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How to Decide Between Two Equally Qualified Candidates

January 29, 2015

Job_CandidatesOne of the common problems we encounter throughout the hiring process is being able to find candidates who have all the skills necessary to perform successfully on the job. For example, candidates may have the technical skills, but lack some of the leadership skills required for the position. Or, candidates may have the interpersonal skills and work ethic, but may fall short on safety orientation. When candidates have significant weaknesses in critical competencies, they are removed from the process and we have to continue on with the search.

However, there are some occasions when we experience a different type of problem. This occurs when we find ourselves with two candidates who are both well-qualified for the job. They both have the skills and ability to do the job well and therefore each could be an asset to your workforce. While this isn’t the worst problem to be in by any means, it’s still a hard decision to make. So, how do you decide between these two equally qualified candidates?

One of the information points that we like to collect throughout the hiring process is motivational fit. Motivational fit occurs when there is an alignment between a candidate’s interests for a job and beliefs about work and a job’s expectations or organization’s values. We know that when there is a good match or alignment between employees and the job/organization, the employee is much more likely to be satisfied with the job and to stay on the job. The chances that the employee would leave when there are high levels of motivational fit are very low.

After knowing that the candidates have the skills necessary to perform on the job, motivational fit is a good way to determine if that candidate will stay on the job. This is also a good way to differentiate between two qualified candidates. If one candidate is seeking a role that has a lot of structure and little variety, but the job requires someone to be autonomous and to complete different tasks often, there would be poor alignment. If the other candidate is seeking a role that allows for independence and has variety, then there would be greater alignment to the job. The first candidate would not be as satisfied with the job as the second candidate and may ultimately leave the job if he or she came onboard. Therefore, hiring the well-qualified candidate, who also has a good fit for the job, would be a better decision in the end.

Motivational fit can be effectively measured during a structured interview. Posing questions such as what aspects of their current job they find satisfying or what types of tasks they find dissatisfying in a job, can give you a good idea of the candidate’s interests. You can get a sense for their level of motivational fit by comparing what they say to what the job offers. For example, if you know the job will involve a lot of teamwork, you may want to see if the candidate prefers working independently or with others. If the candidate prefers to work by themselves on projects, then his level of motivational fit is lower. That candidate would not enjoy the tasks as much as someone who prefers collaboration on work projects. As such, this candidate may not be good for the role in the end because he is less likely to stick with the job.

All of this being said, it’s critical that you make sure that candidates have the skills required for the job first. Motivational fit can help to differentiate between two good candidates, but cannot make up for significant limitations that a candidate may have in an area that is critical for job performance.

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Alissa Parr, Ph.D. Alissa Parr, Ph.D. is a Senior Consultant at PSI. Her areas of expertise include the development, implementation, and evaluation of assessment processes. Alissa has experience managing entry-level through executive level assessment and selection efforts across a number of different industries including government, financial, military, education, healthcare, and manufacturing.