Whether you are the only human resource professional at your company or a recruiter working independently, have you stopped to consider if it's a good idea to hire alone? It’s no easy task sourcing, reviewing, and interviewing applicants for every job -- let alone be the only person making these types of decisions. Think about when you work on an important project. Are you the only person who ever weighs in on the process? The answer is probably no but even given the importance of hiring, it's often a solo job. If we know multiple opinions leads to better work outputs, why aren't we applying the same strategy to recruitment?
The risks and benefits of hiring solo
There’s a lot at stake when it comes to hiring people. We’ve all been unfortunate enough to have made at least one bad hire in our career. It’s a costly and stressful experience. A CareerBuilder survey estimated that around 41 percent of businesses admitted to making a bad hire and it cost them between $25,000 to $50,000 in lost productivity and replacement costs. It cannot be understated enough then that hiring must be conducted strategically and carefully. It can be beneficial at times to make a hiring decision using one’s own resources and experience, and then there are other times when it is more risky to do so.
Hiring alone creates some risks to the organization. First, it can introduce unintentional bias to the hiring decision. Because recruitment is evaluating people’s skills and other human attributes, it’s easy to make a certain impression of others based on our own values and ideas about stereotypes. In many cases, this can diminish our capacity to hire for diversity, which puts the organization at risk for EEOC violations and poor retention.
Another risk of hiring alone is that it reduces one’s time for sourcing other candidates and keeping them engaged in the process. Face to face interviews and assessments and background checks are very time consuming, as are candidate follow-ups and new hire processing. This can mean great candidates are falling through the cracks and being picked up by the competition.
But big benefit of hiring alone is that it is a matter of business necessity to make a decision about a candidate swiftly and with a knowledgeable background of hiring many people over the years. If you are confident in a candidate and don’t need validation other than what you have seen already, then it can be more beneficial to hire on your own. This is undeniably the easiest and fastest approach to hiring, so long as you understand the limitations of trusting only one opinion.
What are the pros and cons of using a hiring committee?
The other option when it comes to hiring is to pick a co-interviewer or select a group of people from your organization who are objective thinkers, seasoned at hiring, and good judges of character to form a strategic hiring committee. This is not a new idea, but one that is increasing in use. Large corporations like Amazon, Apple, and Google have been using hiring committees successfully for at least the last few years. But even if you have a small company, a hiring committee can put more eyes on the resumes of applicants to make better hiring decisions.
Group hiring works well when there are key roles to fill in the organization. For example, a management level candidate or a new department position rather than a lower level job like that of an assistant. These roles often requires the insight of several people who can share what they know as being the best skills and personality traits to look for. Given these positions often have multiple hiring rounds anyways, it's easy to bring in other voices to get a group opinion on candidates. This can be particularly helpful when there are multiple strong candidates in consideration.
A negative impact of a hiring committee is during rapid growth cycles when large numbers of employees need to be hired for entry level work. This is best left up to a few seasoned recruiters and the HR hiring manager to decide, otherwise things can be slowed down in details. Not to mention, in a rapid growth phase, it might be difficult to coordinate the schedules and resources needed to free up the hiring committee's time.
The trick is to find a balance between the time it takes to use a hiring committee and the importance of the hire. You don't want to bog down your talent pipeline by doing this for everyone but in some instances, hiring alone might lead to the wrong decision.
How do you create a hiring committee?
If you're going to try hiring with a little help, where do you get started? Here are some tips to set you up for success:
1) Understand what you need: Make a shortlist of the knowledge or background you need on your committee. You might need a member of HR present, possibly a coworker of the new hire, their manager, and maybe the department head. Or maybe the role has technical elements you can't vet alone that requires assistance from a different department. Be clear about who you need on your team and why so that everyone understands what they're bringing to the team.
2) Don't invite the whole company: Committees should be large enough to gather insights from but small enough to be manageable. A few people is the sweet spot rather than a large team. You want everyone's voice to be heard, otherwise why have them on the team at all?
3) Figure out roles: If you're going to be interviewing together, come up with a game plan. Who asks questions about past performance and who dives deeper into personality and behaviour? It's important not to overlap on interview questions as this creates a poor candidate experience.
4) Debrief together: It can be easy to focus only on the interview but once the candidate is gone, the committee should meet to debrief the interviews of the day. The sooner this can happen after the interviews are complete the better given that memory can grow more unreliable as time goes on. While you can gather feedback individually, it's better to meet in person as the discussion can sometimes trigger new insights when done in a group format.
Know what works for you
The hiring process can be tricky and there is no magic wand to hiring accurately 100% of the time. Hiring committees can bring a different approach to the interview process that hopefully makes any final decision-making run more smoothly. If you're going to go down this road, however, take the time to make a plan and make sure you really need this extra layer of information. Interns, for example, likely don't need to be interviewed by a 5 panel committee. But a senior manager definitely might. When you have the time, more heads are better than one. And when multiple inputs are taken into account, you have a better shot at making the right decision.