The rigamarole of sourcing the right candidate becomes its own full-time job very quickly; in fact, the process of hiring a new employee, start to finish, can take upwards of 40 hours and cost several thousand dollars. While, in the best-case scenario, this results in the hire of hard-working, loyal talent, you may come to the end of the process without a solid choice.
If you have no viable candidates, then you have to start the search all over. But what if you have two (or more) candidates who show comparable skills and experience? How do you decide between them?
Here's a four-step guide to picking the best candidate for your needs:
1. Review the entire job application in depth.
The first step is to carefully examine the candidate's job application. Did they generally stay in a position for more than two years or did they hop between jobs every year? If they stayed at a single company for more than two years, is it clear they progressed in responsibility? Is there any sign that they invested in company growth outside of their job responsibilities, engaging in company-sponsored community events or extra-curricular activities?
The more commitment and investment they show, the more likely it is they will grow with you as your needs change -- making them a valuable asset in any business environment.
2. Match future roles to candidates' strengths and interests.
Next, move beyond the job description. Create a rough vision for where your department will be in six months and again in one year. Sketch out the likely roles that will be needed to support the department at these points.
Then, based on applications, references, tests, portfolios, and interviews, which candidate do you see being able to fit into one of those roles? Which one is a stronger contender for becoming a future manager or strategic leader based on their past experiences, performance, and your own interactions?
3. Weigh professional curiosity and passions.
Third, spend some time weighing passion for and curiosity about your industry and business. This should be part of any interview process, but more often than not, it takes a back seat to quirky "what would you do if ...?" or "do you have any experience with X?" questions.
If you don't have the chance to go back and ask them follow-up questions, then consider what they said during your interview. Did they inquire about the future of the company? Did they ask about how their own experience and interests might fit in as the company grows? Were they enthusiastic about the company's mission and overall position in the industry? Were they open to learning about the day-to-day work required of the role you're hiring for, asking follow-up questions? If so, it's likely they're interested in a long tenure and significant personal and professional investment.
4. Examine application process communication.
Lastly, consider their communication throughout the application process. Did they respond quickly and professionally to your email and phone calls? Did they follow-up after phone, video, and in-person interviews with thank-you notes? Did they work to accommodate your schedule for these interviews? If they did all (or many) of these things, they will likely be a more engaged employee, making them an asset for your team.
A final note: Interviewees feed off your feedback and communication, making judgments of their own. Remember that they are interviewing you as much as you are interviewing them, so be prompt and considerate with your communication and, if at all possible, keep them apprised of the status of their application. Even if you go with another candidate, a positive interview experience can lead to top-talent referrals down the road.