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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Management

How to Decide Between 2 Awesome Job Candidates

At the end of the day, having two seemingly perfect candidates and only one role to fill is really a good problem to have. It’s often hard to find one star hire, let alone multiple, and either way you decide you’ll probably end up with a great new employee.

But, well, it’s still a problem.

When it comes to deciding between two people you really want to hire, it’s time to ask yourself some tough (but telling) questions. Your answers will give you more clarity regarding their skills, their fit with your organization, and the administrative issues that might impact the hiring of either one.

Determine What You Really Need

The candidates’ most important characteristics are their fit for the role they will need to perform. As a hiring manager, you’ve probably already considered each one’s skill overlap with the job description. And since they’re neck and neck in the final round, they probably both have a good number of those skills.

So you need to go deeper than just seeing how many boxes they check off by weighing the importance of the skills. Maybe one candidate for a sales position has six out of seven of the qualifications, and the other has four out of seven—but has sales experience with a specific company product. You might decide that the employee with the unique sales experience has a better background for the job than the one who actually has more of the required skills.

Of course, only you will know how to weigh factors within each category. A great question to ask to help figure this out it: What is the #1 thing I need most in this hire? It may be most important to you that the new employee is an energetic powerhouse who can hit the ground running ASAP, or you may be more interested in a highly organized and analytical teammate who could eventually complement your big-picture approach.

You should also look at the candidates’ skills as an indicator of their future potential. Ultimately, you want your new employee to operate independently and be able to advance to the next career stage. The more capable your new employee is, the more you will be able to leverage your own time. Try thinking about who could really grow in the organization or, put simply, who you think your boss would be most impressed by.

Do the Beer Test

Organizational fit is no small concern. A good percentage of candidates don’t make interviewing cuts solely because they don’t feel like they would mesh with the culture of the company. So, beyond thinking about which candidate really “gets” your company, is excited about your mission, and has goals that match up with the organization, you should think more carefully about how each of these people would work in your office day to day. Has one candidate more than the other successfully spent time in workplaces such as yours? Has the other candidate chosen companies with dissimilar cultures intentionally or has he just not had the opportunity to work in similar companies?

Moreover, which of the two would you rather have a beer with after work? There’s no way you can know everything about how a candidate will interact on a daily basis, but you can usually get a pretty good sense based on your gut reaction to whether you’d want to hang out with him or her. Some companies even have what they call “social interviews” where they take candidates out for happy hour with some of the team to let them socialize. If you think this would fly at your place of work, it could be a good way to differentiate between two candidates. But even if not, just considering it can be a great step.

Remember That Hiring is a Two-Way Street

And lastly, even if you decide which candidate is best, you have to think about whether you can get him or her. If they’ve made it this far in the application process, they’re probably both excited about the job, but a lot more goes into play when considering an offer. You need to think about what it takes to attract this awesome hire to your company.

What are each candidate’s levels of experience, and therefore likely compensation requirements—and are you able to fulfill those demands? Has one candidate spent the last few years working for a company with exciting perks that you aren’t able to match up to? Will you lose either one completely if you don’t make an immediate offer? It’s often tough to think—and be realistic—about the logistics, but it can often help you tip the scale one way or another.

The good news is, when you’re starting with two great candidates, you’re likely to end up with an awesome hire. So, if you’ve weighed the skills, cultural fit, and offer considerations and still aren’t sure, go with your gut. (Or, well, take them both out for a beer.) Then rest assured that, whoever you choose, you’ll be welcoming someone great to the team.

Photo of job candidates courtesy of Shutterstock.