Running an Efficient Review Process


In order for your organization to find the most qualified applicants, it’s important to establish a finely tuned process for reviewing applications. Once you’ve selected a review team, half the work is done already. But how can your organization maximize time and create a review process that is seamless and efficient? We’ve identified a few of the most important steps below.

Pre-screen applications for eligible candidates

If your opportunity is contingent on eligibility, only eligible candidates should move forward to your review team. Even if you don’t specify eligibility, chances are your organization has a few basic standards in mind for promising candidates. For example, a fellowship might require that applicants have a high school diploma or a GED. Applicants that don’t meet the right criteria should never be handled by reviewers. Instead, clearly identify your requirements in your guidelines and pre-screen applications by filtering out ineligible candidates in the initial stages. With Submittable, you can use form logic to write “gatekeeper” questions that only allow eligible candidates to continue. To learn how this feature works, check out our help article on adding conditional logic to your submission form. Alternatively, you can also auto-label applications, making it easy to sort and respond to like applications in bulk.

If your organization uses a multi-stage review process, this step could become its own round of review. For example, you might set up two rounds of review where the first is a yes/no voting system and the second is a customized review with more detailed feedback. In this situation, you could design the first round to function as a screening round where the applicants are moved forward or not based on eligibility.

Strategize reviewer assignments

For many organizations, manually assigning submissions or applications to reviewers can quickly turn into a long process. If your organization uses an application management software like Submittable, you can eliminate this step by incorporating automatic team assignments. Instead of setting aside time to comb through each application, this method will assign applications to the reviewers you designate as they come in. You can set up auto-assignments in the assignments and notifications tab of Submittable’s form designer.

If automatic assignments aren’t an option for your organization, you can strategize reviewer assignments by randomizing assignments or dividing the workload in another way. With Submittable, you can randomly assign a set number of submissions to reviewers in order to evenly distribute the workload or simply to eliminate any chance of bias.

Define review criteria and method

Clearly communicating your organization’s standards to the review team is a crucial step in ensuring that applications are properly reviewed. Before the review process begins, consider how you want it to run. Will your team use a simple thumbs/thumbs down system? Or will you use a more custom method, like a numeric scale? If your organization uses Submittable, you can learn how to design custom review forms in this help article. Our customer support team and help articles are a great resource for learning how to optimize Submittable to best fit your needs.

After selecting your method, you should also define a set of review criteria for your team to reference. For example, if you’re offering a research grant, you might want reviewers to focus on professional qualifications, innovation, methodology, and previous research experience. Providing reviewers with well-defined criteria will ensure that their standards are aligned with your own and eliminate the confusion around what makes a strong candidate.

Set deadlines and send reminders

In order to make the most out of your reviewer’s time, you’ll want to set deadlines for each stage of review. For example, the first deadline could be narrowing down the applicant pool from 100 to 50, while the second could be the final decision. Deadlines help your review team stay productive and break up their work.

Whatever deadlines you decide to set, sending reminders or notifications to reviewers will be an important part of making sure that those deadlines function properly. If you’re using Submittable, you can configure custom reminders under More > Reminders to notify reviewers of submissions they have not yet reviewed. For step by step directions, visit our help article on scheduling reminders for reviewers. You can also keep track of reviewer progress in Reporting > Progress Report. Our Team Progress Report allows you to view the number of reviewed/rated submissions per reviewer without pestering.

Designate a manager to keep the process moving

More perspectives are always valuable, but it’s imperative to make sure reviewers are well managed and motivated in order to run an efficient review process. The more reviewers you have, the easier it can be to become disorganized and lose track of your team. If your review team consists of multiple people, designating a manager or two may help to keep reviewers motivated and the process moving along quickly. Your team managers could act as the official point of contact between you and your review team or could simply keep tabs on other reviewers in order to keep them on schedule and field any questions they might have.

Pre-schedule online and in-person meetings

Scheduling out meetings ahead of time is a great way to stay on track. If your review team is a mix of remote and local reviewers, this step is especially important. Establishing check-in points before the process starts will encourage reviewers to meet deadlines and evaluate applications with efficiency. This will also help to keep your organization in the loop and provide an opportunity to communicate any updates throughout the process.


While it may feel like a lot to consider, keep in mind that taking the time to plan out and organize your review process in the beginning will pay dividends in the end. Your process will run more smoothly. Your team will be happier and more productive, free of the chaos and stress of an inefficient or tedious system. And ultimately, you’ll all have more time and energy for what matters most: finding your best candidate and moving your work forward.  


Grace Hulderman

Grace Hulderman lives in Missoula, Montana, and works as a designer and marketing coordinator at Submittable. She's also a graphic artist and poet. You can view her work here: