How to choose between two job candidates

It may sound too good to be true, but this can turn into an HR dilemma – Phil Sheridan shares his tips and tricks

High-quality talent is hard to come by, so if you’re lucky enough to have two equally qualified candidates competing for the same role, you’ll need to act fast. Research from Robert Half shows that 92 per cent of HR directors are finding it challenging to source skilled professionals. When you combine that with longer hiring times, acting quickly and decisively becomes a top priority.  

When you look at the hiring landscape as a whole, it’s not hard to see why having two highly skilled applicants to choose from is a rare luxury. But how do you determine the better fit?

Although there are plenty of tried and tested interview techniques, being torn between two job candidates means you’ll have to use new ways to assess what a ‘good fit’ looks like.  

Look at the long term

Immediate needs may feel more pressing, but don’t forget to look to the future when choosing between two applicants. Businesses are changing rapidly to negotiate the digital shift, so it’s worth considering which candidate suits your business’ long-term plans. Assess which one displays a wider range of useful technical skills, an interest in learning and development or good leadership potential.

A company culture fit

Finding the right fit for your company culture can mean the difference between an employee who stays until that ‘new job excitement’ wears off, and one that integrates faster, performs better and stays longer.

Robert Half research into happiness at work found that employees who feel they have good relationships with teammates are 2.7 times more likely to be happy on the job. From this perspective, the right candidate will bring a healthy mix of appropriate temperament to the team dynamic, as well as skills.

Interest and enthusiasm

When you think back to your meetings with both candidates, which of them seemed the most engaged throughout the process? Who asked questions and seemed the most inspired? Which was the quickest to follow up with you after the interview? Recalling details like this can help you gauge which applicant wanted the position more.

Still can’t decide?

If you’ve used all these assessment methods and still can’t decide which candidate to hire, then you might like to consider hiring both.

In a depleted jobseeker market, finding two great candidates is a rare opportunity to grow your business with quality talent. If the decision to hire both is supported and sustainable long term, make sure that you differentiate each role, making them independent from one another, so that each employee feels like their contribution makes a difference. 

And once you’ve made your decision, take a few extra steps to really impress your preferred candidate to get them on board swiftly to make sure they don’t opt for a competing offer.

Phil Sheridan is senior managing director at Robert Half UK