Interviewing Rubric

What’s an Interviewing Rubric?

In our recent webinar on employee interviewing and selection, I used a fancy word: rubric.  Sometimes fancy words just serve to confuse, but that isn’t the case here. Rubrics can be extremely useful in the hiring process. If you’re not familiar with using rubrics, read on.

The word rubric comes from the Latin word for “red ocher,” the color of red pigment used to highlight headings in medieval manuscripts.  That sense of the “red heading” evolved into a sense of the categories which those red headings described.  In the 1970s, academics further evolved the word rubric to include a way to measure or rate different categories of things that were important.  Thus the rubric became a tool for assessing a variety of categories, like the different elements that might be important when interviewing a job applicant.

A rubric isn’t that complicated.  Think of it as a spreadsheet in which each row represents a different category.  When used in an interview setting, there might be rows for job-related skills, educational background, and experience.  The columns represent different levels of attainment.  A rubric can have any number of columns, but frequently they have three or five.  The left-most column represents the lowest level of attainment.  In the category of education, the left column might represent “some high school.”  Moving to the right, the columns represent higher attainment, such as “high school graduate,” “some college,” “college graduate” and “post graduate work.”  The categories can be flexible and should be based on measuring what is important. Here’s an example used by Catalina Foothills School District.

Educational attainment is a fairly concrete measurement.  But what if the category being measured is less tangible?  This is where interviewing rubrics really shine.  Because each rubric column has a thorough description of what it would take to attain that level in the category, rubrics can be used to bring some systematic objectivity to the hiring process.  If one of the things that is important to us, for example, is “Interest in helping our organization be successful in the long term,” we would write a description of each level into our rubric.  The lowest level might say, “The candidate seems almost unaware of the future beyond the next paycheck.  When questioned about long-term goals, he or she has trouble expressing considerations or imagining a future more than a year from now.”  The next level might say, “The candidate is aware of the future, but that awareness is limited to its impact on the candidate alone.  The candidate’s idea of success in the longer term is limited to the candidate’s own advancement and promotion and is rarely tied to the long term success of the organization.”  Each level can be similarly built.

Why Should You Care?

Because intangible categories such as leadership, problem solving, communication, and team work can be described, it is possible to “score” a candidate on a variety of dimensions, even those that are more difficult to measure.  This is particularly helpful in a team interview setting.  Each member of the interview team can use the interviewing rubric to rate each candidate independently.  Then, after the interviews are completed, the interview team can compare rubrics, justify their selections, advocate and discuss, and come to consensus about the relative merits of each candidate.

This discussion has only begun to plumb the depths of ways to use effective interviewing rubrics.  If you’d like to know more, or would like help developing interviewing rubrics for your organization, please contact us at [email protected].

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