Searchlight presents

How to Interpret
Searchlight Candidate Data

Hi! 👋 You’re about to make a big decision, and we’re here to help.
Each Searchlight candidate profile is a gold mine of information, let's take a quick tour!

Section 1


Searchlight works with dozens of partner companies 🏢, we’ve analyzed thousands of candidates and references 📊, and we’ve developed our science in collaboration with psychologists 🥼.

Searchlight offers:

Deep visibility into skills, patterns, and themes about each candidate
The insight to focus on what behaviors are most important to your team
Validation and guidance to make the best hiring decision
Section 2

Our References

To ensure the security and legitimacy of our data, Searchlight verifies each reference by gathering data like

🔢 IP addresses
☎️ phone numbers
💻 LinkedIn URLs

What to pay attention to 🔍

Are there at least 2 references submitted?
One single datapoint on a candidate is not enough to make an informed judgement. The power of references is when they converge on patterns and themes. Searchlight makes that easy.
Who are the references?
We recommend all candidates submit at least 1 direct manager reference, as these are the highest signal. We often hear that our customers weigh past manager references more heavily over other types of references. Past managers probably had to assess a candidate during a past performance review and track their professional performance closely, and have less reason to be biased.
How recently did the reference and candidate work together?
References who ended their work relationship with the candidate more than 5 years ago will not have as accurate a picture of who the candidate is today.
Section 3

The Searchlight Score

At a glance, the Searchlight score answers the question: How respected is this candidate by their peer group and how excited would they be to work with this candidate again?

Our intelligence is informed by thousands of references, and our proprietary benchmarks map multiple heuristics from the references into a single score.

Some inputs we use:

  • Peer ranking percentiles

  • Competency scores

  • Excitement percentiles

  • Referencer relevance

  • Referencer years of experience

  • Length of work relationship

  • Recency of shared work experience

  • Has the referencer managed before?

  • Strength to weaknesses ratio

  • Overall strength of the recommendation

Read more about our heuristics +See Less

Our score tiers:

Recommendations are poor and merit follow-up.
Please read the data carefully.
The candidate received good recommendations.
The candidate received some of the highest recommendations we’ve seen.

Pro-tip ✨: Sometimes a candidate will get a Searchlight score in the 70s and 80s, and hiring managers will wonder if this is a sign to not hire. The truth is, every team is different and no candidate is perfect! If you feel the Searchlight Score is low, then proceed deliberately to better understand how the candidate might fit on your unique team.

Section 4

the Heatmaps

The heatmap section in Searchlight, colored in green hues

For each assessment, the hiring manager or recruiting team customizes the competencies important to the role. Searchlight asks each reference to rate the candidate across these competencies, and our heatmaps visualize the results.

Each column represents an individual reference’s feedback. The last column displays the candidate’s percentile score, which is calculated by taking a weighted average of individual reference ratings and then benchmarking the scores against our database.

What to pay attention to 🔍

When 2 or more references agree on the strength and/or area of development 👀
In this example, problem solving is a strength and time management is a weakness.

Notice in the heatmap above that all references gave the candidate the best score on Problem Solving, and 3 of 5 references scored the candidate low on Time Management. This is very high signal data, especially because the references individually corroborated this assessment without knowing what other references shared.

When all the ratings are “The best I’ve seen” for a single reference 🚨
Two peer responses give perfect scores across the board.

Notice that 2 references gave perfect scores for all competencies.

In this situation, Searchlight recommends:

  1. Carefully evaluate the written responses for these references to understand if the candidate truly is a rockstar.
  2. If these references didn't seem to put in any thought in their other responses, then take their opinions with a grain of salt and/or schedule a follow-up call.
Section 5:

Get to know
the Attribute Tags

Each reference was individually asked to select the candidate’s top strengths and weaknesses from a randomized list, without knowing what others selected. It's very high signal for people to converge on the same attributes!

Protip ✨: Hover over the attribute tags to read the definition.

Protip ✨: We've heard from multiple hiring managers that these attributes are highly correlated with how a new hire shows up during their first week on the job.

