Tiebreaker: Choosing Which STEM Candidate to Hire

Great job! You’ve posted a clear and comprehensive job description, successfully attracted strong science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) talent, combed through dozens of impressive resumes, and ended up interviewing several stellar candidates! Now for the clincher: you now need to choose The One, and even with team votes, an in-depth, after-hours social interview (they both think spiked seltzer is just ‘meh’), and sage advice from The Oracle (a.k.a. Karen from HR), it’s not quite clear: who is the best hire? Who will be worth the hiring investment? Who will mesh well with the team and thrive? Here are some factors that may help tip the scale:

Who has more learning potential and adaptability? In the STEM sector, experience isn’t the end-all, be-all. Many tech firms, especially startups, have small teams with members performing multiple functions. For emerging companies, or even large ones who recognize the value of agility and adaptability, hiring candidates who can grow into taking on more complex, challenging roles is ideal. It’s also important to determine if your potential new hire can roll with the punches, and remain positive and productive in the face of change. To test for adaptability, ask for examples of when they had to adjust on the fly.

Who is a natural fit for the job? Most people want to do their best, but there are some gems who will succeed because they truly care about the work they do – simply because it fits so well with their personalities.2 Are looking for a Project Manager who is more detail-oriented and proud of their previous projects? Which Customer Service Representative is more of a people person? Which Front Desk Admin is naturally cheerful and organized?

And, most importantly…

Who is the better cultural fit? Culture has become the major factor for determining employee engagement, productivity, and retention – and for good reason. “When a candidate has a genuine, authentic desire to join your company because their personal values align with your culture, the potential is limitless,” says Sarah O’Neill, VP ident of HR at humano, who has been listed among the Millennials who are leading HR into the future on SHRM’s 30 Under 30 list. “Everything else can be taught.” 1

Cultural compatibility fosters loyalty, commitment, and is essential for employee longevity – a premium in today’s market where turnover is more the rule than the exception. 3 The cost of onboarding a STEM employee is well over $240,000, and the true cost of a bad hire is at least 30 percent of that employee’s first-year earnings.1 Think carefully about who you and your team would most like to work with day after day, and who would most like to work with your team – ultimately the right decision will pay dividends not just in employee morale, but for your actual bottom-line.

1              Nine Hiring Tips To Help You Choose The Perfect Candidate, O’Neill, Sarah (04/25/2017) www.forbes.com

2              Should You Hire for Personality or Skill? Paljug, Katherine (11/27/2018) https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/11165-hire-personality-or-skill.html

3              Employee loyalty is down — and weak company culture is to blame, Bolden-Barret, Valerie (02/26/2019) https://www.hrdive.com/news/employee-loyalty-is-down-and-weak-company-culture-is-to-blame/549061/

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