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The #1 Tool for Evaluating a Candidate During an Interview (It’s Not Your Gut Feeling)

Throughout my career in executive search, I’ve worked with and met many other executive recruiters. It has always surprised me how few of them develop and use scorecards to assess and compare candidates.

Using a scorecard is absolutely essential for two main reasons. First of all, it adds objectivity to the assessment and selection process and prevents people from making decisions based on gut feeling. Secondly, it ensures that everyone on the hiring team understands what the ideal candidate looks like. In this article, you will learn how to develop and use a scorecard, so that you can make better hiring decisions.

What should you include on your scorecard?

Before you create your scorecard, determine what the position needs to accomplish to be considered a success. Focus on your top goals for the role, and be as specific as possible. For example, if your company is hiring a VP of Sales, one of the top goals for the role could be to increase sales by 25% over the next two years.

After you have established the top goals for the role, work backwards to identify the top criteria that candidates need to possess in order to accomplish your goals. Avoid using “x” years of experience for any of your criteria. As discussed here, a “years of experience” requirement is an arbitrary and ineffective way to evaluate candidates. Instead, focus on what candidates have achieved. Here are some specific examples of what you could include on a scorecard:

  • Functional experience: Be specific when thinking about functional experience. For example, imagine that a company wants to hire a new CHRO to boost its employee engagement scores. Rather than requiring a certain number of years of HR experience (what most job descriptions do), a much better metric would be “a track record of boosting employee engagement scores.”
  • Industry experience: This need not be in your industry. In fact, you might actually want someone from a completely different one. For example, imagine that a brick-and-mortar fitness franchise wants to hire a Chief Digital Officer to develop the company’s first digital offering. In that case, it might want to hire someone from a top consumer technology company, rather than someone from another fitness franchise. As a result, one of the scorecard criteria could be “experience working for a leading B2C technology company.”
  • Situational experience: This refers to experience working for companies of a certain size or stage and/or companies that are facing a certain kind of situation. For example, imagine that a company is a start-up and it is hiring its first VP of Operations. In that case, one of the scorecard criteria could be “experience working in a start-up environment.” As another example, imagine that a company is hiring a new CFO, and the company plans to go public in the next year or so. In that case, one of the scorecard criteria could be “experience taking a company public.”
  • Leadership experience: This refers to experience leading a certain kind of company and/or team. For example, imagine that a company is hiring a CTO who will lead a group of engineers located in five different countries. In that case, one of the scorecard criteria could be “experience leading a geographically dispersed team of engineers.”
  • Intangibles: In addition to tangible work experience, include several intangibles on your scorecard as well. Think about the type of person that will be most likely to succeed in your company in a specific role. For example, imagine that a company is hiring a VP of Sales to turn-around a struggling sales department. In that case, “resilience” would be a trait that would likely be very important.

How many criteria should be on your scorecard?

My recommendation is to develop a scorecard with 3-4 tangible criteria and 3-4 intangible criteria. While it’s always possible to have more for each, it’s difficult to evaluate and compare candidates across more than 6-8 dimensions. Determine up-front what you think is most essential for success.

Whatever you decide on, assign each candidate a rating of 1-5 for each dimension (with 5 being “exceptional”). However, don’t average out a candidate’s ratings to come up with an average score for each candidate. Doing so would assume that each dimension is equally important, and that will never be the case. Instead, compare the various ratings for each candidate with the various ratings for the other candidates.

Consider the size of the talent pool

As you think about your scorecard criteria, consider how many people actually meet those criteria. If you are not confident that there are at least 25 “qualified” candidates in your region (no relocation required), that is not a good sign.

You can certainly still start by targeting a smaller batch of candidates who hit the bulls-eye. However, be prepared to expand your criteria if you aren’t making progress.

In addition, consider the salary requirements that your ideal candidates are likely to have. High performers rarely make a move unless they can increase the total value of their compensation package by at least 10-20%. However, hiring managers are often unaware of or unrealistic about the compensation package that will be required to attract the best candidates.

P.S. Looking for more help with your company’s executive recruiting efforts?

Download my free eBook below, or contact me directly to schedule a call.

About the author: As the Founder of Stronger Talent, Pete Leibman recruits exceptional leaders for innovative sports, fitness, and wellness companies. Throughout his career, Pete has helped clients recruit exceptional leaders at the Board, C-Suite, Senior Vice President, Vice President, General Manager, Managing Director, and Director levels. Pete’s work has been featured on Fox News, CBS Radio, and, and he is the author of two books and over 250 articles on career management, peak performance, and executive recruiting.

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