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Physician and Healthcare Job Board

Five Ways to Choose Between Terrific Candidates

How to Choose Between Equal Candidates for One Job Opening
belchonock /

You’ve done a great job recruiting for your newest opening. The screening is done, first and second (and sometimes third) interviews are complete, references are checked, and you’re ready to make a hire.  The problem is – all the candidates are equally qualified. How do you decide whom to choose? Everyone meets your criteria for the job, has the skill set and experience you need, and passed through the process with flying colors. What’s a recruiter (or hiring manager) to do? Don’t just flip a coin; try these additional steps to make a great hire.


Examine the recruits’ overall performance during the hiring process. Was their resume professional and error-free? Were they on time for interviews? Was there a need to reschedule on their part? Were they available when you phoned? Did they send thank you emails after the interview? Were there any standout moments of professionalism (or lack of) that you can recall? These small acts of professional courtesy could be indicative of someone who takes his or her career seriously.

Peer References

References from managers are great – they give you a top-down view of the candidate from the company perspective. But what is it like to work with this person side-by-side? Peer references can be illuminating – they give insight into the person’s work habits, cooperation, and whether he or she is team oriented. If you’re looking for a star player who is independent, or someone who meshes well with others, peer references can provide more detail.

Past and Future

Is the candidate someone who has moved up the ladder? Is that what you’re looking for? If you’re hoping to fill a spot with someone who will stay long term, look to see if the candidate has a history of moving up. It was likely merit-based, but candidates may see themselves on the advancement track – if that’s what you’re looking for, great – if not, move on.

Team Interview

Include the team in the process. You’ve probably had the perspective hire meet with the manager, but this person will work daily with the entire team. Try to set up an informal meeting with as many group members as possible. Have team members ask questions about the nuts and bolts of the work. They know what they’re looking for in a colleague and will know if the candidate will fit in well with the group.


Consider the diversity of the group. Are you able to include a candidate who would expand on the diversity in the department? We tend to gravitate toward similar candidates that we think will fit in well and not make waves, but in many cases, waves mean new thinking, innovation, and inspiration. If you can diversify the group in any way with one of the candidates, it might be worth a try. Could it be time to put someone in the mix you might not have considered before? You may be surprised at how successful the outcome will be.

Finally, be honest with the candidates. Let them know you’re in a hiring conundrum. When you make a determination, make sure to let the losing candidate know you will be holding his or her resume for any future openings, and don’t forget to do so. Your next opening could be a breeze to fill.

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About Riia O'Donnell

Riia O’Donnell has over 20 year’s hands-on experience in all aspects of the Human Resource function. Beginning as a recruiter, she grew to lead in all areas of HR, including employee training and development, legal compliance, benefits administration, compensation evaluation, and staff management. She has been a contributing writer for a wealth of HR, training, and small business websites for the past 7 years. Connect with Riia on Twitter at @RiiaOD.