How to Choose Between 2 Great Candidates

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How to Choose Between 2 Great Candidates

Hire both! Just kidding. Unless that’s feasible, then stop reading here. If you were hoping to glean insight into how to narrow down a two-person candidate pool, read on.

You have great candidate lined up for your open Project Manager role that you’re really excited about. In fact, you’ve even interviewed her, had her complete your pre-employment assessments, and are ready to move on to reference checks when your top-performer salesperson announces that his friend, an established Project Management professional has just relocated from out of state nearby and is looking for a new place to call home. He provides you with his friend’s resume. It’s phenomenal. You call the friend for a quick chat and hit it off right away. He’s planning to come in tomorrow morning to meet with you and promises to complete the assessments tonight before your meeting.

Now what? What if this guy’s just as good? What if he crushes your assessments? How will you choose between the two?

You searched for at least a month and a half before finding your first candidate, and now suddenly you have two great candidates vying for the same role, and unfortunately, only one position available, despite wishing you could hire both. Having two qualified candidates for the same position isn’t the most terrible spot to be in as a hiring manager, but it is difficult to decide between two seemingly perfect candidates who both have the right skills and experience, as well as recommendations behind them. How do you choose?

Previous Performance

One way we evaluate candidates is by looking at their past performance to determine if they’ve successfully navigated the challenges of their previous position with ease. Did they learn from their challenges and were they able to overcome obstacles? Lou Adler suggests asking the only real interview question that matters: “What is your most significant achievement?”

The answer to this question reveals a lot. Not only do you learn about what the candidate believes is their most significant milestone in their career or previous position, but you learn a bit about the candidate, their personality, humility, and line of thinking. From there, you can then ask, like, 93046 follow-up questions to gather more information.


Reference checks are a fantastic way to verify previous work performance. Especially if the candidate was a top-performer. We know that many firms shy away from asking for references because of some unspoken taboo associated with reference-checking, but we want to ensure you that obtaining references from a previous supervisor or manager is one of the best ways to learn more about your candidate’s work performance and successes. Bradford Smart talks of the TORC Technique as a way to avoid candidates who aren’t going to be a good fit for fear of having to provide a reference in the first place!

Potential & Flexibility

Using pre-employment assessments allows you to further assess your candidate’s skills, competencies, and behavioral preferences that may lend insight into their potential as a long-term member with your company.

Oftentimes, these pre-hire assessments measure emotional competency, attitude and integrity, and personality so that you know what kind of candidate you’re considering and whether they’ll have the potential to learn and grow into different positions and take on new challenges within your company.

Choosing between candidates can be tough, and sometimes it really comes down to forcing a decision. Taking into consideration your candidate’s previous achievements in their career, assessing their personality fit and competence, and being able to review with previous supervisors will help you narrow down who would be the best fit for the long-term objectives of your business.

I guess if that doesn’t work you can always flip a coin too!

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