The pros & cons of interview scorecards

Interview scorecards are the foundation of effective structured interviews. They allow interviewers to take notes about candidates’ answers to job-related questions and score candidates using rating scales.

Interview scorecards, or score sheets, are useful but not perfect. The structure scorecards offer may seem strange to interviewers and interviewees who are used to informal interviews. But, they make interviews more effective.

In this post, we examine the pros and cons of using interview score sheets. And argue that their benefits outweigh their flaws.

Why people don’t use scorecards

Interview scoring sheets limit eye contact

Interview scoring sheets can require a lot of attention during interviews. Taking detailed notes helps interviewers evaluate candidates’ answers. But, taking notes can interrupt the natural flow (and eye contact) that most people expect in an interview setting.

Lack of eye contact might create an uncomfortable atmosphere. Candidates could feel awkward. Interviewers might not be able to adequately watch candidates’ body language. But interviewer training can be an effective solution for counterbalancing these problems.

Candidate scorecards don’t allow you to stray from the process

This is a blessing and a curse. Keeping interviews on-topic is often a good thing. But, perhaps not always. Candidates might reveal something important during a more relaxed discussion. And they might also feel more at ease and motivated to give better answers. Structured interviews might make candidates feel they’re restricted from showing their abilities in full.

Scorecards require more time and effort

Preparing interview scorecards isn’t an easy task. To create scorecards, you need to identify desirable traits, choose the best interview questions for each trait and then pick a rating scale that makes sense (like a yes/no choice or a 5-point scale). If you’d like to go one step further, towards a highly structured process, you can also provide definitions for traits and anchor your rating scales (BARS).

Structuring interviews can be easier than it sounds. Download our free guide for effective methods and tips.

Note-taking is a good idea but needs effort and attention to detail. Taking your time when rating answers is preferable. And discussion with your team later can take more time if you have to compare notes and ratings.

Why people use interview scorecards

Despite negative aspects, there are a number of arguments in favor of interview scorecards:

Interview score sheets keep you focused

Unstructured interviews can easily go off-track. Using interview scorecards will help interviewers stay focused. There’s a specific number of interview questions to ask and score. And notes can help interviewers remember only job-relevant information.

Scoring cards can help you in court

Interview scorecards provide something all courts care about: documentation. Structured interviews are less likely to be challenged in court for discrimination. But, even when faced with a lawsuit, structured interviews boost employers’ chances of winning. Interview scorecards provide enough documentation to prove hiring decisions aren’t discriminatory.

Without interview scorecards, companies might find it difficult to explain why they rejected certain candidates.

Scorecards make your interviews fairer and more consistent

Subjectivity runs loose in unstructured interviews. Questions and scoring systems often depend on interviewers’ moods or biases. Some interviews might take an hour while others might span only a few minutes. This process seems unfair and can undermine good hiring decisions.

With the help of interview scorecards, interviewers can ask the same questions to all candidates and score their answers more consistently.

Candidate scorecards help you think through your requirements

Preparing interview scorecard questions is a useful process. Interviewers often have an idea of what they’re looking for. But, translating their image of an ideal candidate into specific requirements can support better decisions. Looking for an ‘excellent’ sales director is vague. Scorecards help you define excellence. For example, a sales director with specific desirable skills like negotiation experience, deep knowledge of the market and an impressive sales track record.

Scorecards also help you when you’re choosing which requirements to assess. Without scorecards, you might end up evaluating more requirements than necessary. For example, you could be tempted to judge some candidates based on their extraversion. But, if they’re interviewing for accounting clerk, this trait mightn’t be job-related. Scorecards encourage you to trim your list of requirements and choose only a few ‘must-haves.’

Score sheets help hiring managers improve

Biases undermine people’s judgement and future improvement. For example, hindsight bias can impair your ability to identify your mistakes. If new hires turn out to be bad hires, hiring managers might say that they ‘knew it all along.’ Scorecards are a means to look back and see where and why you made a hiring mistake.

Scorecards can help you assess how good your predictions were. If a new hire’s performance is particularly impressive, you can look back at your scorecards and consult your notes. Did you foresee their ability? If you missed it, you could use that information to refine the way you assess candidates in the future.

Interview scorecards support hiring team collaboration

Quantitative data helps teams share their perceptions in a more productive way. Especially if teams use a series of 1:1 interviews where each interviewer asks different questions. When meeting with your team to discuss candidates, it’s useful to have notes to backup your opinions, without relying on ‘gut’ feelings. Scorecards can refresh your memory and help you share candidates’ answers with your team. You could ask them to assess whether your scores are accurate. And their feedback could uncover bias. After all, people tend to be more aware of others’ biases than their own (bias blind spot).

Also, interview scorecards can drive a collaborative preparation process. Teams won’t assemble to interview candidates without consensus on what they’re looking for. While preparing scorecards, they can share ideas and solve team misunderstandings. Then, they can use scorecards for reference if interviewers have any questions or concerns.

Scoring helps you record separate judgements on candidates

After lots of interviews, your mind might start blurring the lines between candidates. Without scorecards, you might be unsure about which candidate said what. If this happens, you’ll be forced to make a decision based on your overall impression of candidates. That impression could be biased and you’ll have difficulty justifying it.

By using interview scorecards, you keep each candidate separate. You assess each one based on effective criteria. Notes are separate. When talking with your hiring team, you know how each candidate did.

How to use interview scorecards effectively

Interview scorecards are worth the trouble. There’s a broad body of research indicating that structured interviews are more effective than unstructured interviews. And scorecards make interviews more structured.

How to deal with interview scorecard drawbacks:

  • Practice stenography. If you hire frequently and intend to use scorecards, it’s a good idea to take notes as fast as you can. That way you can maintain adequate eye contact with candidates. Another option is to conduct video interviews with a recording function. That way you can listen to candidates’ answers again without having to take notes.
  • Standardize scorecards when you can. If you hire often for the same position, you’ll only have to create scorecards once. You can also use the same scorecards to assess traits that all of your employees should share, like culture fit or technological savviness. HR can keep standard scorecards for all positions.
  • Use the interview templates provided as part of your Applicant Tracking System (ATS). For example, Workable has interview templates with questions covering various traits and skills. Select one or more templates, add to or edit the list of questions, and Workable will automatically generate a scorecard to use with your team. Scorecards allow every interviewer to keep notes and include an easy-to-use scoring system. So, your scorecard generated via Workable could look like this:

interview-scorecards-example

For faster action after the interview, there’s also an aggregate view. This collates the scores from every interviewer and shows the summary comments in a single view.

The bottomline: Interview scorecards add structure to your interview process. And structured interviews result in better hires.

Looking for an all-in-one recruiting solution? Workable can improve candidate sourcing, interviewing and applicant tracking for a streamlined hiring process. Sign up for our 15-day free trial today.

Get a free trial

Nikoletta Bika

Nikoletta Bika is a senior writer at Workable and holds an MSc in HR. She writes about all things HR and recruiting, with a particular interest in bias, data, technology and the future of work. She hates meaningless jargon and dreams about space travel. She tweets @Nikoletta_Bika.

Latest in this category

The best interview questions to ask candidates

Best interview questions to ask candidates (and how to evaluate answers)

Whether you’re an experienced job interviewer or just starting out, you’re likely looking ...

Best way to schedule an interview time with multiple candidates and interviewers

Scheduling interviews is a burden. Finding times that work for candidates and interviewers...

Pros and cons of one-way video interviews with candidates

As technology advances and becomes more accessible, the set of tools available to recruite...