Evaluate Candidates Effectively in Interviews

If you’re a recruiter, hiring manager, or talent acquisition specialist, conducting interviews is an important part of your job. Similar to resumes, job application forms, and skill assessments, the interview is an assessment tool that helps you identify top candidates in your applicant pools. 

The top candidate is the person who, if hired, will perform best at the job in question. For interviews to be effective at achieving this goal, they need to be designed thoughtfully, applied consistently, and evaluated systematically. 

Apply the following tips to your interviews to evaluate candidates effectively and run high quality interviews: 

1. Ask two interview questions for each skill you want to assess.

The best place to start when it comes to interviews is preparing questions that assess the key skills required for a candidate to perform well on the job. Interview questions are measurement tools. We use them to measure the skills that we’ve chosen to assess. As such, it is essential that each interview question is designed to assess a specific skill.

A best practice here is to create two questions for each skill so you can observe multiple examples of a candidate’s proficiency with that skill. If your skills include critical thinking, creativity, and emotional intelligence, you will develop two questions for each of those skills for a total of six questions. 

2. Ask questions that focus on job-related information. 

As candidates respond to your questions, you want them to be revealing useful information about their skills. This will help you discern between candidates. The best questions for focusing on job-related information are situational questions. They present the candidate with hypothetical situations that reflect a problem they would commonly face on the job. 

Describe the situation, and ask candidates to explain the steps they would take to solve the problem. Not only are questions like these great predictors of job performance, but they are also viewed favorably by candidates. This is because they give them the opportunity to show how their unique skill sets are relevant to the job in question. 

3. Develop answer guides for your interview questions. 

In order to determine whether a candidate has the skills you’re looking for, you need to define what a strong answer looks like for each question. Answer guides can take multiple forms. 

One approach is to define what a great answer to each question looks like. You can do this with bulleted statements that contain action verbs, reflecting behaviors a candidate would reference in their responses. For questions that involve hypothetical situations, answer guides should include a list of essential steps a candidate should take as they approach the problem. 

Answer guides should be specific enough that they are unique to the role in question but also account for the fact that there may be multiple correct ways to answer a question and solve a problem. Thoughtfully developed answer guides help you better evaluate a single candidate. They also help you effectively compare candidates to each other by evaluating them against a standard set of criteria. 

4. Use anchored rating scales for each question. 

An anchored rating scale is an evaluation tool that includes a range of numbers that help you score a candidate’s performance on a question. Each number is associated with a description of performance for that response option. Decades of research in behavioral psychology suggests using between three and five response options. This research also promotes using both numbers and labels to depict the response options (e.g. 1 = Inadequate, 2 = Below Average, 3 = Average, 4 = Above Average, 5 = Exceptional). 

There are a few best practices to follow when it comes to using these rating scales. First, use a rating scale to rate each and every question. The rating for each question should be interpreted as the rating of the skill the question assesses (see tip #1). 

Second, have each member in an interview use the same rating scales and aggregate the ratings across interviewers, when interviews are complete. Third, decide how you will use the scores to evaluate candidates in a systematic way (e.g. add or average them to create scores for each skill that you will compare across candidates). 

5. Take notes or record your interviews. 

If you don’t have the opportunity or capacity to rate the candidates’ responses to your questions in real time, it is essential to take notes during your interview to inform your ratings afterwards. 

Even better, record and transcribe your interviews to recall each and every response verbatim. This will prevent you from having to rely on fuzzy memories and implicit biases as you rate your candidates. 
A recording and/or transcription also allows you to share your interviews with other relevant members on your hiring team to collect their evaluations of candidates. Having an accurate record of the interview and including multiple interviewers in the evaluation process will help your hiring decisions be more accurate and less biased. Ultimately, this will help you ensure you select the best person for the role.

Evaluate candidates more effectively in interviews

Learn how Hireguide applies each of these five best practices to your interviews. Open a position to select a few of the most important skills, and see how Hireguide gives you science-backed interview questions with answer guides to help you effectively assess those skills. Rate your interview questions in real time with pre-programmed anchored rating scales, and receive a recording and transcription of your interviews to share with others. These practices in Hireguide will help you vastly improve your chances of identifying the top candidate in your applicant pool. 


Beckstead, J. W. (2014). On measurements and their quality. Paper 4: Verbal anchors and the number of response options in rating scales. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 51, 807–814. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2013.09.004

Levashina, J., Hartwell, C. J., Morgeson, F. P., & Campion, M. A. (2014). The Structured Employment Interview: Narrative and Quantitative Review of the Research Literature. Personnel Psychology, 67(1), 241–293.

Schmidt, F. L. & Hunter, J. E. (1998). The Validity and Utility of Selection Methods in Personnel

Psychology: Practical and Theoretical Implications of 85 Years of Research Findings,

Psychological Bulletin, 124 (2), 262-274.

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