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.”

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

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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

Improving a resume

Advice on How to Improve a Resume

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At Shortlist, we help candidates demonstrate their skills to show that they’re a great fit for a job. Most employers are looking for a mix of ability, which you can show on our assessments, and experience, which is where the CV comes in. Candidates often come to us asking for guidance on how to improve a resume so we wrote this blog post to have all of our top tips in one place!

We’ve broken down the CV into its key parts, sharing both the essential must-haves for how to improve a resume and the extra bells and whistles!

1. Contact Information

The basics: This should appear at the top of your resume and include your name, address, phone number and e-mail address. Triple-check that your information is correct and up to date. If you are applying for a job outside the city you live in and are willing to relocate, indicate the same.

Extra insight: Avoid giving irrelevant information, like your date of birth and marital status, unless requested on the job profile.

2. Personal Statement

The basics: This is your opportunity to showcase your experience, achievements, as well as your career aspirations to your potential employer. The statement should answer three important questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What can you do for the organization?
  • What are you seeking in your next job?

If you’re wondering how to improve a resume, resist the urge to use a generalized statement to suit any application, instead make this specific to the role you are applying for. While it may take time to customize this statement for each role, it makes all the difference… Consider the key requirements for the role and use these to phrase your statement to show that you are perfectly suited for the position.

Extra insight: For a fresh graduate, since you may not have much experience to site, focus on your interests. Additionally, showcase the skills you have attained and how they are relevant to the job.

3. Skills and Qualifications

The basics: Remember to give the recruiter exactly what they want and in the easiest way possible and not have them struggle to find relevant information. While writing this particular section, it is important to keep in mind the industry keywords that are relevant to different roles.

For example:

  • Data Scientist roles often require programming skills in languages like Python and R.
  • Business Development requires critical skills like analytical thinking and communication skills, and sometimes financial modeling, among others.
  • Customer Service roles require skills in problem-solving, communication, attention to detail, and demonstrating empathy.

Extra insight: As your working on how to improve a resume, go through the job description and pick out the must-have skills and qualifications that you possess. Ensure that these are what the employer sees first while reviewing your resume. Some organizations use applicant tracking systems that will scan for keywords in your CV. Hence, it’s even more important to include words and phrases from the job description.

4. Experience

This being the meat of your resume, you want to ensure that you clearly and honestly present your employment history.

The essentials in this section include the company name, your title, years you were employed and a summary (preferably in bullet points) of your responsibilities and accomplishments.

More importantly, as much as possible, do try to quantify your achievements in terms of numbers or other concrete performance measures.



For sales roles, to improve a resume, you may choose to show your impact by using statements such as:

  • Increased customer engagement and online presence by…
  • Strengthened performance by…

For finance roles, showcase your knowledge of the industry and share achievements that demonstrate your ability to maximise the utilization of financial resources.

For managerial roles, leadership skills are essential.

  • Showcase how you have lead teams towards the achievements of organizational objectives.
  • Showcase how you have also contributed towards the professional development of your employees. For example, training programmes that have been implemented, mentoring team members into junior/mid-senior level managers are some of the things you can highlight.

For customer service roles, showcase how you have contributed to ensuring excellent customer experience to your clients:

  • Mention instances where you developed a program and/or implemented a system which increased the efficiency of a product or service offered by the organisation. Leading to Customer retention.

For more experienced professionals who have worked across different sectors, you do not need to include jobs that are not related to the one you are applying for.

Entry-level individuals who do not have on the job experience should include any temporary positions, internships or volunteer work that emphasise the skills related to the job.

5. Hobbies and Interests

The basics: If you are new in the job market or do not have a lot of experience, this can be the place to differentiate yourself. You never know when your side hustle, hobby or passion will connect with a hiring manager. For example, listing team sports or activities would indicate that you would be a good team player. Additionally, social hobbies, such as mentoring, suggest that you can communicate and connect well with others. These can help find a fit where otherwise the role may have been a stretch.

When figuring out how to improve a resume, don’t forget…

Proofread your resume. Make sure there are no spelling mistakes or grammatically incorrect sentences.

Your resume should be well organised, with uniform font, punctuation, and spacing. Use soft and easily readable fonts like Calibri, Garamond Cambria, Times New Roman or Trebuchet MS. Moreover, avoid the use of bold and weighty fonts such as Impact, and the same goes for unnecessary graphics, logos and pictures.

