Why You Need To Identify Two #1 Candidates In Today’s Tight Labor Market

By: Richard Butz

In the previous blog, we recommended that hiring managers establish at least two goals for each search:

  1. “Short List”: The recruiting team should provide 5-7 well qualified candidate or the “short list pool” of candidates to be interviewed.
  2. Finalists” or Two #1 Candidates:  From this talent pool, two well-qualified people should emerge, both of whom are almost equally qualified and worthy of an offer.

Note: Although we did not discuss in the first blog, another goal for the short list of candidates should also include a specific number of women and/or minority candidates as well. (More on finding female and minority candidates in a coming blog)

Raising The Recruiting Service Bar: Expect to get some push back from your recruiters about these goals.  The job market is tight and it will [a] require more work on the recruiters part to achieve these goals and [b] require pro-active sourcing of “passive” job market candidates who are not actively looking for a job but who might be interested in hearing about a job that will enhance their career. However, by raising the bar, you will achieve a talent acquisition edge that will also have an exponentially positive impact on your business.

A Difficult Decision: “I don’t know which one to hire!” You will know you have two #1 candidates from which to select when you make this statement. The decision should be difficult because both will be well qualified, sometimes for different reasons. Rank them 1a and 1b.

Blind Spot #1 – Being the Selector Versus the Selected: Remember that interviewing is a two-way street. As the interviewer, you are interviewing people who meet your requirements and you are the one who is the “selector” of the finalists. Conversely, do not forget that candidates are also interviewing you to determine if your opportunity will be a career enhancement for them over the next three to five years. As the hiring manager, keep in mind the finalist can decide to stay with their current employer, or they may have other job offers with which to compare. You are “selecting” them but they are “selecting” you as well.

 Blind Spot #2 – Counter Offer: Even though you did a good job demonstrating to the finalists why your opportunity is a career enhancement for them, keep in mind that a talented candidate, who would be valuable to your organization, is also valuable to their current employer. Those employers will be reluctant to give them up and as a result the individual may receive a counter offer.

Having Two #1 Candidates Is A Win-Win Situation: Having two number one candidates gives you the security of  being in a win-win decision-making position, even if you do not land your #1a candidate. Nothing is worse than the candidate you want to hire, turn down your offer and then not having another candidate of comparable skills to hire. This will require you to restart the search and that can take anywhere from six to twelve additional weeks to complete. The opportunity costs associated with that open position is very high.


Richard Butz, Founder of The Center For Leadership Excellence has written and lectured extensively on selection issues. To Learn more about our Talent Acquisition Practice, click here.

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