4 min read

Bias is like dental plaque. It’s barely detectable at first, but the longer you ignore it, the worse it gets—sometimes causing permanent damage. Prevention works (to a limited extent), but regular maintenance with a variety of tools is the only way to keep it in check.

One way to lay the groundwork for equitable hiring is by using hiring rubrics to mitigate bias. As a hiring manager, your job is to shepherd the process—define the role, get input from your team, and weigh all of the evidence to make a final decision—with the rubric as your trusty sidekick.

Here’s how to create and use a hiring rubric:

1. Write down 3-5 must-haves and look-fors.

Ask yourself these questions (Already used our Figuring Out the Role Worksheet? You’ve done most of this step!):

  • Must-haves & Look-fors: What skills are not negotiable for the role, and how will you know them when you see them? Don’t forget to check your PTRs!
    • Pro-tip 1: there are a bunch of sample questions and tests in the Planning for Must-Haves at Each Stage tool!
    • Pro-tip 2: if you’re having trouble articulating a “look-for,” it can be helpful to reframe it in the negative—“what does this look like when it doesn’t go well.” For example, strong relationship-building skills might not look like over-adhering to an agenda, interrupting people, or forgetting to ask someone how they’re doing.
  • Defining the bar: What’s the level of ability that your hire should have when they start? On a scale of 1 (Big Red Flag in this area) to 4 (Definitely meets the bar), what would a “4” be for your “look-fors”?

2. Share the rubric and get aligned with your team.

Assemble a diverse hiring committee to review applications and interview candidates (we recommend two to three people per round after the initial screening). Meet with the committee—even just for 10 minutes—to discuss the must-haves and how you’re testing for them. Don’t skip this step! Without getting aligned on the rubric, people will default to their own criteria to assess candidates. Having the different perspectives represented on your team will help you avoid the “like me” effect—the tendency to think more highly of people who are similar to you—while the rubric will give your team consistent definitions for success so everyone is measuring against the same bar. 

3. Fill out rubrics independently; discuss discrepancies.

Interviewers should fill out a rubric for each candidate independently first, making sure their ratings are based on observable behaviors and evidence rather than gut feelings. The beauty of having a diverse hiring committee is the diversity of perspectives, so if you (the hiring manager) identify scoring discrepancies for a candidate, examine those! This might look like scheduling a debrief, a 1:1 chat with the interviewer(s), or a quick text, depending on your relationship with the person (added bonus of scheduling a debrief: it can serve as a forcing mechanism to get interviewers to finish their scoring!). 

For finalist rounds, consider debriefing candidates as a group. This gives interviewers the chance to check for biases or assumptions on a deeper level, and to work together to parse out the small nuances of each candidate. Debriefing with rubrics also ensures that candidates are measured against the look-fors and bars you’ve defined, so that you’re hiring the right person—not just the best of the bunch.

4. Make your decision.

Weigh all feedback and decide whether to reject or advance your candidate. If you find that you need more information to make a decision, use the rubrics to identify the evidence you still need, and follow up accordingly. To be clear, we strongly discourage asking more of candidates than what you’ve laid out in your process, but if you find that you absolutely need more information to make a decision, consider reaching out to your candidate to ask clarifying questions. Do this rarely, and keep it brief with minimal prep for the candidate.

5. Revisit your rubric (optional).

If you’re hiring multiple people for the same role (like organizers or trainers), consider vetting your rubric a few months after each process to make sure it’s helping you achieve equitable results.

Remember: the rubric is not a magic wand. While it can help your team spot and counteract implicit bias, no rubric can replace the human elements of perception and self-reflection. Plus, in order to achieve equitable hiring outcomes, you’ll need to consider multiple angles in addition to your rubric, such as building a strong pool and testing for equity competencies. (Remember the plaque? Keep flossing! And brushing, and using mouthwash, and going to the dentist…)

Ready to get started? Check out our template and samples!

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