Have someone you trust to read and give you their honest opinion as well as suggest changes where necessary.

Check out these sample resumes that illustrate a majority of the points I covered above in this guide on how to improve a resume. I hope these tips will be helpful to as you chase your next big break!

We’d love to hear from you!

Share your tried-and-true resume-writing tips in the comments. Do let me know what other career-related topics you would like to learn about.

Want more talent tips?

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Related: How To Tailor Your CV: Customize For Each New Role

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Announcing Our Merger with Spire

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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),

Shortlister Spotlight: Meet Lotika, Senior Business Operations Manager

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At Shortlist, we love building our team almost as much as we love building yours! We have some pretty amazing people across our three offices who have a real passion for what they do and for the Shortlist mission.

Today we’re kicking off Shortlister Spotlights, a Q&A series to get to know some of our team members. First up is Lotika Baruah, a Senior Business Operations Manager in our Mumbai office!

Tell us about what you do at Shortlist:

As part of the Operations team (or as we like to believe, the heart of the organization!) we work on matching the best candidates to the right positions. This includes a lot of micro-functions like client management, research, creating custom screening questions, assessment design, and eventually reviewing applicants to find the best shortlist of candidates for the role. We also work closely with the product teams to improve operational efficiency and create a fabulous candidate experience.

What is your professional background, and what were you looking for in your next career step when you found Shortlist?

I have a background in HR and have worked across different sectors to scale their HR functions. Ironically the thing I have had the least experience in, prior to joining Shortlist, was recruitment. I have a Masters in Organization Development.

What’s your professional superpower?

I am a good problem solver!

Why is the Shortlist mission important to you?

In countries like India there is no scarcity of skilled talent, and a simple search on Naukri for a sales guy will fetch you over 3 million hits. In situations like these people with good resumes or those that have worked for bigger and better brands have an unfair advantage and get selected often without an objective review process. This is why the Shortlist mission is important to me. It gives every candidate a fair shot by asking them to demonstrate a given skill set as opposed to simply stating it on their resume.

What are three words or phrases you would use to describe Team Shortlist?

“Culture machine,” “fun,” and “always got my back.”

What do you like to do outside of work?

I am a crazy group games fanatic — Catan, Monopoly, Taboo, Heads Up, Mafia, Psych. It’s a safe outlet for the crazy competitor in me (though “safe” is using the word very loosely, if you ask my closest friends and family).

What’s your favorite Shortlist value? (Learn more about our values here!)

“Be a whole person.” I love the fact that a company is invested enough in your overall well-being (not just professional) to make it one of the core values. I live and embody this every day, and receive constant support from the team at Shortlist.

What’s your favorite Shortlist memory?

I have a ton of them. But my favorite so far is when all of us were working alongside the carpenters to get the office furniture in place. That was my first experience of living the startup dream!

We like to give high fives to recognize when our team members do something awesome. Now is your chance to make a public high five to a fellow Shortlister:

I have a couple of high fives — the biggest will always be to Rishabh and Ben — for hiring me to be a part of the Shortlist story, even though I was far from the perfect candidate on paper.

Also to Kriti, for being a constant de-stress pill in office, be it with Bollywood trivia quizzes or all of the amazing ‘quotable quotes.’

What are you currently reading, watching, or listening to?

I am currently thinking and dreaming Game of Thrones because of the latest season! I mostly read fiction, and I’m currently reading ‘If God Was a Banker’ by Ravi Subramanium.

Tell us about a candidate that inspired you:

There was a candidate that I had once shortlisted who was very different from the initial requirement shared by the client. However on speaking to him, he totally bowled me over with his application and performance over assessments. He is currently hired by the company and is responsible for an entire business unit. Candidates like him remind me of the Shortlist mission and what we are here to achieve.

How is Shortlist different than other companies?

You are the master of your own career here at Shortlist. If you want to do something, own it and get it done. With people in the team that are the best across their respective functions, the learning opportunity is massive. This is why Shortlist is different. You actually see yourself play a key role in building something big from scratch.

If you would like help building your team, let us help you. Shortlist offers a wide range of recruitment solutions that help companies build great teams.