What to Know About the Hiring Matrix and Background Screening

Recruitment is a challenging process that never fully ends. Finding top candidates for vacancies is an ongoing effort for most companies. What each company needs is unique. Indeed, hiring is often a process that can seem very subjective. That frequently creates challenges in selecting the most qualified candidate. Multiple applicants could have similar skills and qualifications. Using a hiring matrix for background check results and other criteria can help.

What is a matrix in the hiring process? This tool can help employers imbue processes more consistently and objectively—the result is more fair recruiting practices and an equitable hiring process. A matrix defines the criteria against which you judge your candidates. This white paper scrutinizes these tools and today’s screening processes. We’ll consider who benefits and how you can create one for your business. In a tough labor market, companies should use every tool. Learn more about this one now.

Background Screening, Hiring Matrices, and More: Fair Recruiting Practices

Effective recruitment is fundamental to the success of a company, and prudent hiring matters – regardless of industry. Assembling a team of skilled and trustworthy people is the first step toward success. A fair recruitment process is vital for developing that team. You should review every applicant equally, from resumes to background screening results.

Many companies today face a challenging employment environment. According to one study by McKinsey, more than 80% of companies say significant skill gaps are an issue. These gaps make it even more imperative for recruitment and hiring processes to yield the best possible results. Meanwhile, you must comply with the law and treat every applicant fairly.

Employers have many tools at their disposal to make such a selection process a reality. Using background screening services to vet a candidate’s past is part of that process. What about creating a set of criteria for your business to evaluate every applicant? It’s possible to remove some of the subjective elements from hiring. By creating a hiring matrix that defines your standards, you can install a fair and effective. Here’s how.

What Is a Hiring Matrix and How Does it Work?

Every employer has specific qualities, skills, and other attributes they desire from job applicants. However, these characteristics are often poorly defined. A hiring manager may operate instinctively about candidate suitability. Only after identifying someone might they then turn to background check companies. Screening typically takes place after an interview and a conditional job offer.

Such workflows may work for a time on a small scale. However, this process has some inherent flaws and doesn’t scale well. As your hiring needs grow, it might be best to standardize how you screen applicants. Provide recruiters or hiring managers with a way to do evaluations at a glance. The hiring matrix is the tool that enables such a process.

The hiring matrix defined

This tool is similar to the grading rubrics teachers use. This document outlines the various categories and criteria you use to evaluate applicants. Categories can include education, experience, skills, and others. You may also define a range of ratings. For example, some companies use unacceptable to exceeds expectations.

A matrix also defines baseline expectations. A category for job experience might state that applicants must have at least two years of experience. The education category might specify specific bachelor’s or master’s degrees. When evaluating a candidate, managers refer to these guidelines in the matrix. They can then assign a score or rating in each category.

Some employers use similar matrices to score an applicant’s performance in an interview. More critically, you can use a matrix for background checks, too. Such a tool lets you define what type or category of criminal convictions you find disqualifying. This step introduces consistency to subjective decisions. That consistent decision-making helps guard against future claims of discrimination. You can also choose those convictions using EEOC background check guidelines.

A complete matrix offers a detailed look at a candidate’s suitability. They also provide an easy way to compare candidates.

Who needs to use a hiring matrix?

Anyone can use a customized one. Employers who desire more control over hiring often use them. However, you aren’t likely to find this tool in use for many entry-level employment positions. Such roles typically don’t require as much consideration. For example, the manager at the local McDonald’s is likely more interested in someone’s availability than their educational history.

The criminal background check matrix can still be helpful in such roles—they could be a valuable tool across entire organizations. With a matrix, hiring teams understand when they have flexibility and when they don’t. For example, a DUI will likely always be a disqualifier for a driving job. The same might not be valid for a data entry job. The matrix gives HR teams context and insight into evaluating background checks for employment.

A matrix system can also be advantageous in bigger or specialized companies. Hiring managers should use this tool to evaluate candidates more equitably. For example, you may use the matrix as an initial tool for selecting candidates to interview.

