What to Know About the Hiring Matrix & Background Screening

Recruitment is a challenging process that never fully ends. Finding and evaluating the best candidates for the job is an ongoing process for most companies. For a process that can be very subjective, that may mean facing difficulties in choosing among well-qualified candidates with similar histories, background screening results, and more.

The “hiring matrix” tool can help employers untangle this complex web to achieve a fairer, more equitable hiring process. Our new white paper looks at the hiring matrix, who can benefit from them, and how to develop one for your business. In a tough labor market, companies should use every tool at their disposal. 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, no matter its industry or the products and services it provides. Assembling a team of skilled, motivated, and trustworthy individuals is the first step toward executing your vision. A fair recruitment process that reviews every applicant equally, from their resumes to background screening, is vital for building that team.

Many companies today face a challenging employment environment. According to one study by McKinsey, more than 80% of companies say they’re experiencing significant skill gaps—or they expect to have that problem soon. These gaps make it even more imperative to conduct recruitment and hiring processes that yield the best possible results. Meanwhile, you must comply with the law and treat every applicant fairly.

There are many tools employers have at their disposal to make such a process a reality. Using background screening services to vet a candidate’s past is just one element you should consider, though. What about creating a set of criteria for your business to evaluate every applicant? By taking some of the subjective guesswork out of hiring and creating a “hiring matrix” that defines your standards, you can create a process that’s both fair and effective. Here’s how.

The Hiring Matrix: What is it, and How Does it Work?

Every employer has specific qualities, skills, and other attributes they desire and need from job applicants. However, these attributes are often poorly defined or even murky. Some hiring managers operate on an “I know it when I see it” basis about candidate suitability, only working with background screening companies to confirm their candidate choice.

Such a hiring workflow has some inherent flaws, though it may work for a time on a small business level. As you need to hire more people regularly, it can be conducive to standardizing your considerations to provide an “at a glance” means of evaluating and comparing candidates. This glance is where the hiring matrix is most beneficial.

The hiring matrix defined

The simplest way to explain a hiring matrix is to compare it to a grading rubric similar to what teachers use to grade assignments such as essays and research papers. A matrix lays out the various categories and criteria by which you will evaluate a candidate, such as their education, job experience, skills, and more. You also define a range of ratings, from “unacceptable” to “exceeds expectations.”

The matrix should cover all the essential criteria you anticipate using to evaluate a candidate. When looking at an application, you will follow the matrix, assigning grades or numerical scores in each category. Combined with a similar matrix used for interviews, you can end up with a comprehensive look at a candidate’s suitability and an easy way to compare candidates.

Who needs to use a hiring matrix?

Anyone can choose to use a hiring matrix if they decide it would simplify evaluation and selection for HR teams. However, you aren’t likely to find this kind of tool in use for many entry-level employment positions that don’t require specific skills or education. For example, the manager at the local McDonald’s is likely more interested in someone’s schedule availability than their educational history.

However, equipping HR with a matrix system can be advantageous in larger or growing companies in more specialized spaces. Hiring managers should use this tool to evaluate candidates more equitably. For example, you may use the matrix as an initial tool for selecting which candidates you will move from the application stage to the interview stage.

Where and when should you implement one?

The hiring matrix can be a valuable tool in educational institutions, healthcare, the legal sector, and many more professional sectors. That value is substantial in areas where “fair chance” laws require employers to conduct “individualized assessments” of every candidate. A matrix is also helpful for job openings in a highly competitive environment with many applicants.

Some companies choose to adopt this type of evaluative approach after running into issues with legal compliance. Others choose to use them to establish a robust environment of compliance and fairness from the start. You may choose to use a matrix for scoring a candidate at any point in the process, but it is wise to start filling out your evaluation from the start to capture your most vital impressions.

You may also create a matrix at the end of the process that combines 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 template using their spreadsheet software, such as Microsoft Excel, for ease of use. Let’s discuss how to create a matrix once you’ve started.

1. Determine what qualifications and criteria you want to evaluate for every candidate. Give these categories descriptive names and create a column for scoring them for an applicant. They should include elements such as education, experience, licensing, training certifications, and any other critical components for the job role.

2. Create a rating scale that you can use in your matrix. Some choose descriptive language, while others prefer a numerical system. A numerical system may be more beneficial for businesses that want to compare candidates.

3. Develop guidelines for filling out the matrix. Define expectations for each job role and, if desired, set benchmark levels that candidates should reach in scoring to move on to the next stage, whether it’s hiring or an interview.

4. Incorporate elements related to vetting and screening, such as background check results. Remember, you cannot deny applicants merely because they have a criminal record. Use the EEOC factors of age, relevance, and rehabilitative efforts to score any troubling criminal records.

5. Train staff on using the matrix and emphasize the need to stick to the rating system for all applicants.

Periodically, you may revisit your matrix based on real-world results to adjust expectations or scoring parameters.

