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How to Break a Tie Between Two Top-Tier Candidates

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What do you do when two outstanding candidates are vying for the same position at your firm and they have been neck and neck throughout the recruitment process, how do you decide which person to hire?

Many employers today struggle when conducting a candidate search because skilled talent is in short supply. But once in a great while, something amazing happens: You hit the hiring jackpot. You come across two outstanding candidates whose CV's stand above the crowd. Even better, they both interview well. In fact, you could see yourself hiring either one of them.

It’s a fantastic problem to have … until you realize you literally can’t decide which person to hire. 

But the longer you wait to make your decision, the greater the risk of losing one or both candidates to another employer. So how do you make the right choice when you come to this hiring crossroads? And how can you do it quickly? Here are four strategies to consider:

Take a long-term view
You are hiring to address an immediate need at your firm, but don’t ignore the future. Look beyond the requirements for the open position and examine each candidate’s potential to grow at your firm over time. For example, does one candidate’s leadership potential stand out more than the other’s? Or does one of the candidates have knowledge or skills in an area that isn’t essential for the job at hand but could nonetheless add value to your business?

Think about fit with the corporate culture
This is an important consideration in any hiring situation. However, employers don’t always devote as much time as they should to assessing whether a candidate will fit well and thrive in their company’s work environment — especially once that exciting “new-job feeling” subsides. One strategy for gauging fit with the office culture is to introduce potential hires to your team before extending an offer. It could be as part of the interview process or more informally as a quick meet and greet. Getting others’ opinions on how a potential hire might mesh with the team and workplace culture can be very valuable. 

Assess technical expertise
You've assessed both individuals from a personality perspective during interview, but what about their technical skills.  Sure, they look good on paper and have have the relevant qualifications and experience, but which candidate possesses the technical skills and knowledge essential to success in the role? Take this opportunity to identify a candidate's performance in the activities most relevant to your vacant role and and gain some insight into how the candidates perform against a norm group of their peers.

Seize this rare opportunity (if it makes good sense)
If you’ve weighed all the above factors and still can’t decide which job candidate to choose, here’s another option: Hire both.

Of course, that can be easier said than done. The decision depends a great deal on the budget available to you and the structure and needs of your team. But if you have the means, it’s worth considering.

The reason is simple: Good people are hard to find and no company will suffer from having too many of them on board. The needs of your business can change rapidly, and you may find yourself on the hunt for another hire before long. At that point, though, you may not be as lucky as you were this time around.

Just be sure that your decision is sustainable. There needs to be enough work to keep both hires engaged and feeling like their contributions make a difference. A good starting place is to think about projects that have been pushed to the back burner because your team doesn’t have the time to devote to them. Could one of the new hires help move these initiatives forward? Could they reduce the workload for other employees who are overloaded or close to reaching that point?

If you ultimately decide the best course of action is to extend only one job offer at this time, keep in touch with the candidate you don’t hire. Connect on LinkedIn and check in with the person occasionally to pass along news about the company and get updates on their career. You never know when your next hiring need will arise.



About the Authors

Giles Pearson FCA was a PwC Partner for 18 years before jointly setting up Accountests.  

Steve Evans has a whole career dedicated to enabling employers to attract, recruit, develop and retain talented individuals and teams, with particular expertise in candidate testing and assessment before setting up Accountests.

Accountests deliver the world’s only online suite of annually updated and country-specific technical knowledge tests designed by accountants for accountants and bookkeepers.

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