HR Mavericks

Eddy’s HR Mavericks Encyclopedia


Making the right hires is crucial to your organization's success, so it stands to reason that sourcing and managing your pool of candidates is critical as well. Here's an overview of how to find, choose, and hire great candidates, with links to more in-depth articles so you can find out more.

What Is a Candidate?

A candidate is any person that a company’s hiring team considers for an open job. This could be someone who has submitted an application for a job, or someone whom the company has identified on their own as a potential fit. What makes someone a real candidate is that the company reciprocates their interest in a job.

Characteristics of a Great Candidate

What makes an applicant a candidate, and what makes a candidate someone you want to pursue? There are four general characteristics to evaluate as you evaluate your pool of candidates.


Every job has minimum requirements of what the new hire must be able to do, whether in physical ability, proficiency in skills, or degrees and certifications. Prior experience in the relevant field is also a common measure of how well the candidate will be able to do the job. Most jobs have a set of non-negotiable qualifications as well as “nice-to-have” skill sets that are preferred but not absolutely required. Applicants who match these requirements most closely are most likely to advance through the interview process.


Once you know a candidate has the needed qualifications, the next thing to assess is how well they work with others. Practically every job requires working with people to some degree, so a successful candidate needs to show that they are friendly, responsible, professional, and that they can communicate clearly with others. It’s easy enough for candidates to display this in their interactions with recruiters over the phone, but formal interviews are where candidates can really demonstrate their personable qualities. Reference checks are traditionally another way for companies to get more assurance of their candidates’ personal qualities.


Even though the recruiting process can be stressful and frustrating at times, it’s important for candidates to maintain respectful communications. It’s unwise for a candidate to show impatience with the process or make unreasonable requests of recruiters or hiring managers. Your primary concern is finding the best person for the job in the right time frame, and observing how a candidate behaves under stress is valuable information.


Sometimes what really sets someone apart in the interview process is how they show initiative. This can apply to the very start of the process—for example, whether they simply apply and wait, or find employees to contact over LinkedIn. Another example of showing initiative is researching the company online, or verbally indicating that they’ve sought out practice with software or other tools to be used on the job. The most successful candidates are able to balance being respectful of the hiring team with being proactive and earnest.

Methods for Finding Quality Candidates

In tight labor markets, recruiters need to proactively search for candidates rather than wait for applicants to come their way. Here are a few of the most effective ways to find great candidates.

Use Sourcing Platforms

Resume databases and search platforms are efficient methods to reach candidates in bulk. These tools can filter people based on criteria such as industry, job title, locations, company or school names, or other keywords. Popular platforms are LinkedIn, Indeed, Dice, and ZipRecruiter.

Attend Job Fairs

Schools regularly host job fairs for employers to advertise their open jobs and connect with job seekers. Attending the most appropriate events for your open jobs can be an effective approach to building talent pools. Make the most of these opportunities by preparing handouts in advance and organizing information on jobs that will be most suitable to attendees.

Encourage Employees to Refer

It’s a strong sign of loyalty when an employee refers one of their friends or family to a hiring manager. Encourage your current workforce to share openings with their network (some companies offer a financial incentive if a person an employee refers is hired). This is unlikely to yield as many candidates as other methods, but can result in higher-quality people who stay with the company longer.

How to Choose the Best Candidates to Interview

When there are many talented applicants, the selection process is easier said than done. Here are the basic steps of screening candidates.

Start With the Resumé

Use the resumé to assess whether the candidate has the education and/or experience to do the job well. If your job opening has gathered a dozen or more qualified applications, organize them in a spreadsheet to more easily rank them.

Conduct Brief Phone Screens

After identifying those who meet basic qualifications, have brief conversations to better understand their work experience. Ask them pointed questions to determine if they’ve been exposed to situations and challenges that they’ll have at this job. Consult with hiring managers to get details about technical areas to screen for.

Consider Salary Expectations and Location

Ask each candidate for key information, such as salary expectation, whether they need sponsorship to work legally, or whether they are willing to relocate (if applicable). Even though candidates may have flexibility with these things, it’s best to know sooner than later if there are any conditions that will automatically take them out of the running. This way, everyone involved can avoid wasting each other’s time and attention.

Develop a Scoring System

Develop a scoring system that puts the proper weight on the most important skills or attributes for the job. This data-driven approach helps avoid bias and organizes your evaluation, but don't forget to balance it with intuition. You are hiring a person, not a bundle of attributes.

Examples of Questions to Ask Candidates

Ask candidates questions that reveal their ways of thinking and interacting with others. You should also ask follow-up questions to dig deeper as needed. Here are a few questions and examples to get you started in the right direction.

Tell me about a time when you demonstrated (X, Y, Z)

It’s better for a candidate to demonstrate a skill by sharing a specific experience they have had rather than talk about their philosophy on that skill. This is called behavioral interviewing, and it can be applied to both hard and soft skills. By asking this question, you are challenging the candidate to think about what they’ve actually accomplished in their career and what results came from their actions.

What would your boss or coworkers say about you?

This question forces the candidate to think about how their behaviors are perceived by others, rather than how they perceive themselves. It can give some insight into their most salient strengths and weaknesses.
  • If the candidate answers too generally, dig deeper by asking for examples of how they gained someone’s trust after working with them.
  • If the candidate shares critical information about themselves, ask them whether they think that’s a good thing or something they’d like to improve. For example, follow up with that question if the candidate says they’re stubborn, reserved, reactionary, etc.

How would you go about solving (X, Y, Z)?

Asking a candidate to explain step by step how they would respond to a hypothetical situation allows you to evaluate their thought process. The point of this question is not for them to arrive at a correct answer, but to show how they consider different situational aspects and deal with them. Look for:
  • Clarifying questions they may ask you
  • Assumptions they make themselves
  • Whether their solution is directive or collaborative
  • Prior experience they use as references
Brian Fleming

Brian Fleming

I hold a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from BYU and have four years of professional experience in HR and Recruiting. I am also currently pursuing my MBA. No matter the field or setting I've been involved in at work or school, I've always really enjoyed writing in a way that makes the subject at hand relatable to the reader.
View author page
Frequently asked questions
Other Related Terms
Applicant Auto-Rejection
Blind Resumes
Blind Screening
Boomerang Employee
Candidate Journey
Candidate Pipeline
Candidate Pool
Candidate Withdrawal
Career Gap
Contrast Effect
Cover Letters
Employment History
Functional Resume
Job Hopping
Passive Candidates
Qualified Applicant
Reference Check
Resume Screening
Superstar Candidate
Eddy's HR Newsletter
Sign up for our email newsletter for helpful HR advice and ideas.
Simple and accurate payroll.
Pay your U.S.-based employees on time, every time, with Eddy.