Where and when should you implement a hiring matrix?

It can be a valuable tool in many spaces. Education, healthcare, the legal sector, and many others can benefit. That value is substantial in areas where fair chance laws and regulations exist. Many of these laws require employers to conduct individualized assessments of every applicant. A matrix is also helpful for job openings in a highly competitive environment with many applicants.

Some companies choose to adopt matrices after running into legal compliance issues. Others prefer to use them to establish compliance and fairness from the start. You may use a matrix to score a candidate at any point in the process. However, to be thorough, it is advisable to start completing your evaluation form from the outset.

You may also create a matrix at the end of the process. This document can combine all candidate scores into one sheet for a more direct comparison.

How to implement a hiring matrix in your business

What should you do when you decide that a matrix is the right tool for your business? Creating one is simple, but it can take some time to fine-tune everything precisely to your needs. Most companies generate a matrix using spreadsheet software like Microsoft Excel. Let’s discuss how to get started.

  1. Determine what qualifications and criteria you want to evaluate for every candidate. Give these categories descriptive names. Create a column for scoring them for each applicant. Include elements such as education, experience, licensing, and certifications. Make columns for any other critical skills or needs the job requires.
  2. Create a rating scale that you can use in your matrix. Some choose descriptive language, while others prefer a numerical system. Some categories may simply be a pass-or-fail system. Comparing candidates is most manageable with consistent scoring.
  3. Develop guidelines for completing the matrix. Define expectations for each job role. If desired, set threshold scores applicants must reach to enter the next stage.
  4. Incorporate elements related to a vetting and screening service, such as background check results. Remember, you cannot deny applicants merely because they have a criminal record. Consider records using the EEOC factors of age, relevance, and rehabilitative efforts. Define hard limits that might disqualify candidates. For example, murder or manslaughter, rape, or violent assaults may all be disqualifiers for hiring.
  5. Train staff on using the matrix and emphasize the need to stick to the rating system for all applicants.
  6. Periodically, you may revisit how you set up and score your matrix. Real-world hiring results might mean you need to adjust expectations.

Leveling the playing field: why a matrix matters

Hiring has traditionally involved numerous subjective opinions. To some extent, that’s a feature of the system, not a fault. Employers want control over who’s on their team. Having a good rapport and building your envisioned culture requires being selective. However, there are also many more important considerations—personality is only one.

These other considerations deserve honest scrutiny. Consider that for some positions; you might have multiple candidates whose qualifications are all similar. You may even like all of them equally as potential employees.

In such situations, scoring a matrix can help you detect subtle differences. That may support tough decisions where you can’t choose between two candidates. Matrix scores can also make it clear sooner when someone doesn’t meet your standards.

Decision-Making Tools: Using a Background Check Service

Let’s talk about another element we’ve touched upon already: including background checks in the process. Fairness is of the utmost importance in this hiring stage. So, too, is your selection of the right tools for the job. Companies face an increasingly complex regulatory environment. Building a system for evaluating background checks that comply with the law and provide critical insights is vital.

Fair chance and ban the box laws don’t aim to tie a hiring manager’s hands. You don’t have to hire anyone you don’t trust. Instead, the goal is to ensure that everyone receives fair treatment. Ultimately, that’s the same reason companies develop a hiring matrix. As you explore adopting a background check process, it’s advisable to understand why they matter so much.

Why is employment background screening so important to recruiting?

A candidate could look almost perfect on your hiring matrix scorecard—you run their background check and discover a felony criminal record. It might be for assault, embezzlement, petty theft, or many other crimes. Regardless, a criminal record may give you pause. Even a high-level misdemeanor record can make some employers wary. You must gather the facts and evaluate them in the full context of your applicant’s suitability.

Remember, background checks aren’t meant to exclude candidates or unnecessarily restrict your hiring pool. Instead, background checks serve the following purposes:

  • Fully inform you about a candidate’s past.
  • Help you evaluate an applicant’s trustworthiness and safety.
  • Meet requirements for hiring in regulated positions (e.g., childcare or law enforcement).

