Behavioral Interview Scoring Matrix: A Template & Simple Guide

Posted on August 8, 2023

Behavioral Interview Scoring Matrix Header Image

What’s the first thing you look for when hiring a new candidate? Their skills? Their experience? Their qualifications?

According to a Monster survey, employers say finding skilled candidates will be their top challenge this year. So, it's no surprise that you’d want to find out as much as possible about a candidate’s experience.

But on top of this, you need people that align with your business values. The right candidate will work well with your team and thrive in your company culture.

A behavioral interview scoring matrix can help you find your company’s A-players, the all-rounders that fit just right in their role and on your team.

In this article, we’ll show you what a behavioral interview scoring matrix is, how to use it effectively, and give you a downloadable matrix template you can use to get the ball rolling.

Table of contents

What is the behavioral interview scoring matrix?

A behavioral interview scoring matrix (sometimes known as a hiring matrix) is a recruitment framework that measures how candidates behave and respond to different situations.

Candidates draw from their experience to answer a series of competency-based questions. Their answers show how they’ve performed in the past, their skills, and whether they’d be a good fit for the role.

Here’s a good example of a behavioral interview scoring matrix:

Screenshot of Behavioral interview scoring matrix example
Source: HRSG

The process involves using purposefully designed standardized questions and an interview scorecard (or interview rubric) to rate candidates based on their skills, experience, values, and cultural fit. (We’ll cover what questions to ask in a moment.)

Using a behavioral matrix like the one above allows you to predetermine questions based on each section, giving you a complete picture of your candidate while minimizing any first impression bias (more on this later too).

At the end of the interview, you’ll tally up the results within your applicant tracking system to determine the candidate's overall interview rating. From here, you can compare the results to make efficient hiring decisions.

How to use the interview scoring matrix

Let’s take a look at some best practices when using an interview scoring matrix. We’ll also explore each section of the scorecard and determine the types of questions to ask.

1. Create a rating scale

Your rating scale is the scoring system you use to evaluate candidates. It’s a simple, efficient, and fair way to determine which candidates are right for the job.

Here’s an example of a candidate scorecard that uses a 5-point rating scale:

Screenshot of candidate scorecard example

Add up the total score, compare all candidate’s scores, and you’ll see who ranks the highest. This is likely the best person for the job.

To create your own rating scale, start by establishing your hiring criteria. Outline the skills, experience, and values that your ideal candidate must have. Here are some areas you might want to consider:

  • Job requirements and competencies are practical skills that relate to the role. For example, if you’re recruiting a sales manager, the ideal candidate will have experience closing deals, leading a team of reps, and training reps.
  • Soft skills are the way you work and interact with others. They include critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, and teamwork. These skills are often the focus of behavioral interview questions as they help you understand how a candidate behaves and responds to certain situations.
  • Core values represent a candidate's priorities and beliefs. In behavioral interviews, questions about core values determine if the candidate has similar values to the company. This helps the hiring manager determine if they’d be a good cultural fit for the business.

With your hiring criteria and competencies in place, you can create your rating scale.

Aim for around five rankings on your scale and decide on what you’re measuring. You could use our example above, evaluating to what standard candidates meet your criteria. But there are other measurements that may work better for your role.

For example, you could adjust the five-point scale to reflect experience:

  • 1 = no experience
  • 2 = limited experience
  • 3 = standard experience
  • 4 = multiple extensive experiences
  • 5 = extensive and exceptional experience

You’ll struggle to compare candidates with less than five rankings (we’ll discuss this in more detail later).

2. Choose the interview questions

All your questions are pre-planned when using a scoring matrix. The tricky part is asking the right questions and ensuring they align with your hiring criteria.

No company is the same, so you’ll want to focus on questions that make sense for your business. For example, a creative agency will want to ask questions about the creative process, from concepts to production. They’ll opt for more creative competencies. A technology company may focus more on problem-solving and communication skills.

To know where to focus your questions, you’ll need to know which skills you’re targeting and how they’re typically expressed on a successful project at your company.

Take a look at these behavioral questions as an example:

Screenshot of competency-based behavioral interview questions
Source: Resumeway

All of these questions align with specific hiring criteria. It helps you ask questions relevant to the specific skills and personal traits required for the job.

