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How to Choose between Two Equally Qualified Job Candidates

Fri, 11/09/2012 - 4:26pm | by Guest Contributor

If you are a small business owner and need to hire some additional help, or if you manage the hiring for a company's human resources department, you're more than used to making tough decisions. It's rough out there for people looking for jobs, and while you probably don't enjoy telling people you're going in another direction, there is some real satisfaction when you get to make someone's week with a job offer. It's fantastic when the choice between candidates is clear cut, but what if it isn't? What if after several interviews, and a long review of their qualifications and references you feel like both candidates are equally qualified? It's a great problem to have for sure, as it means you're going to end up with someone fantastic either way. But how do you choose between those two equally qualified job candidates?

One great way to distinguish between the two is to focus on their people skills. Remember, it takes a well-rounded person to make the best co-worker, and how they interact with others is a huge part of that. This is doubly important if you're going to work with this person directly, or if they will be entering an already-existing team. Communication is key in the modern business environment, so try to come up with some questions that reveal how the candidates deal with interpersonal situations. You can ask them about how they would present an idea to management, or how they would go about voicing a concern. Or you can ask them to tell you about a project they spearheaded that expanded across multiple departments.

You'll also want to set up a longer interview with each candidate. This will give you the opportunity to get a better picture of how they approach work, and what their personalities are like after the small talk is put aside. Ask them about handling challenges or setbacks, either at work or in life. The way that people deal with failure can be very telling, and you definitely want someone who won't crack under pressure. Keep an ear out for whether they see these difficulties as learning experiences. If they do, there's a greater chance that this employee will be around for the long haul, and evolve and improve over time.

If you're still at a loss and really like both candidates, try to get a feel for how excited each one is for the opportunity. You know that both candidates can do the job, but who will bring a great attitude, enthusiasm and a desire to learn each and every day? One good way to find out is to ask them questions about the things they are passionate about, and what they do to keep those skills or talents up to date. If you work in a field that is constantly evolving, see what they do to stay on the cutting edge of the industry. The more proactive they are, the more enthusiastic you can expect them to be at work.

A good last step is to introduce the candidates to other current members of the team. Bring them in separately, so as not to create awkwardness. And you don't have to go through your entire business directory, introducing them to everyone. But have them sit down with a few key employees whose opinions you trust. If they connect with one of the candidates more easily, that will make for a smoother transition and a drama-free environment. At that point, you probably have your answer.

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