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“You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes you might find you get what you need.” — The Rolling Stones

Who knew The Rolling Stones gave such great talent acquisition advice?
Hiring managers can’t always, and usually won’t, get everything they want in a hire. But with intelligent candidate sourcing and screening—including using a candidate scoring system—technical recruiters can give hiring managers what they need: quality candidates to choose from.

To create an effective scoring system, we recommend using the concept “idealize then realize.”

Idealize—Determine during intake sessions the characteristics, qualifications, etc., of ideal candidates.

Realize—Recognizing that ideal candidates often are not in the pool of available candidates, weight the importance of different characteristics, qualifications, etc., in evaluating candidates. The result should be a scoring system that objectively reveals the best candidates for submittal.

In both “idealize” and “realize,” hiring managers should take the lead, because they have the best idea of what they want—and need.

Determining Your Scoring System
Proper candidate evaluation depends on the nature of the job and the priorities of the hiring manager. What that means is there are almost endless scoring systems to evaluate candidates. The good news, however, is that once you create one scoring system, it’s easy to adjust it for future roles.

That’s because you typically screen for many of the same characteristics, qualifications, etc. For given IT roles, hiring managers’ weighting of factors are the primary variables. The factors themselves come in two basic categories: eligibility factors and suitability factors.

A sampling of eligibility factors to evaluate candidates upon includes:

  • Location (live within driving distance, willing to relocate, willing to relocate with relocation assistance only, only willing to work remotely)
  • Salary required within acceptable range
  • Relevant experience
  • Education level
  • References check out
  • Professional social media
  • Observed soft skills (ability to write, speak at acceptable level)
  • Ability to answer basic relevant skill questions (aka knockout questions)
  • Employment background check

A sampling of suitability factors (which tend to be more subjective, but are more predictive of job success) to evaluate candidates upon includes:

To create a scoring system, you need to know which factors to screen for, how factors will be weighed and how points will be allotted—all of which should be determined using the hiring manager’s priorities.

Let’s look at quick examples of how factors might be weighed and points allotted.
First, weighting factors. A hiring manager might decide that the results of technical interviews should have a much bigger impact than education level on candidates’ scores. As a result, the technical interview might be worth up to 30 points or more, while education scores might max out at 10 or fewer points.

Second, allotting points for individual factors. Let’s say you’re scoring candidates based on location. One scenario could have lived within driving distance worth 10 points, willingness to move eight points, willingness to move with a relocation package three points, and remote availability only zero. But if the hiring manager says working remotely is not a possibility or highly undesired, remote availability could be a disqualifier or give a candidate negative points. (It’s important to note that for compliance reasons, any disqualifier must be a factor that is relevant to the job.) Then again, if the job can be performed remotely, the location might not be considered at all in the scoring.

A Checklist for Performing Submittal
This checklist provides an overview of how to use a candidate scoring system—from start to finish—to help you collaborate better with hiring managers and submit better candidates.

___ You’ve Determined the Candidate Scoring System Before Beginning Sourcing and Screening. A candidate scoring system helps guide your sourcing as well as your screening. It should be in place during intake or shortly after (although it’s always possible to adjust it later). In this step, it’s a good idea to verify that the screening factors are weighted based on the hiring manager’s specifications, and confirm that the agreed-upon screening steps will be effective for evaluating those factors. Be sure to create a spreadsheet for your scoring system that allows for easy side-by-side comparison of candidates.

___ You’ve Conducted Agreed-Upon Sourcing and Screening Activities. This step is the nitty-gritty—performed sourcing and screening, and inputting candidates’ scores for each factor into your scoring spreadsheet. Do be sure to communicate any important issues to the hiring manager, such as if it becomes clear that candidates are consistently falling short of expectations. If this were to occur, possible next steps would include adjusting/lowering expectations (e.g., allowing remote work, reducing desired years of experience) and rescoring, or performing more sourcing activities.

___ You’ve Stripped Any Protected Class Information From Your Scoring Spreadsheet and Other Materials Provided to Hiring Manager. Protected class information is illegal to use in hiring decisions, so you should ensure it’s absent from all materials you give to the hiring manager. For example, don’t include candidates’ college graduation dates, because they can indicate a candidate’s rough age. Also, candidates’ names have been removed to eliminate potential gender or ethnic bias—instead refer to the professional with their initials or unique code system.

___ You’ve Submitted Your Candidate List and Provided Your Report—Verbal and Written—to the Hiring Manager. In this step, it’s important to remind the hiring manager that the scoring was conducted based on the eligibility and suitability factors that he or she said were most important. Then go over the scoring results for competitive candidates—breaking down each candidate’s scoring to show strong and weak points. For improved clarity, sort the candidates by the score, so that Candidate 1 has the highest score, followed by Candidate 2, and so on.
By breaking down candidates’ scores into their individual components, you enable the hiring manager to make ranking adjustments. For example, the hiring manager might notice that Candidate 3 is strong in a number of areas but is dinged by requiring remote work and having high salary demands, and decide that, considering the overall strength of the candidate, that those drawbacks are acceptable. In the reevaluation, Candidate 3 might even have become Candidate 1.

It’s also possible at this step that the hiring manager might decide that not enough candidates meet the qualifications to move forward with final interviews. Ideally, this would have been caught during the screening process, but you’d have the same potential next steps as if the problem were caught earlier: rescoring using different standards or sourcing more candidates.

The Big Benefit for Recruiters
Recruiters who use scoring systems effectively achieve a tremendous benefit along with better candidate submittals: it positively impacts the relationships they have with hiring managers. Hiring managers recognize the strategic thinking involved and respect the recruiters’ hard work. This results in increased hiring manager buy-in into the recruiting process.

Smart hiring managers will even use the scoring system in making their final hiring decision—adding on the scores of candidates’ final interviews to determine who, considering and weighting all factors, is Candidate 1, and will be offered the job. By doing so, these smart hiring managers maximize the chances of getting what they want—and need—in the end: the best possible hire.