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Key Candidate Quality Indicators to Boost Your Talent Acquisition


Understanding the key traits of quality candidates is critical to achieving and maintaining Quality of Hire. If you aren’t using quality indicators of candidates to make data driven hiring decisions, the odds are you’re not getting the right people into position to stabilize and future-proof your workforce. 

It’s tough to hire the right people, now more than ever - how do you know you’re picking quality candidates who will be the right fit for your team, learn fast, produce at the top of their department, stay loyal and engaged, and add to your company culture? Just as importantly, how do you manage this quickly enough to avoid having top talent slip through your fingers?

Understanding Candidate Quality Indicators is Key  

What if you knew exactly what to look for to ensure you make a good quality hire? If you have a list of key indicators quality candidates possess, and processes in place to collect data about each candidate so they can be compared specifically against those indicators, you could surface candidates whose Quality of Hire potential stand head and shoulders above the rest.

Use key candidate indicators to surface candidates
with better Quality of Hire potential.

Good news: both a list of those key candidate quality indicators and data collection processes exist, and you could start improving your Quality of Hire instantly with a fast, easy implementation from Crosschq. 

Crosschq’s Data Lab has developed a scoring system that lets you gather data, rate candidates on similar attributes, and correlate those scores with potential Quality of Hire. It’s a literal silver bullet you can use to surface the very best hire!

How Are You Identifying Top Traits of Quality Candidates? 

Organizations have many different opportunities to learn about job candidates. However, if the candidate data coming in is biased, skewed, incomplete, or gives you apples on one candidate and oranges on another, it can be impossible to get a clear picture.


One in three American workers admit to lying on their resume.


Comparing Candidate Resumes

The challenge with using resumes as a source of truth for each candidate is that they are rarely fully truthful. One in three American workers admit to lying on their resume; in an age of automated resume scanning, trying to “beat the system” just to get an interview has become a common practice. 

Using Interview Insights

The challenge with using interviews as the deciding factor is that the interview process is highly susceptible to inconsistencies and lack of focus resulting in unusable or incomplete  information. In addition, it’s not uncommon for interviews to be impacted by unconscious bias on the part of the interviewer. Without even realizing it, an untrained interviewer could be asking questions, forming conclusions and making decisions about a candidate that are rooted in and impacted by unfair, biased beliefs.  

On the flip side, Crosschq Data Labs data shows that new hires who performed well in their interviews don’t in fact always prove later to be a top quality hire. This surprising correlation becomes even stronger when broken down by type of position and hiring field - but more on that later.

Crosschq Data Labs research currently shows that only 9% of interview scores correlate to Quality of Hire.

Reference Check Evaluations or Surveys 

The challenge with depending on what previous co-workers and managers say about a candidate is not the process itself, but the typical methods used to collect the data. Reference information collected by phone often results in little to no usable data.

Surveys, on the other hand, are a different story altogether. By using surveys to get candidates to rate themselves and collect ratings from their former peers and managers, you can not only obtain data that can be correlated back to Quality of Hire, but you can identify awareness gaps that raise red flags about reference bias or a candidate’s inflation of their skills.

Hiring Based on Key Candidate Indicators for Quality of Hire

What if you knew what traits, abilities, and qualities to look for in candidates to predict better Quality of Hire? Crosschq Data Labs research shows a direct correlation between reference ratings and strong feedback on certain skills or traits and increased Quality of Hire.

Before you start scoring anything, however, you need a system that ensures your scores are consistent, fair and free from bias, and usable for comparisons across candidates. Crosschq’s IO psychologists have developed surveys designed to gather unbiased, accurate data from peers and coworkers.

The resulting scores can both be compared to candidate self-scoring and be used to compare candidates to each other to find your top prospect for Quality of Hire.

Crosschq 360 Reference Ratings for Candidate Quality

Crosschq uses a five point range for ranking candidates attributes and skills. 

The main section of each survey uses variations on the question: “How would you rate [candidate name] on these attributes as compared to others you’ve worked with?”

Those completing the survey choose from the following answers:

1 - OKAY, but things could have been better.

2 - GOOD, met almost all of the needs of the job.