Take these best practices into account when creating your job interview questions.

Have supporting questions for your main questions

Candidates get nervous, forget things, and may not give you the information you need to determine if they’re right for the job. If you feel like a candidate could expand on their answer, have some related questions in place.

Imagine asking a candidate to describe a time they had to lead a team. To dig a little deeper, you could ask follow-up questions like:

  • What was the hardest part about leading a team?
  • How did you overcome any hurdles?
  • How did you implement new management methods?

All of these questions encourage the candidate to expand on their original answer.

Make your questions open-ended

Open questions encourage people to provide thorough and detailed answers, whereas closed questions can prevent this from happening.

It’s a great way to encourage candidates to elaborate on their answers; if you ask a closed question, the candidate can simply answer with “yes” or “no.”

Here are a few examples of how you can change closed questions to open-ended questions.

Closed questionOpen-ended questions
Have you overcome any challenges in your previous role?What challenges have you overcome in your previous role?
Can you tell me about your work experience?How will your work experience help you in this role?
Do you have experience leading a team? Tell me about a time when you led a team and explain what happened.

Note responses that fall outside the remit of your questions

The matrix offers structure for your interviews, but you should allow some room for notes outside your pre-planned questions.

For example, the interviewee might not have experience in a certain area, but they could have relatable skills that transfer to the role. The Monster survey linked above found that 63% of employers are willing to hire someone with transferable skills, so it’s not unheard of.

Note these skills down in your matrix and consider them when making your final decision.

3. Review and compare candidate responses

When the interview wraps up, it’s time to review the scorecard and determine which candidate is right for the job.

Here’s what you need to do.

  • Tally the scores. Start by adding up the scores for each candidate. Review which candidates rank well in certain areas and who ranks well overall. This will help you make an informed and unbiased hiring decision.
  • Discuss the candidates with the hiring team. Choosing a new employee should be a collaborative process. When all the scores are tallied up, review all the candidates with the hiring team.

Discuss the pros and cons of each interviewee, along with their scores, and take everyone’s perspective into account (sometimes this is best done by writing opinions down to avoid the loudest voice being the only one that’s heard). By the end of this process, the hiring team should agree on who they think would be the best fit.

  • Review any additional notes. Before you make your final decision, don’t forget to review any notes you have for answers that fall outside the pre-planned questions. Any transferable skills from other areas should be considered.
  • Make a decision. After reviewing all the interview notes, feedback, and scores, you can make your final hiring decision. When it comes to hiring and onboarding a new employee, take a look at how Polymer can help you manage the process.

As a hiring platform, we’ve got all the features you need to streamline your entire hiring operation. Polymer can even deliver documents or assessments with templated messages when candidates move to the next stage.

A behavioral interview scoring matrix template

To create your own matrix, take a look at our behavioral interview scoring matrix template:

Screenshot of behavioral interview scoring matrix template on google sheet

Feel free to download and use this template to guide your next hiring round.

What are the advantages of using structured interviews?

Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of using the behavioral matrix and having a structured interview process.

Reduce bias by using the same set of questions

Everyone has biases. Whether it’s the clothes you like to wear, the music you listen to, or the food you eat, we all have cultural preferences that inform our opinions—and occasionally lead to errors in judgment.

Certain biases can negatively impact your hiring process, often without you even knowing.

Imagine you have two candidates interviewing for the same role. One of the interviewers has a similar background and hobbies to one of the candidates. They immediately bond over their shared interests.

Without a structured interview in place, here’s what could happen:

  • The interviewer may ask easier questions without realizing it. Why? Because they subconsciously want the candidate to do well.
  • The interviewer could perceive their answers in a different light. This is known as confirmation bias. The interviewer wants the candidate to succeed, so attributes more success to their answers than the same answer given by a different candidate.
  • The interviewer might respond differently to their answers. For example, the interviewer might encourage or guide the candidate to the “correct” answer.

These are just a few examples of how first impression bias can unfairly influence an unstructured interview process.

A hiring matrix creates a fairer hiring process. You use the same questions and structure for every interview, reducing the chances of unintentional favoritism or discrimination.

