Finding the Right Candidate

March 4th, 2020      1596
You’ve screened dozens of applicants, vetted a select few through multiple stages of your hiring process, and now you’re down to the final two candidates. So who do you choose? And what are the best ways to determine if your candidates have the behavioral traits and skills needed for the role?


Interviewing candidate one is like playing a great game of tennis. You serve the question and she smashes it right back with a well-crafted answer. At times your conversation is like the perfect rally. You cannot fault her game.

Candidate two looks great on paper, but during the interview she is stumbling, struggling to find her feet. She is just not giving you any kind of game. You think she can do it, but she is not convincing you.

So who do you choose? Most would say candidate one. But is he or she the best candidate or just the best candidate at interviewing? How do you know which candidate has the behavioral traits and skills needed for the role?

Here are five ideas to get you started.


1. Give them a problem to solve.

Start this off by making it part of the application process. Describe a problem they would be likely to face in their role and ask them to respond with how they would solve it in no more than 1,000 words.

Ask those you have shortlisted to discuss their response. By discussing their thinking behind their solution, you’ll verify both their skills (the steps they would take to fix the problem) as well as their behaviors (how they would approach each step).

2. Give them a project to complete.

Prior to any formal interviews, ask the successful candidates to complete an activity that they would do as part of their job. This shows you what your candidates are capable of before (potentially incorrect) judgments can be made at interview.

Possible job auditions might be:

  • Sales executive: deliver a sales pitch to you – selling your product
  • Project manager: write a project plan based on a project scope
  • Customer service manager: analyze customer service statistics and plan out next steps

This is their field. This is what they should be good at. See how they do in their comfort zone.

3. Take them out of the “interview zone.”

An easy way to do this is to take your candidate out for lunch with the team to see how they interact. Think about which team members you invite. The dynamics will be different if all the attendees at the lunch are senior to the candidate. The candidate may take pains to be on their best behavior in this situation, and you won’t get an accurate reflection of who you’ll be working with day-to-day.

Determine the behaviors you want to observe and pay attention accordingly. Does the candidate listen when people speak? How do they interact with the waiting staff? Are they interested in learning about others or just talking about themselves?

4. Listen to them talk about something that’s important to them.

Ask candidates about what they’re passionate about and sit back and listen. You can learn so much about prospective employees through stories of being a foster parent, youth worker, etc. 

5. Get feedback from people they meet outside of the interview.

Eyes and ears when you’re out of sight can be invaluable. Find ways for other team members to interact with your candidate. Tell them (but not the candidate) that you will be looking for feedback. Here are three possible ways to go about it:

  1. Ask a team member that wasn’t part of the interview panel to give the candidate a tour of the office.
  2. Ask another member of the team to meet the candidate in the reception area and escort them to the interview room. 
  3. Invite the candidate to sit with someone to see what they do, and find out what questions they asked.

These recruitment tactics will not just help you to hire the best candidate, but the best candidate that is the most likely to stay with you for the long-haul. You’ll not only see a more relevant side of your candidates, you’ll also give your candidates a far clearer view of what’s involved in the job and what your business feels like. And don’t be worried about putting candidates off: If the role isn’t the right fit, you want them to decide now, not in three months’ time.

By making your recruitment process relevant to the role, you’ll know how to hire the best candidate – not just the candidate that performs the best at interview.

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