Two great candidates for one role? Use these tiebreaker tips


Being spoiled for choice is its own problem. A senior HR professional offers advice when it comes to splitting hairs.

It’s often hard to find one good hire, let alone two. So when recruiters and hiring managers find themselves in the unusual situation of having two seemingly perfect candidates and only one position to fill, it’s a good problem to have.

Although, it’s still a problem. While you know you’ll end up with a great new employee regardless, it’s not easy to choose between two equally qualified, talented and deserving candidates. So when push comes to shove, how do you decide who gets the coveted role?

Looking at your candidates from multiple angles and testing their abilities practically can be the tie breaker you need to help you make the final decision.

First things first: break the tie, don’t cut the rope

When you find yourself with two equally qualified candidates, a few clever tactics can help you choose the front runner. But when you’re choosing “the one” make sure you don’t cut off the other candidate in the process.

As an organisation you want both candidates to have a positive experience in the hiring process, regardless of the outcome. And importantly, if one doesn’t accept the offer or if another position opens up down the line, you’ve already got a perfect candidate you can call on.

Think ‘culture add’

No doubt you’ve asked yourself this question already: are they going to be a good cultural contributor? However, leaning too heavily on ‘culture fit’ when hiring can lead to a homogeneous culture, a lack of diversity and even unconscious bias.

Try thinking of ‘culture contributor’ instead. Culture contributors can bring a diverse set of traits, values and backgrounds, as well as new energy that drives innovation while also making your workplace more welcoming and inclusive for future candidates.

Does either candidate stand out for the different perspectives and experiences they could bring to your company? Is one of them from a group that’s underrepresented on your current team and so could bring viewpoints you perhaps haven’t considered in the past?

Vet for soft skills

Vetting for soft skills will help to crystallise what a candidate can contribute to company culture.

Communication, conflict resolution and problem-solving help staffers address issues. Creativity and critical thinking help to find new solutions. Empathy and flexibility mean staff work well in a team and get along with others.

Ask yourself, has either of the candidates highlighted instances of collaboration, problem solving, or excellent communication in the application or interview process? If not, ask the candidates for examples of when they’ve demonstrated such soft skills. Or perhaps you could have candidates rank their soft skills from most to least important to see if their priorities align with the business.

Plan for the future

While it’s obviously important to address immediate needs, thinking about the direction you want your organisation to take in the future can help to differentiate between two equal candidates.

It’s imperative to hire candidates who can support growth and take the organisation forward. To evaluate this, assess each candidate within the context of your current team and their individual characteristics. Can you envision one candidate making a more positive contribution to the organisation’s future than the other? Does one candidate bring with them a particularly useful or rare skill that could potentially create a new offering or solution to a problem?

Let’s say your candidates are competing for a marketing role in a medium-sized, growing company. Both candidates have the relevant experience and can present compelling case studies for the job. One of them has built a side business while they’ve been between jobs, to test lead-generation tactics. The other is a digital marketer with a global corporation and writes and analyses blog content. Does one seem better prepared to meet the direction your company is headed and propel you forward?

Put it to the test

If you still don’t have a clear winner, set a test or conduct a practical interview to see the candidates’ skills in action. Some examples of how you can test for exceptional skills include:

  • For copywriter candidates, present them with a realistic creative brief to write.
  • For marketing strategists, put together a short client brief and ask them to provide sound recommendations to meet it.
  • For customer service officers, put together a short list of customer issues and have them demonstrate how they’d resolve them.

These kinds of activities will demonstrate how candidates operate in a real-life work setting and can really help to illuminate if one candidate stands out from the other.

When it comes to deciding between two people you really want to hire, it’s  important to ask these tough questions. Your answers will highlight which candidate is the best possible fit for the role and while it can be a tricky process, the right hire is worth their weight in gold.

Paul Wolfe is SVP of Human Resources at Indeed. He oversees all global human resource functions, including talent acquisition, employee retention, compensation, benefits, and employee development.


With AHRI’s course ‘Recruitment and workplace relations’ you will gain the necessary skills to ensure for a smooth recruitment process.

