Comparison Recruiting

The phrase, “there’s no comparison” might apply many places- the interview process isn’t one of them. As a matter of fact, when it comes to interviews it’s all about comparison.

We compare everything. Think about the last time you made a decision without making a comparison? Almost all of us make decisions by comparing things- what we have vs. what we could have. We compare two or more things and pick our favorite. We are wired to compare things, especially things that are similar or easily comparable- like jobs.

Few recruiters or hiring managers use comparison to their advantage. I’m going to share one question you can ask in your interview process that will help you understand the specific things you need to compare for each individual candidate.

In most cases, recruiters and hiring executives fail to use comparison simply because they fail to engage a candidate in a conversation about what is important to her. Effectively, they fail to learn about the comparisons that person values most.

First, understand candidates compare everything- they compare your job to their current job or other opportunities they might be interviewing for. Candidates also compare the company, the growth opportunity, money, equity, management team and any number of other things.

Using comparison in the interview process starts with something very simple…finding out what is important to the candidate. This discovery conversation you also give yourself two significant but subtle psychological advantages that ultimately impact the candidate decision.

First, when you talk with your candidate about what matters to her, you are demonstrating that what she wants is important. When the candidate feels like what matters to her also matters to you, she feels valued. That mental connecting of dots in your candidate’s brain matters when it comes time to say “yes” or “no” to an offer. People like to work where they are valued. If the comparison is: which company values me most, you win!

A second psychological advantage is gained with this interview approach- don’t assume just because she is interviewing with you that she is: a) looking for a new job or b) interested in leaving her current position. I know….it sounds counterintuitive but sometimes the comparison being made is, “is my current job as good as I think it is?” This approach requires that you both evaluate AND sell your candidate. When you are selling your opportunity, you are telling your candidate, “I recognize I need to show you a better opportunity than the one you have today” and that also matters when it comes down to her decision as well.

Which brings us to the key question you need to ask your candidate early in the interview process:

“What is it you don’t have today that another company/opportunity could provide you?”

The value in the response includes, but isn’t limited to:

For you, the answers are the comparisons she values most! Pay attention to her answer.
For you, if she doesn’t know the answer, she probably hasn’t thought much about her career or career goals- and that might matter to you in making your decision.
For your candidate, you are saying, “you matter and what you want matters. I want to make your career, and maybe even your life, better by providing you something you don’t have today that is important to you.”

Armed with the answer to that simple question, you can now talk about your opportunity in a way that allow you differentiate your opportunity from her status quo in a meaningful, important way by providing data points that allow her to compare what you can provide (a better opportunity) vs. what she has today (a lesser opportunity).

To summarize….talk to your candidate about what matters to her. Don’t talk about how great your opportunity is as a one-size-fits-all sort of thing; that doesn’t work. Engaging your candidate in the “what matters to you” conversation demonstrates that you, and as an extension, your company values the people who work there. Most importantly, you will learn how to discuss and prioritize key aspects of your opportunity in a way that will cause the comparison your candidate makes to come out in your favor.

If you want to learn more about how to humanize your recruiting process or if you have other questions- drop me a line- I’m glad to help.

About the Author

Doug Johnson is the president of Valor Partners, an executive search firm focused on marketing and sales leadership.  Doug also specializes in working to help advance women in tech as well as the companies interested in creating more gender-balanced organization.  He can be reached at or 540-492-4250.

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