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Take Your Pick: How to Break a Tie Between Two Top-Tier Candidates

Here’s a nice problem to have: You’re trying to fill a job, and you’ve interviewed two top candidates. Both appear to be a good fit, so it’s a dead heat. It’s nice knowing you’ll end up with a great hire, but how do you pick the winner?

Looking at your candidates from multiple angles and putting their abilities to the test can help you make a decision on whom to hire.

Hire for culture add, not just culture fit

Your company culture comprises its working environment, mission, values and beliefs. It’s important that candidates feel at home and interact well with others on your team.

However, homogeneity among your workforce can lead to stagnation. Leaning too heavily on “culture fit” when hiring can lead to a lack of diversity and even bias.

It might be better to think about looking for “culture adds”: employees who contribute a diverse set of thoughts, values, traits and backgrounds.

Does either candidate bring fresh perspectives and unique experiences to your company? Is one of them from a group that’s currently underrepresented on your team and so could bring viewpoints you are not used to considering?

Culture adds can bring new energy that drives innovation while also making your workplace more welcoming for other mold-breaking candidates.

Soft skills compare candidates beyond the resume

When both of your candidates have the hard skills to perform the job, odds are that one candidate’s soft skills could set them apart. Skills such as communication, creativity and empathy are crucial to how employees function and interact.

Assessing soft skills such as these can put one candidate in the lead:

Communication: Weigh how well your candidates convey and receive information, including the way they write, speak, listen and respond. Does either candidate repeat back what they heard and avoid interrupting?

Creativity: Creativity isn’t just about the arts — it’s about conceiving new ideas and considering multiple options. Ask candidates how they would deal with a complex problem at work. See if they offer more than one approach or suggest tactics your team didn’t consider.

Empathy: Seeing things from another person’s point of view is a necessary and valuable skill. Ask about a touchy situation or conflict candidates had in the past. Were they able to see the problem from both sides and reach a solution?

Think about the future

Thinking about where you want your team to go in the future can also help differentiate between candidates; hire candidates who support growth, not those who reinforce the status quo.

Assess each candidate within the context of the other personalities on your team, its forecasted growth and the kinds of problems they’ll be solving. Can you envision one person making a more positive impact on your team’s future than the other? Do you foresee any potential stumbling blocks?  

Let’s say you’re hiring for a marketing role in a medium-sized, growing company. Both candidates offer solid experience and relevant case studies. One of them is between jobs and uses their side business to test lead-generation…

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