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5 tips on choosing between your two best equally qualified candidates

Posted on 14/02/2015 by Jo Hodge

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By Rob Hayter, Director at TPP Not for Profit

Imagine you are in that lucky situation that many would like to be in; you don’t have one great candidate for a role, you have two! Sometimes though, having two great candidates can make the decision process even harder. There are many elements to think about, recruitment can be expensive and you don’t want to regret your decision in a few months’ time. This month we give you our top tips on how to ensure you are choosing the best candidate for the job.


You can test candidate’s skills and experience pretty well in a formal interview, however testing, such as psychometric assessing, can give you a better idea about their personality and cultural fit. This kind of testing typically consists of numerical reasoning, verbal reasoning or situation judgements. There aren’t always right or wrong answers in these tests, for example, situational judgement tests look at the way someone may handle a situation.

Before commencing these tests, ensure you have a good idea about the type of person that will fit in; do you want someone that thinks on their feet and takes action? Or are you looking for someone that seeks advice before making decisions? Are you looking for someone who can work well on their own (maybe home working is an important element to this role) or someone that works well in a team (based in a busy office)? Having these details before your candidates commence the test will make analysing them much easier.

Meeting in a relaxed setting

If the interview process has been very formal or included panel interviews, then invite each candidate for an informal relaxed meeting, maybe even a morning’s visit to the office. Incorporate the team into this; this will give you a good indication how the candidates will work with other members of your team and how they’ll fit in with your culture.

Seeing a candidate in a relaxed setting will also show you more of their personality, which isn’t always easy to determine in a formal interview. By meeting the team, you are getting them on board for whichever candidate you choose and they may even have a favourite too.

Take references

Obviously you would not want to contact the candidate’s current employer; however this does not stop you taking references from previous employers. Ask each candidate for details on their previous employer and contact these, ideally for a verbal reference. This will give you a better idea on the candidates’ cultural fit and personality, than a formal reference form around absence and employment dates.

Look at the future of your team

Hopefully this person will remain with your organisation for the foreseeable future, so it’s a good idea to look at your organisation’s future plans. For example, if your team is going to expand rapidly, someone who has worked in larger teams before may perform better in this environment. If you are going to expand internationally, someone with languages may be beneficial.

Equally, just because an applicant doesn’t have experience working in a particular environment, does not mean they won’t perform well. However if you know what’s likely to happen in the future, you can construct scenario-based questions which will help you assess the candidates’ abilities to cope.

Do you have any other skills gaps in your team that one of these candidates could help fill in? For example, one of them might be a whizz with social media, something you are lacking. Could they help support this until you are ready to recruit for this role?

Ask them directly why you should choose them

One candidate may be more motivated for the role than the other. By asking why you should hire them, you should get an indication about their motivations for their role and a good candidate should be able to ‘sell’ themselves and tell you what skills they feel they would bring.


Ensure you have asked the candidate their thoughts on the role, salary package, notice periods etc. You may end up being in a position where one candidate is more likely to accept an offer than the other, or one wants a higher salary than you can realistically offer. These are better sorting out before offer stage.

Ensure you keep both candidates in the loop during this process, especially if it becomes lengthy, or you may end up losing two good candidates. And finally ensure you take the time to give the candidate that is not hired feedback. You can read more about the importance of providing feedback on our blog

If you aren’t in the fortunate position to have two candidates to choose from and would like to see a selection of candidates for roles you are recruiting to compare or benchmark against your current shortlist please contact us on 020 7198 6000 or