How Does an Employer Decide Which Candidate to Hire?

Resumes at the ready
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As a job candidate, it can be very helpful to consider just how employers make hiring decisions as you plan your strategy. Early in the hiring process, employers will write a job description that outlines the candidate’s required and preferred qualifications.

The job description will do more than just list the job requirements and duties associated with the role:

  • It will specify skills, education, training, work experience, and other requirements for the job.
  • It may even provide a sense of where the role falls in the reporting structure and give a sense of what the day-to-day responsibilities will look like.

For example, the job description might say whether you’ll be required to travel and what your goals would be, should you be hired.

How Does an Employer Decide Which Applicant to Hire?

How does an employer decide who to hire? It starts with determining who would be a good candidate for the job. Typically, a prospective supervisor will work with a human resources professional to make sure both departmental and organizational perspectives and requirements are represented in this document.

Applicant Screening

At some employers, resumes are screened by an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) prior to being reviewed by a recruiter or a hiring manager. At other companies, the resumes or applications will be manually reviewed, and a decision on who to screen further and possibly interview will be made.

In some cases, the hiring manager will arrange a screening committee to review applications and interview and evaluate candidates. The hiring manager will usually hold a meeting to review the ideal candidate profile and to charge the committee.

Each member of the screening committee will have their preferences for the qualifications and qualities of the candidate, given how they intersect with the position. You should find out the composition of the committee, if possible, before your interview and try to anticipate their vested interest in the job.

Evaluating Candidates

Once interviews are completed, most employers will seek input from all parties who have encountered candidates during the interview process.


Keep in mind that even seemingly lower-level employees like administrative assistants who greeted you and set up your interview day may be asked for their impressions.

Treat everyone respectfully and be your best professional self at all times, including during informal lunches or dinners with prospective colleagues.

It is hard to anticipate what each employer will be looking for as they make final decisions about candidates, but it is useful to consider some common factors.

Selection Criteria Used by Employers

Here are some criteria employers frequently use when they decide which candidate to hire:

  • Would the individual fit in with the colleagues in their department?
  • Does the finalist have an appealing personality? Would we enjoy working with her?
  • Does the candidate possess the skills necessary to excel in the job?
  • Does the individual have the appropriate depth and type of prior experience?
  • Does the candidate have the technical proficiency to get the job done?
  • Does the applicant possess the licenses and/or certificates required for the job?
  • Does the individual have the knowledge, expertise and information base to carry out the job effectively?
  • Does the finalist have the required academic background?
  • Does the candidate have a positive, "can do" attitude?
  • Does the applicant have a strong work ethic and a high energy level?
  • Does the candidate have the confidence and experience to be a leader?
  • Has the applicant proven that they have added value, made improvements and positively impacted the bottom line?
  • Would the individual be a good team player?
  • Can the finalist communicate clearly and effectively?
  • Is the candidate a good long-term prospect to fill higher level jobs?
  • Is the applicant likely to stay in the position for a long enough period? Will she be happy in the role? Is she overqualified?
  • Does the individual fit in with the corporate culture?
  • Can the candidate cope with the pressures and stress of the job?
  • How enthusiastic is the applicant about the job?
  • Can the finalist innovate, think outside the box, and creatively meet challenges?
  • Is the individual aware of their weaknesses, comfortable with constructive criticism and motivated to improve themselves?

How to Enhance Your Chances of Getting Selected

Even though some of the selection processes are out of your control, other parts are not. You can use your resumes, cover letters, and interviews to make the case as to why you’re the best candidate for the job:

Take the Time to Match Your Qualifications to the Job Description: When writing your cover letter and resume, be sure to emphasize your skills and abilities listed in the job description. If you’re able to show why you’re a strong candidate, you’ll make it easier for those who review your application materials to come to a positive decision on your application. It will also up your chances of success.

Keep It Positive and Promote Yourself: Employers love upbeat and positive applicants because they will bring that mindset to the job with them.


Even if you are thinking negative thoughts about your past employers, keep them to yourself. Nobody wants to hear them.

You don’t want to come across as overbearing or too arrogant but do promote your qualifications for the job. Share examples of how you succeeded in prior positions to help make the case as to why you’re the best applicant.

Write a Thank-You Note After the Interview: It’s more than just polite; sending a thank-you note after a job interview gives you an opportunity to reiterating your qualifications for the position. It also gives you a chance to add anything you wish you had brought up during the interview. It’s one more way to pitch your candidacy for the job.

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  1. CareerOneStop. "Select and Pre-Screen." Accessed Feb. 20, 2020.

  2. Zippia. "5 Tips to Ensure You Evaluate Candidates Consistently." Accessed Feb. 20, 2020.

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