A rating scale or benchmark is used to evaluate candidates’ responses and behaviours in assessment activities.
A systematic approach to assessing candidates involves:
- applying the same approach to all candidates
- all assessors using the same approach
- applying the method consistently.
Rating scales or benchmarks should be used to evaluate the capabilities or other essential requirements being assessed, not skill on the assessment itself (e.g. interview technique).
The consistent use of a standardised rating scale:
- allows for comparison between the ratings of different assessors
- enables meaningful comparisons between candidates
- supports the integration of assessment results for each candidate at the end of the process.
Rating scales and benchmarks allow you to determine which candidates meet the standards for the role. Once you have identified those candidates, you need to decide who is well suited to the role requirements. This may not necessarily be the person who scored the highest rating.
Different rating scales and benchmarks are suited to different situations or stages in a process. The following table shows the different rating approaches to consider depending on the expected number of candidates.
(met / not met)
|3-point rating scale
||5-point rating scale
|Low-volume recruitment (e.g. for a single role)
|High-volume recruitment (e.g. bulk recruitment, graduate intake, establish a talent pool)
A rating scale allows for differentiation between candidates when there could be a number of candidates who meet the standard required. Descriptive rating scales generally result in more consistent scores between assessors and help to minimise subjective biases because all assessors understand what they are looking for. Descriptions can be kept fairly broad to reflect general performance against each capability.
While rating scales help to differentiate between candidates, you also need to consider other factors such as motivation and fit for the role when making your selection decision. Your aim is to find the person who meets the standards and is well suited to the role requirements, not necessarily the highest scorer.
See examples of 3-point and 5-point descriptive rating scales.
A benchmark approach (e.g. met / not met) is useful when it is less important to make fine distinctions between candidates, for example if you receive few applications.
You may also consider combining approaches by using benchmarking during pre-screening and a rating scale for the capability-based assessments.
Example of mixed model for Customer Service Representative (9 roles)
Svetlana decides to use the benchmark approach to assess two targeted questions in applications for the nine Customer Service Representative roles she is recruiting for. This allows for the initial selecting out of those candidates that do not meet the focus capabilities addressed in the targeted questions.
For the capability-based assessments (in this case, a cognitive ability test, group exercise, role-play and behavioural interview) Svetlana will use a 5-point rating scale. This will help her to make finer distinctions between the remaining candidates and to progressively reduce the candidate pool to a more manageable size.