Some examples of Searchlight attributes

Listens attentively and understands what is being said

Active Listening

Adjusts easily to new or changing circumstances


Aspires to and works toward a high level of success


Speaks or writes with ease, clarity and impact


Is rigorously detail-oriented and meticulous

Attention to Detail

Proactively takes action to achieve and execute results

Being a Self-Starter

Generates energy, enthusiasm and a desire to succeed in others


Listens to, accepts, and applies feedback on doing things better


Works well with others to realize better results


Strives to win and be better than others


Careful and diligent in fulfilling one's tasks and obligations


Uses original thinking to generate new ideas and solutions


Rigorously questions ideas and assumptions

Critical Thinking

Driven to learn and stay current professionally


Attentive and responsive to customer needs


Acts quickly, confidently and with determination


Can be relied on and accountable for one's own work


Successfully interprets emotions of others to guide thinking and behavior

Emotional Intelligence

Identifies with the feelings, ideas and attitudes of others


Shows a lively and genuine interest in work


Masters situations or information easily and quickly

Fast Learner

Forms sound opinions and makes solid decisions

Good Judgement

Deals confidently with unclear or changing situations

Handling Ambiguity

Is disciplined and works vigorously


Able to experiment and learn without ego


Functions effectively without assistance or direction from others


Able to understand and learn quickly and easily


Successfully uses insight not supported by obvious facts and data


Performs competently under pressure

Managing Stress

Draws conclusions from data in a logical, systematic way


Strengths Definition

Noun Form

Maintains a consistently positive attitude


Works and thinks in a methodical and orderly way


Perseveres in spite of opposition or difficulty


Has a friendly, approachable and outgoing style


Influences or changes the opinions, ideas or actions of others


Calm, collected, and self-controlled under pressure


Effectively identifies and solves challenging problems

Problem Solving

Finds alternative solutions to overcome obstacles


Focuses on achieving results and outcomes


Takes calculated chances to gain rewards


Acts based on inner drive


Anticipates and prepares for future events

Strategic Thinking

Coaches or instructs others to improve their performance.

Teaching Others

Guided by a set of core values and beliefs to act with integrity and honesty


What to pay attention to 🔍

Focus on when 2+ references agree 🌟

References choose attributes from a randomized list. It is a very high signal when references converge (especially when one is a manager or supervisor).

This can be true for strengths:

...and weaknesses:

Section 6:

Frequently Discussed Topics

Here are some quick pointers that hiring managers have found useful. 🎉

Open Text Responses

This is where references share as much as they like about the candidate on a particular topic. If you have the time to read through everything they say, it’s like accessing the candidate's last performance review!

Peer Ranking

This is a favorite question among hiring managers, because the agreement between references gives an accurate picture of a candidate’s true ranking.

  • It's a positive indicator if all references converge on the top 2 answers. It's a very high recommendation to be rated "Best I've Ever Seen." Only a small percentage of candidates receive this score.
An example of very high peer ranking scores.
  • Usually we find that anything less than Outstanding (Top 5%) warrants a deeper look at the referencers’ open-ended responses.
An example of peer ranking scores that merit follow-up.

  • Lastly, a red flag would be when a reference skips this answer. This is relatively rare, but when it happens, it’s worth a closer look.

From our experience, any candidate profile with references that answer lower than 5/5 (Ecstatic) merits a deeper look. But, as always, it’s important to take all of the data in context, rather than a single answer in and of itself.

Having one person who isn’t a 5/5 is a yellow flag, but this becomes a bigger concern if the manager is the one who isn’t excited:

An example of the excitement question where the past manager disagrees with other references.

Multiple people who aren’t 5/5 excited is a red flag 🚨

An example of the excitement view where 3 of 4 submissions are "Interested"
Advice for Hiring Managers

This is always a must-read section for onboarding-focused managers (which should be everyone)! If you’re invested in your new hire’s professional growth, these answers are prescriptive and offer valuable suggestions to help you set your new hire up to succeed and stay engaged from day one.

Protip ✨: We've heard that many hiring managers use these insights to create personalized coaching plans for their new hires.

The 150 summary

This is the icing on the cake! References provide their own short summary for the candidate. While this may not provide as nuanced information as other sections of their response, sometimes it’s a kicker. 

🚨If the summary seems to be a “surprise” based on what showed up in the rest of the reference, we should take the summary with a grain of salt.

Here are 3 examples of summaries that are stellar:

Rachel inspires me to be a better manager. She is fearless, creative, and driven. Every time I raise the bar for Rachel, she soars over it.

All-round top performer. Can tackle electronics mechanical work, design, analysis, and everything else with ease.

Rachel belongs to this rare group of scientists who master the deepest mathematical underpinnings of ML and understands how to use them to innovate and solve real world problems. She tackles problems with an unfaltering rigor any team would benefit from.