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Two great candidates for one role? Use these tiebreaker tips


Being spoiled for choice is its own problem. A senior HR professional offers advice when it comes to splitting hairs.

It’s often hard to find one good hire, let alone two. So when recruiters and hiring managers find themselves in the unusual situation of having two seemingly perfect candidates and only one position to fill, it’s a good problem to have.

Although, it’s still a problem. While you know you’ll end up with a great new employee regardless, it’s not easy to choose between two equally qualified, talented and deserving candidates. So when push comes to shove, how do you decide who gets the coveted role?

Looking at your candidates from multiple angles and testing their abilities practically can be the tie breaker you need to help you make the final decision.

First things first: break the tie, don’t cut the rope

When you find yourself with two equally qualified candidates, a few clever tactics can help you choose the front runner. But when you’re choosing “the one” make sure you don’t cut off the other candidate in the process.

As an organisation you want both candidates to have a positive experience in the hiring process, regardless of the outcome. And importantly, if one doesn’t accept the offer or if another position opens up down the line, you’ve already got a perfect candidate you can call on.

Think ‘culture add’

No doubt you’ve asked yourself this question already: are they going to be a good cultural contributor? However, leaning too heavily on ‘culture fit’ when hiring can lead to a homogeneous culture, a lack of diversity and even unconscious bias.

Try thinking of ‘culture contributor’ instead. Culture contributors can bring a diverse set of traits, values and backgrounds, as well as new energy that drives innovation while also making your workplace more welcoming and inclusive for future candidates.

Does either candidate stand out for the different perspectives and experiences they could bring to your company? Is one of them from a group that’s underrepresented on your current team and so could bring viewpoints you perhaps haven’t considered in the past?

Vet for soft skills

Vetting for soft skills will help to crystallise what a candidate can contribute to company culture.

Communication, conflict resolution and problem-solving help staffers address issues. Creativity and critical thinking help to find new solutions. Empathy and flexibility mean staff work well in a team and get along with others.

Ask yourself, has either of the candidates highlighted instances of collaboration, problem solving, or excellent communication in the application or interview process? If not, ask the candidates for examples of when they’ve demonstrated such soft skills. Or perhaps you could have candidates rank their soft skills from most to least important to see if their priorities align with the business.

Plan for the future

While it’s obviously important to address immediate needs, thinking about the direction you want your organisation to take in the future can help to differentiate between two equal candidates.

It’s imperative to hire candidates who can support growth and take the organisation forward. To evaluate this, assess each candidate within the context of your current team and their individual characteristics. Can you envision one candidate making a more positive contribution to the organisation’s future than the other? Does one candidate bring with them a particularly useful or rare skill that could potentially create a new offering or solution to a problem?

Let’s say your candidates are competing for a marketing role in a medium-sized, growing company. Both candidates have the relevant experience and can present compelling case studies for the job. One of them has built a side business while they’ve been between jobs, to test lead-generation tactics. The other is a digital marketer with a global corporation and writes and analyses blog content. Does one seem better prepared to meet the direction your company is headed and propel you forward?

Put it to the test

If you still don’t have a clear winner, set a test or conduct a practical interview to see the candidates’ skills in action. Some examples of how you can test for exceptional skills include:

  • For copywriter candidates, present them with a realistic creative brief to write.
  • For marketing strategists, put together a short client brief and ask them to provide sound recommendations to meet it.
  • For customer service officers, put together a short list of customer issues and have them demonstrate how they’d resolve them.

These kinds of activities will demonstrate how candidates operate in a real-life work setting and can really help to illuminate if one candidate stands out from the other.

When it comes to deciding between two people you really want to hire, it’s  important to ask these tough questions. Your answers will highlight which candidate is the best possible fit for the role and while it can be a tricky process, the right hire is worth their weight in gold.

Paul Wolfe is SVP of Human Resources at Indeed. He oversees all global human resource functions, including talent acquisition, employee retention, compensation, benefits, and employee development.


With AHRI’s course ‘Recruitment and workplace relations’ you will gain the necessary skills to ensure for a smooth recruitment process.

Leave a reply

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