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 just one.

These other considerations deserve an honest look. Consider that for some positions, you might have multiple candidates who are all very closely clustered regarding their qualifications. You may even like all of them equally as potential employees. 

In such situations, scoring a matrix and being ready for review can help you make the tough decisions when you’re torn between two equally qualified candidates. Conversely, a matrix score might also indicate when a candidate has simply not cleared the bar you set.

Decision-Making Tools: Using Background Screening Services and Check Forms

Now, let’s pivot to 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, as is your selection of the right tools for the job. With an increasingly complex regulatory environment, building a system for evaluating background checks in your business that is compliant and sensible is vital.

Fair chance and “ban the box” laws aim not to tie your hands or force you to hire a candidate you don’t trust. Instead, the goal is to ensure that everyone receives fair treatment—the same goal you might have in mind for developing a hiring matrix. As you explore adopting background check processes, 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—until you run their background check and discover a felony criminal record, whether it’s assault or embezzlement, that will give you pause. Even a misdemeanor record can make some employers wary. Still, a closer evaluation could reveal nothing to worry about, or you may decide your risk tolerance is not strong enough to give a candidate with convictions a role in your business.

Remember, background check service aims not to exclude candidates or narrow your pool substantially. Instead, background checks serve the following purposes:

  • Fully informing you about a candidate’s past.
  • Helping you evaluate a candidate’s trustworthiness and safety.
  • Meeting requirements for hiring in certain regulated positions (e.g., childcare or law enforcement).

How background checks factor into hiring decisions

How much weight should you give to a background check and its results? Ultimately, that’s an employer’s decision—provided you don’t act in a discriminatory manner, you retain control over whom you hire and how you choose them. However, the results of the process can tell you many things

A clean record is no guarantee that a person will never break the law in the future, but it can be a decisive factor in a candidate’s favor when you’ve already determined they’re a suitable match. A minor record could be worth discussing, and someone with a serious criminal record may need to provide more information about why they should receive the position. How much weight you give to background checks depends on your business, its needs, and local laws.

Tips for effective background check usage

How can you best use background checks during the recruitment process? That’s a big question, but there are a few essential tips and tricks every employer should know. Building a strategy is unique to every business, as no two companies have the exact needs. However, everyone should keep the following in mind:

  • You must have a legally compliant background check form to give applicants to obtain their consent to use background checks. This form includes a mandatory standalone disclosure of their rights under the FCRA.
  • You should cast a wide net and narrow your focus if you uncover potentially unwelcome information. A search of a nationwide curated database of records is a good place to start, followed by state and county-level background checks as needed.
  • Always review local regulations to see if you must delay background checks or follow special procedures under “ban the box” laws.
  • Remember that a criminal record does not predict future behavior, just as a clean record doesn’t.
  • Keep in mind that vetting goes beyond criminal records—you may need to verify 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

Finally, 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 gives you 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?

An interview matrix is just like a hiring matrix, except it seeks to evaluate a candidate’s performance during a job interview. This evaluation includes their answers to your questions and other elements, such as appearance, punctuality, professionalism, etc. Some employers score a separate matrix for this process, while others build it into their larger hiring rubric. Some 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 objective facts, as is their criminal record. Scoring these on a matrix makes sense, as comparing one candidate’s capabilities is simpler. However, interviews present a more challenging and subjective environment. Some employers may choose to use a hiring matrix but may not score an interview the same way. Understanding the pros and cons of this tool is critical to evaluating whether the candidate is a suitable match for your business.

In the “pros” column:

  • You can make your interviews more consistent with standard questions and expected answers.
  • You can try to build more objectivity into the interview process, ensuring that multiple interviewers can produce similar hiring quality results.
  • You can note observations and thoughts about a candidate’s responses or behavior to factor into the overall evaluation.

However, there are some drawbacks:

  • Standardized questions can attract generic answers or 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 personal biases will always enter the process.
  • Filling out a matrix can distract interviewers, leading to less accurate perceptions.

Ultimately, whether to score interviews or not is a decision you’ll need to make based on your business needs.

Building a Fair, Inclusive Hiring Process Matters

A fair, equitable recruitment process protects your business from discrimination claims and may yield a higher-quality candidate. Giving everyone a fair chance and evaluation helps limit the impacts of bias and prejudice while elevating those best suited for your position.

Using a hiring matrix and other decision-making tools, such as background screening, is vital in standardizing and streamlining your recruitment process. Implementing these tools today can better position your business to meet staffing requirements while navigating today’s regulatory environment. By evaluating candidates thoroughly on their own merits, you can prepare yourself to build the best possible team.

Source: https://www.mckinsey.com/capabilities/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/beyond-hiring-how-companies-are-reskilling-to-address-talent-gaps

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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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