How to shortlist trustee applications: a step by step guide

Whether you have three or thirty trustee applications, being organised about your shortlisting, will: 

  • Quickly exclude unsuitable candidates
  • Allow you to focus on candidates with the skills you need
  • Leave you with a list of contact details, so you can efficiently thank everybody who applied.

Key shortlisting steps

  • Use your defined criteria 

Before you start reviewing applications you should have your essential and desirable criteria based on your job description (see ‘Bringing it all together’ in Reflect for help with this).


  • Decide roughly how many people you want to interview

It’s a good idea to decide in advance a rough number of people you want to interview, based on your resources. You might want to be flexible on this, depending on the number of applications you receive.


  • Log all applications 

Keep a record of all applications, including:

- Candidate's name
- Email address
- Source of application
- A brief summary of the skills and experience listed in their CV. 

This will help you keep track of who you’re interested in, who you’re rejecting and where your applications have come from, which will be useful when thinking about where to advertise in the future.


  • Shortlisting stage 1 - removing unsuitable applications

Do an initial scan through all the applications and remove the ones that obviously don’t meet your essential criteria. Mark those you’re discarding on your applications log.


  • Shortlisting stage 2 - scoring essential and desirable criteria

Review the remaining applications and score against your essential criteria. You could use a strict criterion, scoring as follows:

1 = Fails to meet
2 = Partially met
3 = Fully met

For each applicant, add up their scores to get a total and record it on your applications log. This will give you an easy way to rank candidates and also help you identify people who don’t meet all your criteria, but who you might want to meet because they have potential.


  • Select your interviewees

Do a final read through of the CVs/applications of your top-scoring applications to select the candidates you want to interview. 
Be aware that it’s unlikely that any candidate will match all of the criteria you’re looking for.


  • Give everyone a response

As well as contacting the people you want to interview, you should email everyone else who applied for the role thanking candidates for their interest. If there were trustee candidates that showed promise, but that weren’t offered the trustee role this time, maybe they could become a trustee in the future? See ‘Developing a pipeline of future trustees’ in Evaluate for more on this.

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Trustee Recruitment Cycle

The Trustee Recruitment Cycle helps boards recruit openly, for diversity of skills and experience. Providing information, tools and examples from real charities, we take you through the whole recruitment process.

Reflect > Prepare > Advertise > Shortlist & interview > Appoint & induct > Evaluate