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Why You Should Use a Scoring System to Rank Candidates


The term ‘gut feeling’ gets thrown around a lot in the world of recruiting. That feeling you get when you just know that a candidate is a good fit. And sure, we all have to listen to our instincts – there’s no doubt about that. But there are a lot of potential problems with relying on ‘gut feeling’ to separate good candidates from bad ones. For instance, how can you prove that you’re going with your gut when you’re shortlisting candidates, and not just exercising bias? What if the person turns out to be a bad hire? How can you back up the decision that you made to put them forward when you have no concrete evidence that they were the best candidate for the job? At the end of the day, gut instinct will only get you so far.

On the other hand, when you use a scoring system to rank candidates, you can be safe in the knowledge that the candidates you’re sending through to the hiring manager are the most qualified to excel in the job at hand. It’s clean. It’s simple, and it gives results. Clear results.

Today, we’re going to look at how to create a scoring system to rank candidates, and why it works so well.

What is a scoring system?

It sounds all fancy-pants, but really all that a ranking system is is creating categories and scoring every candidate that you screen within those categories. So let’s just say that you’re looking to recruit a digital marketing executive. And let’s just say that the most important requirements for a candidate to have for the role are: Social Media Management, Inbound Marketing, Email Marketing, SEO/PPC and Analytics/Reporting. 

people-woman-girl-writingSo when you’re screening candidates for the role, you should be basing the questions you ask around these categories. For instance, looking at the Social Media Management category, you could ask questions such as ‘Tell me about your previous experience managing social media for a brand’. ‘Did you run paid advertising campaigns?’ ‘Describe your social media strategy’. When the candidate has talked about all of their experience related to that one category, you should be able to give them an overall score out of 5 (5 marks for someone that you’re confident has the experience to carry out the duties of the role within that particular category, and 1 being someone who really doesn’t have much experience at all.)

Continue doing this for all of the categories and at the end of the screening process, you can add up the total figures for each candidate to see who should move forward to the next round of interview. Ideally, the hiring manager will also use this system when they’re interviewing candidates in the final round of the process. That way there will either be a clear winner, or else they’ll discover that they may need to do another round of interviews or set a final task for the remaining candidates if they are neck and neck.

Cameron Herald, Founder of Backpocket COO and author of ‘Double Double‘ is a big fan of using a scoring system when interviewing candidates: “Before the recruiting process begins, I determine which of these key attributes are most applicable to the role. As I go through the resumes, and conduct group and one-on-one interviews, I look for behaviours and answers that reveal the candidate’s proficiency.”


The benefits of using a scoring system

You’re not relying on your memory

When you’re taking notes during an interview, do you often find that you’re simply transcribing what the candidate is saying to you? Don’t get us wrong, note-taking is very important, but only if you can look back on those notes and get information that you didn’t already get from the candidate’s CV. What’s more is that when you’re screening candidates day in and day out, it’s very easy for you to forget particular details about candidates, it can become difficult to remember where one candidate ends and the next one begins! When you use a scoring system, it’s all very clear-cut.

Focus on ‘must have’ skills

You should always aim to hire for strengths, rather than lack of weaknesses. By introducing a scoring system into your interviews, you’re focusing on the key responsibilities required for the role and weighing up each candidate to see whether or not they have those skills. It’s so easy to get caught up in the nitty-gritty of ‘would like to haves’ as opposed to the ‘must haves’ for the role. But let’s not forget that ‘would like to haves’ are just that – traits or skills that you would like a candidate to have. Leave those to the side and focus on the must-haves. If, once you’ve tallied up the scores, you find that a few candidates are neck and neck in the ranking, then and only then it’s time to start looking at the ‘would like to have’ skills.

Eliminates bias

Unconscious bias is something that we’ve all exercised at one time or another, without even knowing it! By introducing a scoring system for your screening process, the chances of you exercising bias decreases significantly. That’s because you’re focusing on the duties required for the job, and not looking at things like where the candidate went to college, or where they grew up. This puts all candidates on a level playing field.

The one thing to remember

pexels-photo-29594Now this might seem completely obvious, but you’d be surprised at just how easy it is to forget this. Using a scoring system to rank candidates only works if you ask all candidates the same questions in your interviews! The only way to give candidates an equal chance is to be consistent in your screening process. That doesn’t mean that you have to start being a robot when you’re screening candidates, but it does mean that you have to ask all candidates the same questions. Those questions don’t have to be in the same order, and you can absolutely still ask follow-up questions off the cuff. It’s not that you have to follow a script here. But knowing that you do need to hit all of the categories on your list in order to properly score a candidate should keep you on track, and stop you from veering too far off course.

Do you use scoring systems to rank your candidates? Are you guilty of relying on ‘gut feeling’ when choosing candidates to move forward in the interview process? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment below and let us know what you think about ranking candidates – does it work? What techniques do you use? Share your experience with us!

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