The Best Rating Scale to Score Your Candidates

thumbsup_thumbsdownAfter an interview, how do your interviewers give you feedback? Over the years, I've seen a bunch of different scales for rating candidates: 1-10, Pass/Fail, verbal conversation only, weighted averages, etc. Most people just stick with whatever they inherited from their predecessor—choosing a new rating scale doesn't typically cross their mind.    

But your rating scale has a huge impact on your hiring process.
It sounds simple, but at the most basic level …

Your rating scale must help you decide which candidates to move forward.

Countless times, I've seen a candidate who's really great but they're missing one or two skills. If you use a weighted average, you might assign 50% of the weight to one key skill. However, that means you could have someone who's a great cultural fit, a super team player, and a really smart person, but if they don't have that skill right now, they're mistakenly cut out of the running.

By reducing your assessment of a candidate down into a single "overall score", you will miss out on this type of candidate, your process will take to long, and you'll make worse decisions overall.

What I'm looking for in a rating scale:

  • At a glance, I need to see how the team feels about a candidate.
  • I want to encourage communication. Reducing the whole process to “the 9.2 candidate is clearly better than the 7.5 candidate” is unrealistic and limiting. It also means I have to define what a 9 or 8 is. It's a complicated mess and it's too open to individual interpretation.
  • I don't want a “maybe” option. Speed is critical. If my team wastes time trying to find out whether that “maybe” is really a “yes” or “no,” we'll lose good candidates in the process.
  • I want a way to signal exceptionally good or bad candidates that's immediately visible; the nuance of 10- or 100-point scales obscures more than it reveals.
  • I need it to be easy to use. A simple pass/fail form is easy and pleasing to complete and therefore more likely to happen. Long forms with hard decisions mean fewer people will actually make them.

Greenhouse's rating system in action

At Greenhouse, we use a thumbs-up/thumbs-down scoring system for interviews and to rate candidates on individual skills they're tested on. We also include special symbols to highlight any skill or candidate that really stands out (green star for great, red X for terrible).


Six thumbs out of ten doesn't mean anything and three thumbs don't equal a star. Our method discourages false precision—you aren't tempted to distill a person's complexity into a simplistic weighted average.

As a hiring manager, you get the information you need to make a good choice quickly: do we have time for this awesome person to learn that one skill, or do they need to already know it? A thumbs-up-thumbs-down scale gives you that clarity.

In other words, it helps us decide which candidates to move forward.

Ok that's how I do it. Now, tell me - do you agree?

  • Have you ever had a great candidate slip through your fingers because of your company's tedious rating scale?
  • Have you ever felt that your colleagues let the rating system make their decisions for them? How did that happen?
  • How does your current rating system get in your way?

Leave a reply below in the comments and tell me your story.

Thanks & happy recruiting!

Daniel Chait
Co-founder, Greenhouse

PS In case you missed my last post, on how to finally fix your referrals, you can read it here.

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Filed Under:

Interview Planning