4 Principles for Designing an Exceptional Rubric for an On-site Interview

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Technical recruiting is challenging and time-intensive. It can also feel subjective, with ratings for the same candidates often varying from interviewer to interviewer. You want to ensure that your engineering team can interview efficiently while also providing fair and objective evaluations of candidates. Consistency in candidate assessment is more important than ever, with 65% of technical recruiters finding bias in current hiring processes.

To ensure efficiency and limit bias, a structured rubric with a concrete scoring guide can help you evaluate a candidate’s competencies for a technical role. However, developing a rubric that fits your hiring needs can be tricky.

We’ve put together four key principles to help you design an exceptional rubric for any technical role.

Principle 1: Use a numerical system to assess relevant skills.

Interviewers often have to screen and debrief on a dizzying number of candidates to find someone who is the right fit for a role. It’s easy to make the mistake of allowing for quick qualitative feedback for the sake of time. However, this often makes a fair comparison between candidates near impossible, and leaves recruiters looking back on notes the ambiguous responsibility of interpreting what “pretty good” or “okay” means.

With a numerical system, where level of performance is mapped to a specific number, you can create a single final score to compare skills between candidates. Debrief sessions can be focused on hard numbers rather than opinions that might have nothing to do with the skill area you want to assess. Using numbers both streamlines evaluation and centers discussion on more objective measures.

Principle 2: Spell out what each score means to ensure consistency among raters.

A rubric is useless if the interviewer doesn’t know what each score means. Every interviewer approaching a rubric should be able to understand what observable behaviors or answers merit a particular score. This is critical for consistency in ratings across candidates—every candidate should have the same shot at success because they are being compared on the same criteria.

When designing the rubric, outline the range of scores possible for each skill and which observable behaviors the candidate should demonstrate in order to achieve each score. The more specific you can get, the better.

Principle 3: Include both technical and communication skills in your assessment.

Technical competence is not the only skill an engineer needs to be successful, so it shouldn’t be the only area you assess your candidates on. Engineers need to possess a wide range of both hard and soft skills to be successful in their roles, including effective communication and collaboration. Studies show that teams who communicate effectively increase their productivity by as much as 25%.

Consider all of the relevant competencies that are important to the role you’re hiring for, and pick the most important ones to include in your rubric. The interview process is a great opportunity to evaluate the candidate on any skill—whether hard or soft—that matters to your decision-making.

Principle 4: Calibrate your rubric through initial interviews.

Once you’ve finished creating your rubric, check that it’s working as intended. We recommend having every interviewer score the same interview independently using the new rubric. Check if there are score discrepancies and which items on the rubric were subject to interpretation. If you see places where you can improve the rubric or make it more specific, now is the perfect time to do so.

This process will ensure that each interviewer is interpreting the scoring criteria in the same way, and that you’re ultimately selecting the best candidate for the role in a consistent and equitable manner. If you have time, feel free to repeat this process with new interviews.

A great rubric can help interviewers approach recruiting in an efficient and standardized method, and make fairer and more objective decisions. The structured interview and validated technical evaluation tools at CodeSignal can help you design the rubrics you need to save engineering time and get the most qualified hires. Take the first step and schedule a discovery call here.

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