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Candidate Evaluation for Recruiters: Overview, Guides & Tips

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Getting the right people in the door is essential for any business to succeed. As a recruiter, you want to make sure you’re on solid ground when recommending candidates and clients. Thankfully, processes and templates can help.

We’ve drawn on some recruitment industry expertise to provide you with an interviewing and evaluation framework. Dig into this guide for an overview of candidate assessment and how to avoid hiring mistakes.

In this article, we’ll explain the basics of an effective candidate evaluation process, suggest points to include in your interview evaluation forms, and provide tips on developing your own best recruitment process.

1. Why candidate evaluation matters for recruiters

In the hustle and bustle of day-to-day recruitment operations, there’s a risk of forgetting what matters: people.

Evaluating candidates goes beyond just picking a good hire for the role. It’s about understanding and working with a real person who wants a job that’s a good fit for them too.

Here’s why carefully evaluating candidates counts:

  • The right interview evaluation style lets recruiters get an in-depth look at the person being considered for the role. It’s critical to understand a candidate’s qualifications, skills, personality, communication style, technical knowledge, and more.
  • Candidate evaluation also provides helpful insights for your client. They’ll want to know how this candidate will fit into their team. It’s not just about whether the candidate’s qualified, but also if they’ll be able to adapt to their new environment and its challenges.
  • Effective evaluations can save time and recruitment costs by guiding toward the best person to hire. Understanding a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses early in the process narrows down your shortlist - without wasting resources on extra interview rounds.
  • Not every candidate you evaluate has to be placed to count as a “success.” For your own sake as a recruiter, learning more interviewing and evaluation skills can help you make great hires in the future.

A solid candidate evaluation process does take time and resources. But it more than pays for itself in the long run.

2. Seven factors in an effective candidate evaluation process

1. Clear evaluation criteria: What are candidates being rated on? All parties involved should be clear on this ahead of time. Make the role’s required skills plain.

2. Open-ended questions: For many roles, open-ended questions can be a good getting-to-know-you tactic. Sometimes a person’s good qualities aren’t quantifiable on a CV; leave room in the interview process to find them.

3. Competency-based interviewing: If you’re recruiting for a technical or highly-skilled role, aim for competency-based interviews. You’ll want specific evidence that a candidate is the right choice when they’re up for skilled work.

4. Screening tests: If applicable, you can offer assessment tests to candidates after a first interview. Depending on the role, you might offer written tests, ask for past work samples, or look at technical skill tests like coding.

5. Specific feedback: Candidates want to know if their interview went well. Giving specific feedback points makes for a better candidate experience. It can also be a clarifying exercise for you as a recruiter: what factors really make a candidate the right fit?

6. Assessing cultural fit: Seeing how a candidate will fit into your client’s company culture can be helpful in making a successful placement. While you don’t want to be too vague with “culture fit” questions - these can lead to hiring bias - some questions are fine. Try asking for values, working habits, and preferred office environment to check this.

7. Behavioral interview questions: Asking a candidate how they acted in a specific situation can reveal how they’ll work well (or not) in the future. Dig a little deeper and ask candidates how they handle goals, deadlines, stress, and other work-relevant information.

3. Points to include in an interview evaluation form

We can’t decide for you what should impact your hiring decisions. But we do know that there are several parts that usually make up a good interview evaluation template:

1. Education and experience: Look at the candidate’s educational background, past roles and industries, and any certifications or training they have.

2. Technical skills: If needed, you can review the candidate’s expertise in coding languages, software proficiency, or other tech skills needed for the job.

3. Problem-solving abilities: Try testing the candidate’s ability to work with complex problems by asking about hypothetical scenarios. If they can come up with creative solutions, it’s a win.

4. Communication skills: Interviews are a great time to look at how well the candidate can communicate: both with their written and spoken responses.

5. Leadership skills: These skills can be hard to evaluate objectively, but through some questions you might get a hint. Besides looking at the candidate’s track record (have they held management roles?), try asking about situations where they’ve led on a project or delegated tasks.

6. Soft skills: Analyze how the candidate interacts with their peers, demonstrates empathy and patience, and works collaboratively.

7. Attitude: Evaluate how well the candidate responds to feedback, adapts to changes, and displays a positive attitude.

8. Career objectives: Ask about the candidate’s long-term goals and ambitions to see if they’ll align with your client’s plans.

9. Salary expectations: Always double-check what the candidate expects in terms of compensation (including extra benefits). If it’s not within your client’s budget, use your judgment to see if there’s room to negotiate or if this is just a bad fit.

10. References: If everything else stands up, it’s time to get more background information on the candidate. Ask for references from past employers or colleagues to verify what the candidate said.

Side note 📝 There’s no such thing as a universal list of hiring criteria. Candidate evaluation depends on case-by-case decisions. The interview evaluation guide above can serve as inspiration, but you don’t need to take what we say here as a set of fixed rules.

Pro tip 💡 When you’re short on time, try using the job description as a rough interview evaluation guide. It’s not as sophisticated as having a true evaluation process in place, but it can still help to narrow down your talent pool and make your decisions more efficient.

4. Bonus tips for evaluating candidates

We can’t resist squeezing in a few more pointers about choosing the right talent:

  1. Stay objective: Keep your cool and make logical choices when reviewing candidates for a role. Read our guide on DEI in recruitment to know how to avoid any biased missteps.
  2. Look for nonverbal cues: Eye contact, facial expressions, hand gestures, posture, and tone of voice can be key data points to help understand the candidate’s personality.
  3. Leverage tech: Use software tools like video interviews, online skills assessments, and automated reference checks to make hiring quicker and easier.

5. Six mistakes to avoid when evaluating candidates

Watch out - there are some candidate evaluation traps that recruiters should be wary of:

1. Relying too much on first impressions: A candidate’s appearance and attitude during an interview can definitely set your opinion of them. But that shouldn’t be used as the sole deciding factor on whether to move them forward in the hiring process.

2. Judging too quickly: Take the time to evaluate each candidate thoroughly before making a decision. Your reputation as a recruiter depends on making hiring recommendations that you can stand behind. Even when you’re under time pressure, don’t try to rush the process.

3. Letting personal opinions get in the way: One of the best things you can do as a recruiter is get to know your own biases. Stay aware of your own quirks when you evaluate candidates; it could be the difference between making the right or wrong recommendation.

4. Skipping info checks: Always follow up. When you present a candidate to a client, you’ll want to be 100% sure of that person’s references, education, and qualifications.

5. Valuing degrees over experience: This one depends on the job. But there have been cases of good candidates being overlooked because they don’t have a degree or other “nice-to-have” qualifications. Learn to make the case to clients that an experienced candidate can be right for them - even without that shiny degree.

6. Not evaluating the candidate’s online presence: Do due digital diligence. Look at a candidate’s online profiles, including their LinkedIn and other social media. You want to watch out for any posted material that might be disqualifying for the job.

6. Final thoughts

Candidate evaluation can be tricky. How can recruiters make good decisions about which candidates will be a good fit for a role when there are so many factors to consider?

Hopefully, this guide will help you navigate some of the complexities of making good decisions around interviewing and evaluation.

The evaluation process comes with its ups and downs, but when it’s done with some of these steps and tips in mind, the right choice should become clear.