)

At Shortlist, we pride ourselves on being a values-driven company and we love working with values-driven employers. To that end, we’re hosting (with our friends at Spire) what we expect to be a really cool breakfast gathering next Thursday June 8 in Nairobi — Defining and Living Your Company Culture. Check it out.

This event has caused us to reflect on our own values, where they came from and why they are important to us. The Shortlist values are:

Own it: Own yourself and your work. Don’t wait; see the needful and do it. Generate discipline. Drive for results.

Act with intention: Do the work to get clear. Buck convention. Big goals start with small steps; step with purpose.

Find the adventure: Changing the world should be fun. Inject spirit into the everyday. Be bold. Dream loud. Swashbuckle.

Be a whole person: We’re more than our work. Seek balance and health. Learn from differences. Unlock your potential.

(Side note: every time we write these, we kind of get the chills. We love our values.)

So where did these come from and what do they mean to us?

We followed a very deliberate process, and engaged in a series of open-ended brainstorms among our senior team, with the prompt, “What is important to us and what kind of company do we want to be?” Needless to say, a lot came up. We attempted, as a group, to give some form to the mush, organizing different ideas into thematic buckets and teasing out which ideas felt like personal preferences and which ideas felt core and embodied our aspirations for a durable cultural foundation.

At their best, company values are inspirational but must also be “real,” not simply aspirational. Company values should already exist within the team, and should be discovered more than invented. Values help us answer “Who are you at your best?,” not “Who do you want to be like when you grow up?” We believe our growing team would see right through any value we couldn’t embody (or at least try to) in real life on a day to day basis.

We co-founders believe that values must bubble up from the team, but ultimately be defined, lived, and breathed by our leadership, whose actions and decisions are often most visible and set the tone for the whole organization. As such, we did not try to settle on values statements through a polite process of lowest-common denominator appeasement among a broad leadership group. Instead, we took all the feedback away to come up with something opinionated on our own. Specifically, we headed off for a head-clearing weekend perched on a cliff above the ocean in Varkala, Kerala. (It was less fancy than it may seem, but not less awesome.)

Matt, Paul and Simon standing on the cliffs of Varkala, after our values brainstorm

While there, the three of us reflected on what’s important to us as individuals, what we heard from the team, and what we wanted to champion and enshrine for the future. We crafted ideas and words through a few rounds of solo journaling followed by group discussion, openly discussing what we liked and didn’t like about each other’s ideas.

We strove for boldness in articulation, and took blandness as the enemy. With each value, we framed it in a way that we could actually imagine a company with an opposing point of view. We’ve all been at companies with conventional values like “respect” and “integrity” — but really, who would ever not value those things?

For example, with “Own it,” we were responding to the fact that we did not want to foster a culture of obedience, hierarchy and blind rules-following. We wanted anyone on our team to feel empowered to see an opportunity and go for it. As leaders, we try hard to own our words, our actions, our personal and professional development. This also extends to apologizing and trying to improve when we screw up.

With “Act with intention,” we were responding in part to the Facebook ethos to “move fast and break things” — we would rather build a company that is thoughtful and intentional about the products we build, the employer/candidate relationships we cultivate, and the way we treat each other, even if there are occasional speed sacrifices.

With “Be a whole person,” we were responding to the intense, work-obsessed culture at SpaceX described by Ashlee Vance’s Elon Musk biography (which all three of us happened to read that same weekend in Kerala), and other unhealthy work styles that can sometimes consume hardworking, disciplined individuals. Instead, we want to build a culture that acknowledges differences, encourages employees to find physical health and spiritual balance, and respects family and personal lives. We encourage team members to treat exercise classes as valid appointments on their calendars, to take a daily walk to clear their heads, or to work from home occasionally, believing these to be happier, healthier, and more productive ways to work.

We were particularly excited to use the word “swashbuckle” somewhere in these values, which we believe is one of the great yet under-used words in the English language, and rarely seen in its imperative verb form. The word prompted Matt to leave mid-brainstorm at one point and return sporting a new Indiana Jones-style fedora, purchased from a beach vendor, to make that particular “adventure” value real.

Matt (in his adventure fedora) and Simon in the middle of values-drafting

Once we returned to the office, we shared these values with the leadership team and then shortly after that with the full team in one of our monthly Town Halls. Our values are displayed as inspirational posters in our Bombay office (yes, the cliché “poster on the wall”) but we believe culture has to exist beyond motivational decorations, and instead define the way we run meetings, tackle new projects, support employers, and interact with each other every day. We also try to make the Shortlist values real and encourage their embodiment by calling people out in Town Hall “high fives” with value references, linking company decisions and priorities back to our values, and generally modeling them and keeping them top of mind across the team.

By no means do we have all the answers, and we continue to make this up as we go along. To that end, we’re eager to learn how other companies have thought about and approached this, and can’t wait to engage with you around this topic on June 8 in Nairobi!

We love to help companies build teams with great talent. Shortlist offers a wide range of recruitment solutions.

Build great team with Shortlist

Introducing the Talent Gallery by Shortlist

800 481 Shortlist

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

Happy hiring!

