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Ask Ian & Kate: How do I choose between two ideal candidates?

Published 13th Apr 2023

I’m lucky enough to have the choice between two ideal candidates for a position in my company. How do I choose between them when they could both do the job as well as each other?

Ruth, Cheadle

Hi Ruth – this certainly is a scenario that many employers face at one time or another, and not one that can be decided simply on the toss of a coin. 

When two candidates are so ideal in every way – education, background, experience – that you simply can’t decide between them on paper, you have to use other metrics to decide who will get the job.

This may come down to several intangible but important factors that you can apply to assist you in your decision. Let’s run through a few things that can help you make the best choice possible.

Think back to your original job ad – what is at the core of the role? During the interview process you may have re-evaluated certain requirements and your hiring goals may have evolved. Have you noticed that some of the skills you wanted have become more important to you than others? Perhaps the dynamics of the office have changed since a colleague has left? 

If your priorities have changed it allows you to look at the two potential candidates with fresh eyes and reassess who is the best fit. Ask yourself what the most important factor is in this hire and see who fills this person-shaped hole best.

Next, think about culture contribution. This isn’t simply a matter of how well the candidate will fit into your company culture, but what they can bring to it too. Remember to put aside your unconscious bias – the learned stereotypes that are unintentional but ingrained in our view of others that influence how we perceive other people – and cast your net wider than you usually would do. 

It’s well documented that encouraging diversity and inclusion improves productivity, creativity, and engagement as well as enhancing reputation and business outcomes, so think about what qualities the two candidates can offer in terms of that, as well as what ‘added value’ they’ll bring that will give your company an advantage over your competitors.

During the interview process did either of the candidates mention training and development? This is a vital clue to how interested in the role they are, how much they want to progress within a company and how far they will go to improve their own skills and abilities. You can think about how much training and development they’ve already undertaken, whether that has been company-sponsored or whether they’ve initiated it themselves, and how they responded to it. 

Finally, you can consider their ambitions and short- and long-term goals, both professionally and personally. Do their career ambitions align with your company’s long-term strategic goals? Have they got a desired path they’re determined to follow? Are they in it for the long-haul or can you see that your company is merely a stepping stone along their career journey? Ask yourself who really has a passion for the product or services you offer and evaluate who has the appetite for growth that you yourself have. Of course, if you need further help with your recruitment process, or simply need a professional and impartial opinion on hiring dilemmas don’t hesitate to get in touch with McCarthy.

Got a question for Ian and Kate?

If you’ve got an issue or work-related question you’d like to put to Ian and Kate, email enquiries@mccarthyrecruitment.com with the subject line “Ask Ian & Kate”. We can’t answer every question, but we will try our best to point you in the right direction.

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