3 - REALLY GOOD, performance was better than average.

4 - GREAT, one of the best 3-5 people on the team.

5 - BEST, the best person on the team.


This point scoring system lets candidates earn a total Reference Average Score that can be used for comparison purposes before identifying the front runner (based on this and any other data) and making an offer.

Key Candidate Quality Indicators That Predict Higher QoH

Just a one point increase in a candidate’s scoring from a reference in specific categories has been shown to correlate with a higher Quality of Hire. While Reference Scores are expressed on a 1-5 scale, Quality of Hire is usually expressed as a percentage (from 0% to 100%.)

Just a one point increase in a candidate's scoring
from a reference on specific traits has been shown to correlate with higher Quality of Hire.

: A one point increase for an attribute results in a 3 unit increase in Quality of Hire potential: This means that if two comparable candidates, Candidate A and Candidate B, score 2 and 3 respectively on a specific question, the Quality of Hire score for Candidate A could then comparatively move from a 78 to an 81. 

Depending on their starting QoH measure, this shift could kick a potential employee from status as an average candidate to a good candidate on the QoH index.

Hiring Intell Pillar Post_Scale image (2)

Crosschq’s data analysis across all roles (known as the general dataset) gives us the average positive impact a higher Reference Score for these attributes can have on Quality of Hire potential. 


3.82 increase in QoH
Requires very little direction

A one point increase in a Reference Score to indicate a candidate works well on their own and doesn’t require micromanaging, can mean a 3.82 unit increase in QoH score between candidates up for the same role.

3.41 increase in QoH
Willingness to go above and beyond for the job

A one point increase in a Reference Score to indicate the candidate is self-motivated to achieve objectives and surpass goals, can mean a 3.41 unit increase in QoH score between candidates up for the same role.  

3.39 increase in QoH
Attention to detail

A one point increase in a Reference Score to indicate the candidate prioritizing getting a project done correctly, can mean a 3.39 unit increase in QoH score between candidates up for the same role. 

3.16 increase in QoH
Gets job done on schedule / time

A one point increase in a Reference Score to indicate the candidate is likely to hit deadlines without fail and keep projects on track, can mean a 3.16 unit increase in QoH score between candidates up for the same role. 

2.98 increase in QoH

A one point increase in a Reference Score to indicate the candidate shows learning aptitude and can be nurtured into an expert or innovator, can mean a 2.98 unit increase in QoH score between candidates up for the same role. 

2.52 increase in QoH
Consistent delivery of quality work

A one point increase in a Reference Score to indicate the candidate takes pride in their work and delivers consistent results, can mean a 2.52 unit increase in QoH score between candidates up for the same role.. 


So although particular roles, teams, projects or management styles may lead a recruiting team to seek out one trait over another for that exact situation, the above traits as scored highly by references – regardless of the role – lead to higher Quality of Hire in a new employee choice.

That’s an important distinction to make here, regardless of how important you think being a self-starter (or any above trait) is, data shows that overall these traits have a higher correlation with QoH than other attributes.

Others general traits that correlate a higher Crosschq Reference Score with QoH positive impact include:

  • Enjoyable to work with (2.06 increase in QoH)
  • Is generally flexible (1.91 increase in QoH)
  • Takes feedback well (1.78 increase in QoH)
  • Communication skills (1.23 increase in QoH)
  • Displays a positive attitude (1.06 increase in QoH)
  • Handles stress well (0.89 increase in QoH)
  • Optimism (0.33 increase in QoH)


The correlated Quality of Hire increase is not limited.

In addition, if a candidate has a two-point-higher score than another, their corresponding Quality of Hire potential goes up 2x the increase; for example, a candidate with a Reference Score of 4 for “Requires very little direction” would have a total QoH score unit increase of 7.64 over a competing candidate with a Reference Score of only 2.

Key Indicators of Quality Candidates by Industry and/or Role

Different roles require different abilities, skills, and traits. One should not just generally interview the same way, or make the same assumptions across roles. What you need is a tool that’s consistent in how it asks and what it asks, and that can be customized for each role.

