How Filtering Applicants with Ranking and Scoring Simplifies Recruiting

In today's economy, companies are flooded with applications for each position that they post as job seekers apply for more positions than ever. One recent study revealed that companies were seeing as many as 211 applications for every entry level job.

Meanwhile, HR departments are leanly staffed. It's critical that your team uses the right tools to identify the top candidates, while reducing administrative workloads as much as possible.

The strategic implementation of scoring systems to rank candidates in the pre-interview phase is one of the best ways to do this. Here's a closer look at how this system works:

What is candidate scoring?

In an ideal world, a recruiter or hiring manager can evaluate two applicants and immediately determine which person is better qualified and a better fit. However, each application is really a composite of numerous factors that qualify them for the job. One candidate may have an outstanding educational background, while another has the perfect experience profile. Meanwhile, a third candidate may have acceptable educational qualifications combined with just enough related experience to also be a serious contender. How can you score candidates objectively and rank them?

One of the best approaches is to develop a candidate scoring system. A candidate scoring system involves strategically deconstructing a job description to identify a position's most critical qualifications or points. As part of the application process, you can then ask candidates pointed questions about these areas. In some cases, a lack of specific experience or certification may allow you to filter out unqualified candidates immediately. In other cases, their answers will help you form a picture of their potential vis-à-vis the position.

Developing good questions and scoring mechanisms

The key to getting this system to work for you is developing the right questionnaires and scoring systems. Learn to ask great questions. There are three areas that are helpful to consider:

  1. Yes or No questions: Yes or no questions are incredibly valuable in the instance where you have a specific factor that's a deal breaker in your recruiting. For example, if your candidate must hold a current LEED certification or a Ph.D in English literature to move to the next phase, getting their answer early on is key. But for most other circumstances, we recommend multiple choice questions.
  2. Multiple choice questions: Multiple choice questions are a recruiter's secret weapon. What they do is allow you to identify a range of possible answers, which you can then attribute different values to. For example, if you're recruiting for a position that requires ten years management experience, you could frame the question as a yes or no. But you might screen out highly qualified candidates with 8 or 9 years of experience. Instead, if you frame it as a multiple choice question with a range of answers (e.g. 0 – 3 years; 4 – 6 years; 7-9 years; 10+ years of experience) you'll have a better understanding of where they fall on the experience spectrum. This theory can be applied to almost any type of question or specific qualification.
  3. Ranking scales: In the previous section, we discussed multiple choice questions. Each of these answers can be assigned a range. For example, 0 – 3 years could be assigned 0 points, whereas 10+ years of experience could be assigned 10 points. If you have five prequalifying questions, a candidate that offers the "best" answer will score a 50. But you'll also have a better picture of what candidates are strong by looking at which ones rank in the 40s.

Candidate scoring for a hypothetical position

Consider a scenario where you're hiring for an executive assistant position to a Vice President of Sales. The position has a number of key responsibilities, but a few points are the most crucial based on the needs of the job and the supervisor's input. These could be:

  • A minimum of five years as an executive or personal assistant
  • Experience in sales – the more senior or long-term the better
  • A bachelor's degree

Prescreening questions can help you identify which candidates meet your minimum requirement. For each one of these questions, you can frame multiple choice questions. Your scoring might look as follows:

How many years of experience do you have as an executive assistant?

a. 0 – 2 years (0 points)

b. 3 – 4 years (1 point)

c. 5 years (2 points)

d. More than 5 years (3 points)

Do you have previous experience working in a sales department?

a. No, I have no prior sales experience. (0 points)

b. Yes, I have one year of experience working in sales. (1 point)

c. Yes, I have between 1.5 and 5 years' experience in sales. (2 points)

d. Yes, I have more than 5 years' experience in sales. (3 points)

What level of education have you completed?

a. I did not complete high school. (0 points)

b. I completed high school or hold an equivalent GED. (1 point)

c. I completed an associate's degree or other 2 year program. (2 points)

d. I hold a bachelor's degree, master's degree, or other graduate degree. (3 points)

An ideal candidate would score a 9 – an experienced sales assistant with at least a bachelor's degree. But you could have some candidates that were promising 8s – for example a well-educated and experienced assistant with less experience in sales or a seasoned sales admin who only completed an associate's degree. Each of these candidates will likely stand out from the pool and can give you a head start in vetting applications.

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