The recruitment process generally weeds out the not quite right candidates, leaving you with one standout applicant to hire. Yet when you have progressed through each stage of the interview process and you still don’t know who to select, what do you do?

It’s a great problem to have, having two outstanding candidates to choose from. Yet panic can set in as you realise that you need to make a decision fast or risk losing them both. No pressure. Rather than being paralysed by the fear of making the wrong choice, you need to engage a strategy that will lead you to the not so obvious right choice. And that right choice is not necessarily the candidate who interviewed the best, but the one who is right for the role, the team and the organisation. Hence when two exceptional candidates are neck and neck for a position, you need to dig a little deeper, expanding your assessment criteria beyond skill set.

At this point, you may want to extend the hiring process with a casual lunch with each of your two preferred candidates. Interviews can be so formal. A more relaxed social environment may give you a different insight into the candidate’s disposition and if their personal traits epitomise that of your organisations values and culture. Over sushi, consider who will thrive in the company’s working environment? The intelligent and astute applicant or the more flamboyant entrepreneur?

Questioning an organisational fit may require you to take a long term view. You know what your company’s values are, the direction it is heading and what it is trying to achieve. Do you need the salesman with the most credentials and runs on the board, or do you need the one who has experience with a specific product? Only you can answer who is going to complement your big picture approach best, both now and in the future. Perhaps begin with determining the number one critical need you seek most from your next hire.

You may also want to consider each candidates level of enthusiasm. Ask yourself, who really wants this job? Think back to who was more engaged, who asked the more insightful questions and who followed up first after each interview. Reviewing this factor may help you realise each candidate’s true level of interest in the role. You may even ask each to write a short paragraph or two explaining why they want the job and why they want to work for your company. The response may surprise you…and help you determine who to hire!

Some recruiters like to engage the ‘gut’ test. Instinct, if you like, is the age old sixth sense that can often lead us to making better decisions. If you’re comfortable, introduce your candidates to the team and ask them what their gut feel is. Generally a strong consensus emerges, revealing who will fit best within the company. Or you may simply ask yourself, who would I rather have a beer with?

If your budget permits and it fits with your long term plans, you may have the capacity to take on board both candidates. Why lose a star to the competition if you have the ability to inherit, and prosper, from two? Or maybe you don’t, but if your long term organisational goals come to fruition, rapid growth may be just around the corner. This is when your star recruits will demonstrate a return on your investment.

Not often are you faced with two such great job candidates that deciding who to hire is a problem. An unconventional twist to an otherwise traditional recruitment process may be what is needed to identify which candidate will serve the team and the company best. It is not a process that you can afford to saunter through though. Chances are your candidates know their worth and know that they will never remain on the market long. Your strategy must be swift, well considered and most importantly, in the best interest of the company. If at the end of the day you find yourself still splitting hairs, you will need to hire both stars or simply trust your gut. Good luck.

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