Deciding Which Candidate to Recruit: A Simple Guide to Making the Final Choice

<div class="grey-callout"><h2>In This Guide You’ll Learn</h2><p><ul><li>My six-step process for making a hiring decision.</li><li>What to do if you’re unsure.</li><li>How to say “no”.</li><li>What to do if you don’t find anyone.</li></ul></p></div>

When deciding whether or not to hire someone, it’s easy to get carried away by your emotions and make a poor decision. This doesn’t mean that feelings are irrelevant, though. The decision-making process that I’ll take you through in this guide recognises the importance of your gut instincts while making sure that these don’t sabotage you.

It's best for the Interview Team to make a decision immediately after the interview before important details are forgotten. Here are the steps to follow:

Step 1: Review the Great Performance Profile

  • Remind yourself of the Minimum Acceptable Standards for each competency defined in the Great Performance Profile.
  • Remember that you’re looking to hire someone who you think will be a Great Performer. You don’t want to hire a Poor Performer out of desperation.

Step 2: Score the Applicant

  • Score for each competency. It’s good to do this using a Fibonacci scale – 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, and 13 – because people tend to find it easier to distinguish between options scored in this way than in an ordinary 1 to 6 scale in which adjacent scores feel too similar.
  • The candidate’s most recent performance is most important.
  • Put strengths into context. You might not want a meticulous planner in a fast-moving setting. Someone may have done well in their previous job because they were part of a strong team in a large organisation with plentiful resources. Their success may not automatically translate to a small startup.
  • Are any weaknesses tolerable, particularly ones which make them fall below the Minimum Acceptable Standard for a competency? How likely is it that they will change?
  • Don’t total scores because not every requirement is equally important. Remember that decision making is both art and science.
  • Overall, consider whether the person has the attributes of a potential Great Performer.

Step 3: Use the Delphi Technique

The Delphi Technique is a powerful tool for making group decisions about complex issues, such as those faced by recruiters. Here’s how to do it:

  • Ask members of the Interview Team to reveal at the same time their scores on a competency. Sometimes the scores are similar (e.g. between 3 and 5) in which case the group is broadly in agreement.
  • If the scores differ by more than two steps on the scale (e.g. 3 to 8) invite those who’ve given the low and high scores to share their reasons. Encourage people to be as open as possible. If you think the group is about to make a mis-hire you need to say so!
  • Now get everyone to score again.
  • Repeat the steps if necessary.

Differences in scores should narrow down as you go through this process. The technique helps give voice to all members’ views while allowing them to modify their positions through discussion with others. It reduces bias, social pressure and the influence of senior people and dominant personalities.

Step 4: Discuss Patterns

When coming up with your scores, look for patterns in candidates’ experience, such as:

  • Do they repeat their mistakes?
  • Do they work well with their teams and managers?
  • Do they leave jobs often and blame their employers?
  • Were their past successes dependent on favourable environments which you can’t replicate?

If you’re finding it hard to agree, remember that recruitment is never black and white and that you need to be open to compromise.

Step 5: Do a Pre-Mortem

The idea here is to imagine scenarios in which things don’t work out with someone you hire and to identify the reasons for this. By anticipating potential problems you actually increase the chances of things going well. Discuss reasons why you shouldn’t give someone a job:

  • What are the downsides? Why shouldn’t we employ them?
  • What can we do to mitigate the downsides?
  • Can we help them overcome their weaknesses?

Step 6: Make a Decision

  • Although the boss has the final say, decisions should be made on the basis of the combined wisdom of the group. If you’ve properly followed the previous steps, then everyone should have expressed their view and been listened to by the others.
  • When making your decision always remember that the perfect is the enemy of the good. You’re simply looking for someone who is a Great Performer on the basis of the competencies that you’ve defined.

Making an Offer

If you want to offer the candidate a job, that’s great! Now go straight to our guides, How to Conduct at Background Check followed by How to Make a Job Offer.

What to Do if You’re Unsure

  • Hopefully, the steps that I’ve outlined should have helped you come to a clear decision, but you may find yourself uncertain.
  • If you need more information from the candidate, then call them. You may also want to consider further Job Simulations and Work Culture Assessments. If you’re still wavering then you probably shouldn’t hire them.

At this point, avoid some common pitfalls:

  • Assuming that there’s someone better out there looking for your kind of job now.
  • Feeling that you have to pick someone right now.
  • Feeling that because you’ve spent time and resources on recruitment, you can’t back out.
  • Just wanting to hire so that you can tick it off your list.
  • Trying to shoehorn someone into your business by adapting the job, when you actually need someone to perform a particular set of tasks.

How to Say “No”

  • Don’t be scared of turning people down – sometimes it has to be done!
  • It’s best to send unsuccessful candidates an email informing them that they haven’t got the job. Choose your words carefully, and stick to generalities (you can see an example of this under the Guides & Checklists section of our website).
  • You might want to call the candidate in the case of senior posts, if it was a close decision, if the process was subject to serious delay or if you think there might be an opportunity with you for the candidate in future.
  • Be cautious about giving information if the candidate asks for feedback - stick to stating that other candidates had more relevant experience.

If Things Don’t Work Out, Take a Pause

<div class="grey-callout"><h2>Key Takeaways</h2><p><ul><li>To make a good hiring decision, follow this six-step process: review the Great Performance Profile, score the candidate against the competencies, build consensus among the Interview Team by using the Delphi Technique, discuss patterns, do a Pre-Mortem, and finally make your decision.</li><li>If you’re unsure, try to get any further information you need.<li></li>Don’t shy away from saying no when you have to.</li><li>If you don’t find anyone suitable, then have a pause to reflect on what went wrong.</li></p></div>

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Geoff Newman has dedicated his entire career to recruitment. He has consulted for many well-known international brands, and worked with over 20,000 growing businesses. He has helped fill over 100,000 jobs.

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We literally wrote the book on...

The secrets of great recruitment

The Secrets of Great Recruitment is a top-seller. It is easy to read and wastes no time in giving powerful actionable strategies you can use straight away.

Book cover for The Secrets of Great Recruitment