Hiring is not about consensus


July 23rd, 2014 | Posted in by

The foundation of any successful business is its people, and if you don’t have an exact recipe for hiring the right person each and every time, it’s risky business. If you’re a small company, one hire can be make or break. I’m sure you’ve read an article or two outlining the average cost of a failed hire – if you haven’t, here’s a great one by Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite. The point is, it’s expensive, it has enormous repercussions, and it puts your reputation on the line.

Despite all that, you need to pull the trigger. In today’s talent-sparse market, we don’t have the luxury of waiting around for perfection. Growth priorities need to outweigh your fear of failure. It’s not uncommon to want to do your due-diligence when it comes to hiring, but there’s no reason to draw out the time from initial engagement to offer. Remember, you probably aren’t the only company they’re considering. Move it or lose it, as they say, you may miss out on some really great talent.

One of the most prevalent ways of delaying the offer stage is selection by committee. If done correctly, it’s an excellent way to show your team you value their opinion and increase your chances of making a good decision. However, more often than not one of two phenomena come in to play, making it a very detrimental strategy.

  1. The dominant person in the group shares their opinion and everyone is quick to adopt his or her ideas as their own. A consensus will be reached quickly, but ultimately, you won’t benefit from multiple point of views. This is known as groupthink.

  2. Everyone has their own opinion. To avoid hurting burning any bridges, you try to accommodate everyone’s concerns and hold off on a decision until a compromise is made, delaying the offer stage by weeks or months.

The first scenario is all too common, but it still results in a quick hire. The second, however, is the reason your competitor will steal talent right from under you.

To mitigate the risk that this happens there are a few strategies you can implement. Firstly, encourage everyone to write down their thoughts on each candidate in a central location immediately after the interview. This way, your employees won’t have to rely on memory, and they won’t be tempted to sway their opinion. “Go with you gut” is a common expression when it comes to hiring – even if someone else on the team has a completely different perspective on the candidate, your first impression probably isn’t entirely wrong, stick with it.

The other solution that allows you to safely hire by committee is to implement a majority-wins policy. Pre-determine the weighting of each person’s vote, tally up the score after the interview and stick to the numbers. This will prevent people from taking it personally and you’ll make a decision fast enough to hire. Your senior management should have more-pull than entry level employees, but don’t make the juniors feel undervalued.

Move quickly and you’ll find you walk away with some great talent. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Hiring, well it’s a sprint. Good luck!