How background checks factor into a hiring decision

How much weight should you give to a background check and its results? Ultimately, that’s an employer’s decision. Provided you don’t discriminate, you retain control over whom you hire and how you choose them. However, the results of the vetting process can reveal much.

A clean record is no guarantee that a person will never break the law in the future. However, it is a green light for many employers. A clear record can be a decisive factor in a candidate’s favor. You may wish to discuss a minor record with otherwise suitable applicants. Someone with a serious criminal record may need to provide more information about why they should be awarded the position. How much weight you give to background checks depends on your business, its needs, and local laws.

Tips for practical background check usage

How can you best use background checks during the recruitment process? There are a few essential tips and tricks every employer should know. Developing a strategy is unique to every business, as no two companies have the exact needs. However, everyone should remember the following:

  • You must have a legally compliant background check form. Applicants must provide their consent for you to use background checks. This form includes a mandatory standalone disclosure of their rights under the FCRA.
  • Cast a wide net first, then narrow your focus if you uncover adverse information. A record search of a multi-jurisdictional database is an excellent place to start. County-level or state-level background checks provide additional information.
  • Always review local regulations to see if you must delay background checks under ban the box laws.
  • Create a background check matrix. Define hard limits for hiring, such as a conviction for assault with a deadly weapon. Evaluate every candidate and charge individually. However, provide clarity for what you consider unsuitable.

Keep in mind that background checks go beyond criminal records, too. You may need to verify your educational history, licensing, and more. Choose a screening partner that provides all these services under one roof.

The Pros and Cons of Interview Matrix Scoring

Let’s explore another area where you can standardize your evaluations: the interview. Much like the more general stage of evaluating a candidate, an interview matrix is a tool to use during the job interview. These are especially useful when you have a set of questions you ask every applicant.

What is interview matrix scoring?

It is like the hiring matrix, except applied to a different stage of the process. It seeks to evaluate a candidate’s performance during a job interview. This evaluation usually focuses on their answers to your questions. It may include other elements, such as appearance, punctuality, or professionalism. Some employers score a separate matrix for this process. Others add it to their larger hiring rubric. Other employers may choose to use a matrix only for the interview.

The advantages and disadvantages of interview matrix scoring

A candidate’s resume and qualifications are verifiable facts. So, too, is their criminal record. Scoring these on a matrix makes sense, as comparing a candidate’s suitability is simpler. However, interviews present a more challenging and particular environment. Some employers may use a hiring matrix but may not score an interview similarly. Understanding this tool’s pros and cons can help select the most suitable candidates.


  • You can make your interviews more consistent with standard questions and expected answers.
  • You can achieve more objectivity. Multiple interviewers may introduce bias, but a matrix gives these teams a guide for achieving consistency.
  • You can note observations and thoughts about a candidate’s responses. These notes can later factor into the overall evaluation.

However, there are some drawbacks:

  • Standardized questions can attract generic answers. They may not always give you a complete sense of an applicant’s capabilities.
  • Interviews are inherently subjective, even with a matrix. No individual can be truly impartial, and unconscious biases can always enter the process.
  • Using a matrix can distract interviewers, leading to less accurate perceptions.

Ultimately, your unique circumstances will determine if you should score interviews.

Creating a Fair, Inclusive Hiring Process Matters

A fair, equitable recruitment process can only benefit your business. Guard against discrimination and filter for higher-quality candidates. Level the playing field to limit the impacts of bias and prejudice. A well-designed process can elevate those best suited for the job. Many tools are available from background screening companies and beyond to achieve that outcome.

Using a hiring matrix can help. Standardizing your considerations in many areas may provide much-needed clarity. Matrices work well for evaluating resumes, background checks, and interviews. Implementing these tools today can position your business to meet essential staffing requirements. Simultaneously, you can better navigate today’s regulatory environment. Consider using a hiring matrix and a background check to establish the best possible team today.

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Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based backgroundchecks.com with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments

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