Announcing Our Merger with Spire

1200 900 Paul Breloff

Teaming up to help companies reach new heights

Today I am thrilled to share that Shortlist has acquired Spire Education in a unique merger that we expect to unlock the potential of both companies. Spire, founded in 2013, has been a pioneer in the East African talent development space, working with dozens of companies to equip employees with the skills needed to succeed in diverse workplaces. Shortlist, launched in 2016, helps growing businesses source and screen junior and mid-level talent for a range of role types, and has worked with over 100 companies across India and Kenya.

Now, our combined enterprise can more seamlessly support talent-forward organizations across the spectrum, from recruiting to onboarding to on-the-job training.

We will also, for the first time, be able to engage job-seekers directly with training, job search support, and access to awesome careers. With this acquisition, Spire CEO Jenn Cotter will become Managing Director of Africa for Shortlist/Spire, teaming with Shortlist’s current Kenya Country Director Ariane Fisher and the rest of the Shortlist team, who will continue delivering our core services to our terrific clients.

To put it simply, this is a match made in heaven. Why? Let’s start with what’s most important to us: team and culture. Our teams have been collaborating for months, hosting a series of events for talent-minded executives in Nairobi. From the beginning, we’ve been struck by the similarities of our teams and values. We share a commitment to personal responsibility, openness, adventure, curiosity, and unlocking potential. To put it simply, we wouldn’t have gone forward with this if we didn’t share a cultural foundation and core “why” to our work.

We’re also excited by the possibilities on a strategic level. We are already working with many of the same companies, and this allows us to seamlessly combine our services into a unified offer. Shortlist can help companies build their teams, and Spire can help make sure those teams are equipped with the skills needed to succeed.

Over time, we intend to go even bigger.

Spire brings world-class curriculum and an experienced team of content creators and trainers. We bring technology and a data-driven approach to vetting talent, as well as relationships with over 50,000 local professionals we’ve screened so far. With these assets, we occupy a privileged position to reach professionals directly and help build their skills, discover great opportunities, and access the careers of their dreams. This will enhance our ability to find great hires for our employer clients, and in turn, as we facilitate more hires and track what makes them successful on-the-job, our ability to train and advise professionals on critical skills will get even more focused and effective. We will build a truly exceptional talent flywheel that gets better and better with each hire and each training.

So what happens now?

We will bring our Nairobi-based teams together to work with and learn from each other under the same roof at Daykio Plaza. We‘ll immediately look for ways our combined offers can create value for our existing and prospective customers. Shortlist and Spire will maintain separate brands for now, and Shortlist India will continue business as usual. Over time, we will co-create the bigger vision for how “1+1=3.”

It’s an exciting time for us. We’d like to thank Blue Haven Initiative for their investment and belief in our joint vision and the Mayer Brown team for their generous ongoing legal support.

Shortlist is so grateful to the entire Spire team for joining us on this swashbuckling adventure — Shortlisters unite! And I’m particularly eager to work more closely with Jenn, a truly amazing leader, teacher, and friend. Here’s to the future!

Happy hiring (& now training),

An exciting milestone in the Shortlist journey…

1000 560 Paul Breloff

We’re thrilled to announce our recent seed investment, an exciting milestone that will allow us to continue unlocking professional potential across India and East Africa.

When we started the fundraise process, we sought to partner with investors who share our passion for smarter hiring and who represent the global diversity of our business and team. The group we assembled includes institutional and individual investors from India, Kenya, and the US, each who bring deep expertise from their respective markets. We believe this gives us an incredibly strong foundation on which to grow, with insight and networks in all the places we want to be.

We want to thank each of our investors — University Ventures, Samir Shah of Sattva Capital, Zephyr Acorn, Farm Fund at Impact Assets, Bodley Group, and a handful of individuals who wish to remain private. We are humbled by their faith in us and their excitement about Shortlist’s potential. We have already benefited so much from their tough questions, thoughtful suggestions, and helpful pushes throughout the process — and we’re eager to continue getting their ideas going forward.

So what lies ahead?

A lot! We’re going to use the money we raised to take our data-driven talent screening product and technology to the next level. We’ve learned so much working with nearly 100 employers in the last 18 months, and want to build these insights into a brilliantly intuitive screening platform that will help growing businesses hire even better. We have a rich product roadmap encompassing new and improved assessments, a model for easy assessment customization for each job, and more features for both employers and job-seekers. The end result will be even easier and more targeted hiring without the pain, and with the promise of higher quality, better-fit candidates and employees.

We’re also starting to harness the power of our data. Each candidate who applies on our platform (and several hundred thousand candidates have engaged so far!) shares great detail about her professional experience and aspirations, while the competency-based assessments we deliver allow us to gauge skill, knowledge and potential beyond a CV. We are starting to use this data to better predict who an employer will select to interview, who they’ll hire, and who will actually be great in the job. We’re also starting to look at where candidates might be happiest. These predictive loops will get stronger and stronger as we increase our “hiring reps” with particular roles and particular employers.

It’s an exciting time for our business, and once again we thank our investors for their faith and support. Now: back to work!

Be sure to check out our new website,, to learn more, and follow us on Twitter (@Shortlisthires) for hiring tips and other updates!