Crosschq Data Labs have learned which attributes are very predictive of better Quality of Hire for the following specific roles:

Engineer roles

Adapting (2.67 increase in QoH)

Passion (2.65 increase in QoH)

Manager roles

Team coaching skills (1.87 increase in QoH)

Team goals achievement (1.23 increase in QoH)

Team conflict resolution (1.15 increase in QoH)


Sales roles

Not all correlations are positive! Sales roles can be a completely different animal than other types of roles, as particular skills may specifically help or hinder a sales person in performing well. Crosschq Data Labs data found many higher Reference Scores for sales candidates actually correlate to a lower Quality of Hire Score:  

Is highly motivated (-2.49 decrease in QoH)

Has a competitive nature (-1.57 decrease in QoH)

Manages difficult decisions (-1.19 decrease in QoH)

The difference between sales roles and engineer roles is why surveys like these are so important. There is not necessarily one silver bullet survey that will work well across all roles. Skills for engineers and sales roles are different, for example, and even their answers to the same questions require different interpretation and context. 

If you’re hiring based primarily on resumes and interviews, especially in an age of automated resume scanning, you’re getting a high number of candidates bumped to the top who are good at “selling themselves.”

That’s great if you’re hiring for sales roles. However, if you’re hiring for engineering roles, it’s not so great. In fact, the more deprecating engineers, software developers, and managers are when it comes to scoring themselves on their skills and attributes compared to how their references score them, the higher their Quality of Hire scores are likely to be. It’s important to note that this distinction may not come out in interviews or traditional methods of evaluating candidates, and could lead to lower quality hires. 

This brings us to the “awareness gap.”

Candidate Self Scores vs. Reference Scores: the Awareness Gap

It’s critical to look at more than just scores when rating candidates. You have to have these deeper insights into role-specific scoring and which attributes contribute most to shifts in Quality of Hire Scores.

As we already discussed, you can’t always trust what your candidates are telling you on their resume or in an interview, the same holds true if you have candidates complete your survey to self-score themselves on the same attributes. 

Who Scored Higher? The Reference or the Candidate?

The difference between the self-score and the average Reference Score is what we call the “awareness gap.” If a candidate scores themselves significantly higher than their references do, the gap widens. In most scenarios (but not all), the bigger such a gap is, the more negatively it impacts their Quality of Hire Score.

Is this candidate dishonesty, or just lack of self-awareness and/or simple over-confidence? In most cases, a slight gap can be chalked up to the latter options, while a massive gap might indicate the former. Regardless of the reason, the gap can be concerning and indicate a need for further analysis. 

Do awareness gaps have anything to do with how different genders, ethnicities, and age groups rate each other on surveys like these?  Our data certainly indicates this to be true. Peers also rate each other differently than they rate managers, and vice versa. 

What the awareness gap really tells us, however, is whether there is likely to be a big difference in Quality of Hire between one candidate and another based on how inflated a candidate’s perception/portrayal of their skills/attributes are. 

For example, if a candidate rates themselves higher on the ability to manage team conflict well than their references do, there’s a -2.74 negative impact on their Quality of Hire potential. This is the kind of insight that has been lacking from candidate datasets since - well, since forever.

Crosschq Gives You the Candidate Data to Make Better Hiring Decisions

Wouldn’t you be able to make faster, more accurate hiring decisions if you knew from the jump who your top candidates are with respect to their potential performance and longevity? Crosschq 360 Reference Surveys make it possible to do just that. 

Armed with role-specific, candidate-comparable data across your talent pool, you can swiftly surface applicants with the highest Quality of Hire potential and fast-track them through the rest of the recruitment process. 

This is a good argument for moving reference checking from the end of the process to the top of your hiring funnel! Why wait to find out if a candidate has positive Quality of Hire potential until the final stage?

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Our latest data will be coming out soon in our newest biannual Crosschq Quality of Hire “Q” Report. In the meantime, you can review these helpful resources to assist you as you navigate reference checking and Quality of Hire.


Are you ready to start really making data-driven decisions about hiring? Ask the Crosschq team for a demonstration of Crosschq 360 surveys today.

Katie Kennedy

by Katie Kennedy

Talent Consulting Lead

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