5 Methods to Help Choose Between Two Equally Qualified Candidates

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Woman deciding between two shoesMany employers or recruiters will reach the situation in the hiring process where they are faced with the agonizing decision of choosing between two equally qualified, seemingly great candidates for a specific role. Even though many people will tell you that it is a great problem to have, it often doesn’t feel that way. You will, of course, be guaranteed a superstar, but you may need to damage a relationship with and criticize an otherwise excellent candidate who you might have offered the job in three-month’s time if a vacancy arose.

Good or not, the problem remains; so, what steps can employers take to effectively choose between two equally qualified candidates?

1. Focus on the mission critical skills

Take a second look at the job description and re-focus on the two or three mission critical skills, given both the internal strengths and weaknesses of your business, as well as the opportunities and threats that the team faces. Although equally qualified, your candidates are likely to have a different balance of skills, meaning that after a closer look one candidate may be better suited to the role than the other, without detracting from the more poorly suited candidate’s individual skills.

2. Conduct a 360-degree assessment

Don’t be deterred by the potential cost and administrative hassle of an additional interview; if necessary, invite them in for a further interview. This could be a 360-degree interview where you allow them to interact and engage with colleagues, subordinates, superiors, and in particular, internal clients and suppliers. This 360-degree perspective may help to confirm which candidate best suits your mission critical skills, making it easier for you to select the right one. It could even deter the less keen applicant, further informing your selection decision.

3. Gauge enthusiasm

One way to do this is to ask them how enthusiastic they are about the job, but it will be more effective if you get them to demonstrate enthusiasm  by putting an obstacle in the way. Invite them in or at least gauge their interest in attending a trial morning where they can participate in a meeting or present to the team. Gauge their enthusiasm; do they appear willing, will they move mountains to attend and do they make proactive suggestions?  Also, consider what obstacles they have had to overcome in the interview process. Has one had to put more effort in than the other to get this far, e.g. a greater interview commute? It may soon become clear that one candidate is much keener than the other on the opportunity.

4. View them in a relaxed setting

This is a perfect opportunity to throw a curve ball and invite them in for an informal interview in a relaxed setting where they may drop their guard in a way that they haven’t done during the formal assessment process. You may see another angle, perspective, strength and/or weaknesses, which might tip the balance into one candidate’s favor. You’ll also be able to see just how well they gel into the culture, which could determine their suitability for the job.

5. Put them on the spot

Another option is to put each of them on the spot. Of course, you can’t offer them both the job, but you can suggest to each of them, that if you were to offer them the job, what would be the barriers to acceptance and how would they attempt overcome them. (Choose your own wording, naturally). Assuming terms can be agreed, enthusiastic serious candidates should be able to answer an emphatic yes; should not list too many barriers to them joining; and might identify ways to overcome barriers, such as, “I am sure we could come to some sort of agreement on that particular issue.”

Good luck on your next tight hiring decision!

Read more in Selection

Kazim Ladimeji is a Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, and has been a practicing HR professional for 14 years. Kazim is the Director of The Career Cafe: a resource for start-ups, small business and job seekers.