Times have changed for businesses, but bringing aboard top talent remains a constant. In fact, the need is greater today than ever before. And so are the challenges. Poor hiring decisions have profound impacts on business culture: low morale, waning motivation, and even degradation of an employment brand. With fierce competition for skilled talent, every person or group responsible for talent acquisition -- whether in-house at an organization or part of a staffing agency -- has been forced to reassess the ways in which candidates are engaged. Removing bias from the hiring process is essential. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to create hiring committees.
Sometimes It Takes a Village
In the scramble to refine recruiting techniques, introduce new technologies, streamline sourcing, and revamp the candidate experience, many companies overlook one big factor: the hiring process itself. But that seemingly simple thing could actually be the weakest link in the recruitment chain. It’s not that hiring managers or recruiters have failed, it’s that the nature of talent acquisition has transformed.
As Dr. John Sullivan writes in ERE: “It’s the dramatically changed talent marketplace that is negatively impacting hiring manager success. Not only has the competition for talent become extremely intense, but the percentage of jobs that require sophisticated technical skills have also increased dramatically. Hiring managers who infrequently hire simply won’t be able to make fast decisions, understand the changing candidate expectations, or effectively sell top talent.”
His suggested remedy is the formation of hiring committees. The idea isn’t novel or experimental. Google represents the flagship company for the practice. I’ve written about interviewing teams and hiring committees a few times myself, inspired by (of all things) my experience as a prospective juror in the “voir dire” selection process. But not many organizations have embraced the concept.
Interviewing the Interviewers
The reason these groups have proven effective is because they expose actual or implied biases -- just like jury selection. The good news is that developing a hiring team is a lot easier than assembling a jury.
When creating a decision-making committee or hiring team, work out a series of questions (no more than 10) that you would all ask candidates. Just as attorneys during jury selection, your aim is to develop a consistent set of questions with a universal format for all candidates. Also consider the notion of challenging team members for cause -- noticeable biases that are actual or implied.
For instance, say a manager in the group admits that she prefers to hire people she can relate to, with an advanced education from top universities. This would likely count as an actual bias. Having a postgraduate degree or attending a prestigious university is no guarantee of performance, ability, or even a good fit with the organization’s wider culture. By ruling out other qualified applicants with different skills and academic backgrounds, this interviewer is ignoring the benefits of considering a broad range of profiles. She risks creating a detrimental gap between the familiarity of the new hire and the best skills for the job.
You may also discover the potential for implied biases. Let’s imagine that another member of the committee is a young man from New York with a previous background in sales. Even though he oversees the accounting department for your organization, you find that nearly all of his hires are also male, never older than him, hail from the East Coast and all have prior work experience as salespeople. It’s clear that he has an implied bias, which may be costing your company the loss of better matched workers with more appropriate skill sets.
Meeting in this fashion and challenging for cause gives you the opportunity to identify and weed out biases within the group, standardize interviewing questions, and create relevant evaluation criteria that everyone can agree with. This process ensures that interviewers are on the same page when determining what an ideal candidate looks like. More importantly, this strategy helps you formalize a set of checks and balances.
Making a Case for Hiring Committees
In his article, Dr. Sullivan lists several advantages to the implementation of hiring committees, particularly when the business needs strategic and hard-to-fill positions.
“The improved new-hire performance results from having better trained and more experienced individuals responsible for the hiring decision,” Sullivan says. The selection process allows company leaders to build a data-driven approach to talent acquisition rather than an intuitive one. It also helps them discover team members who are more likely to base their decisions on data and facts.
Company Goals, Not Individual Needs
Individual hiring managers can fall into the trap of recruiting for their own department’s needs, without actually considering the larger goals of the organization. The focus becomes narrow and self-serving at some level. Through the selection of hiring committee members, the company can quickly determine which individuals take a more strategic view of longer term talent requirements. This approach helps future-proof the company and its mission.
Faster Hires, Fewer Losses
Clearly defined, centralized, and consistent processes ensure a more accurate and accelerated hiring outcome. Consensus is more immediate. The best matched candidates are more readily identified. “And that means that fewer high-demand candidates will be lost as a result of busy hiring managers not devoting enough time to making quick hiring decisions,” Sullivan notes.
Insightful and Actionable Data
It’s difficult for a single manager to step beyond his or her bounds and assess candidates for a full career trajectory through the ranks of the organization. Having a committee of diverse managers, who represent different departments, brings a greater sense of a each candidate’s potential growth and development opportunities. The practice also does wonders for bolstering diversity and inclusion.
“Instead of a single hiring manager,” Sullivan explains, “you have multiple trained individuals making the assessment. In addition, a high volume of hires and the extensive feedback that accompanies it will allow team members to continually improve the speed and the quality of their candidate assessments.”
Selecting candidates -- and even those who interview them -- requires planning, thoughtfulness, and process. When we eliminate bias from hiring, we get to the heart of what matters most: finding talent who perform and produce results at the highest levels. We expose our organizations to talent of all skills, backgrounds, aptitudes, and cultures. We strengthen diversity and inclusion. We spur fresh ideas and innovation. And we may even discover that what a worker may lack in terms of established skills or longevity, he or she makes up for through motivation, a willingness to learn, a desire to succeed, and a drive to achieve.