Create consistency across the hiring process

Having a structured interview process creates consistency across the business. You know what questions to ask, the order of the questions, and how to score the responses. There’s no confusion among interviewers because it's all preplanned and the same process for every candidate.

Without a matrix, interviews could lack structure. For example, if you don’t have predetermined questions, one interview could last 30 minutes, while another could last two hours. It’s fairer and easier to manage time with planned questions.

A clear and consistent interview process gives candidates a better experience. Put yourself in the shoes of a job seeker. If you attend an interview that feels unprepared and unstructured, it’s hard to gather your thoughts. What should feel like a good conversation jumps from one topic to the next with no clear direction and doesn’t give a great impression of the company.

If you go to an interview that’s structured and well-planned, the process feels less overwhelming. The questions are concise, and you move through the interview with a clear direction. As a candidate, this makes the interview easier to follow and shows you that the company has put time and consideration into the process.

A company that cares about its interviews is a company that wants to attract top talent. It’s a good sign for candidates and a better process for employers.

Easier to review and compare candidates

Everyone is ranked against the same criteria when using an interview matrix. For example, let’s say you ask each candidate the following question about customer service.

How have you improved customer relationships in your previous role?

Here’s how the candidates’ answers look in a comparison:

Screenshot of candidate’s answers comparison

You can plainly see which candidate offers the best answer, making it easy for you to compare. Do this for the whole interview process, and you’ll get a good idea of who’s right for the job.

You can also assign numerical values to the answers to see who ranks highest overall. This will show you your top contender when making your final hiring decision.

Are there any drawbacks to be aware of?

Although using an interview matrix has a lot of benefits, there are some hurdles to be aware of. Here are some of the most common challenges.

People change, and so do their behaviors

People grow and evolve over time. How you tackled a challenge at work a few years ago might be completely different from how you’d tackle it today. But when it comes to behavioral interviewing, you’re relying on past experience to make your hiring decision.

Let’s say you ask a candidate the following question.

Can you tell me about a difficult professional relationship and how you overcame it?

The candidate tells you that a difference of opinion caused a riff with their manager several years ago. They resolved the issue by distancing themselves from their manager, letting the disagreement fizzle out.

This disagreement happened a long time ago. Who’s to say the candidate would respond the same way now?

The behavioral interview scoring matrix is useful for understanding more about a candidate's behavior — but it doesn't always give you an accurate representation of how someone might behave today.

Reviewing past behavior to determine future behavior isn't always accurate, so be sure to include follow-up questions like:

Would you tackle this issue the same way today?

Using a simple rating scale? Comparing candidates could be tricky

A simple rating scale makes the interview process easier for you. You have fewer options to choose from, making the interview quicker and easier to run. But a simple rating scale reduces the variance in your results, making it harder to choose the best candidate if the results are close.

Let’s say your rating scale has two options — unsatisfactory and satisfactory. If you have six candidates and four provide a “satisfactory” answer, how will you know which candidate gave the best answer?

You need a more complex scale to find the top candidate. With more ratings to choose from, you get a broader spectrum of how to categorize answers. Though it takes more time to evaluate, this makes it easier to compare candidates and review their responses in the long run.

Using a complex rating scale? Prepare to spend more time interviewing and reviewing candidates

If you use a complex rating scale (with more than five ratings), you’ll be able to evaluate candidates accurately — but you’ll also need to spend more time on the entire process.

  • More preparation. Creating a more complex rating scale will take longer than a simple two-option scale. You’ll need to figure out exactly how many ratings are ideal for you and how you’ll categorize them, which means dedicating time to getting your interview process set up properly.
  • Longer interviews. With a larger rating scale, the interviewing process is more nuanced. You have more options to choose from and more detail to sift through, meaning that it’s more time-consuming in the interview and when comparing candidates.

Despite the added time and preparation, we’d recommend using a complex rating scale over a very simple one (with five options ideal for most businesses). It’s the best way to compare your candidates and make sure you’re reviewing them fairly.

Use a behavioral interview scoring matrix to find the right fit for your business

A behavioral matrix is a great way to find a candidate with the job-related skills and personality to deliver great work and fit within your company culture.

The scorecard’s predetermined questions help to reduce bias, create consistency across the hiring team, and make it easy to review and compare all your candidates.

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