How to make an interview scorecard for Software Engineering

How to Make an Interview Scorecard for Software Engineers

An Engineering Manager’s guide to assessing tech candidates

6 June 2023

TL;DR — key takeaways

  • An interview scorecard is a rating system for objectively assessing candidates’ skills. The scorecard system increases the fairness of interviews and provides data-driven insight that supports better hiring decisions.
  • But there are even more benefits — reducing personal bias, spotting top talent faster, and ultimately streamlining the hiring process.
  • We also unpack the best way to create and use interview scorecards to help the hiring team stay focused and gain the most from an initial interview with a candidate.
  • Combining practical HR tools, like an interview scorecard template, with other resources like job task analyses and skills assessments will help your team save valuable time and effort.
  • Have a specific intent for each candidate interaction to answer a question, e.g.:
    – Can they communicate? ➡ Intro
    – Can they code? ➡ Tech Screen
    – How well can they code? ➡ Tech Assessment
    – Do they fit with the team? ➡ Team Fit
    – Do they fit with the culture? ➡ Culture Fit
  • Make sure everyone – including the candidate – is clear on what the intention is for each interaction, as well as establishing a consistent means of evaluating that aspect of the candidate within the interaction

General principles for tech scorecards:

  • Set the expectation that the scorecard will be filled out immediately after the candidate interaction
  • Encourage this with a supplemental appointment on people’s calendar immediately following the meeting
  • Encourage independent review – ask people not to discuss until after they filled out their evaluations
  • Have an end of day debrief with to go over the responses
  • Don’t let people into the room until they filled out their scorecards – ask them to take 5 minutes and fill it out while everyone else waits. People generally shape up after a couple misfires
  • Keep the meeting short [30 minutes] – use it to clarify and allow people to give additional context where reviews disagree on dimensions.
  • Design your candidate interactions so that possible candidates can be eliminated with the least amount of effort overall. Save the “expensive” interactions for only the candidates who progress to the latest stages
  • Everyone should understand the interview process and what their expected role is for the candidate interaction

What to expect or assess in each step of your interview process


Intro Conversation

Conducted by: hiring manager ideally or a well briefed TA partner

Can this person interact in a manner which will be productive to the process?

  • My personal goal is to evaluate how quickly the conversation goes from feeling like an interrogation to a conversation.
  • 5 minutes or less is great
  • 5-10 minutes is ok
  • 10-15 is a rejection
  • At the 15 minute mark I will end the call early if there’s no conversation


Technical screen

Conducted by: subject matter experts – ideally the people who will handle the Technical Assessment

Does this person know the technologies and skills they would need to apply?  It should take the candidate no more than an hour or two to complete. It should take the reviewers a similar amount of time to assess and grade.

  • In all cases, the tests should be able to be scored on a quantitative basis.
  • Have a passing/failing grade threshold. Increase the difficulty of the quiz or raise the score threshold so that you’re only passing no more than 50% of candidates to the next stage
  • In the case of a technical position, a “spot the differences” kind of test with real examples from your codebase to evaluate Can They Code
  • In the case of a non-technical position, a short quiz with basic role related/situational problems to solve taken from real events in the environment, possibly with multiple choice answers


Technical assessment

Conducted by: the SMEs who reviewed the skills quiz

How well does this person know the subject?

  • Use the technical quiz as a jumping off point – modify things in the situations presented to see how the candidate reacts
  • Focus on “How they know” more than “What they know”
  • The reviewers are looking to be able to definitely state they would work with this person by the end of the interaction.


Cultural Evaluation

Conducted by: Hiring manager/leadership

Does this person inherently display most of the behaviours and values that are part of our culture?

  • This can be supported by using the same tools and frameworks you use for internal performance evaluation
  • I usually do this before the Team Fit to keep from wasting the team’s time
  • In the case where the team is strong and engaged, it might be more productive to do the Team Fit first to reinforce culturally beneficial dynamics and lean more heavily on their opinion than mine.


Found these insights useful?
Have a look at our Engineering Managers Guide to Assessing Technical Candidates.