How (and why) we avoid committee hiring decisions

Getting a large group of people to agree on anything can be a task. Even if it’s just dinner, there are often strong opinions about what will be best. And when the stakes are high, like selecting a person to hire, opinions become much stronger—which can result in drawn-out interviewing processes and lukewarm hires. This is why we avoid hiring by committee. (Or as one of our recruiters likes to call it: creating a UN Security Council for hiring.) Instead, we train hiring managers so they can confidently make hiring choices, keep the number of collaborators to a minimum, and coordinate among collaborators for all interviews.

1. Train hiring managers. One of the reasons hiring turns into a committee decision is because some hiring managers are nervous about being the sole decision maker. To avoid a mistake, they bring in a whole team to screen—which can muddy decision making and be intimidating for candidates. Help hiring managers feel more confident by holding frequent, in-depth, and personalized trainings.

Our recruiters train all hiring managers (as well as anyone else involved in candidate selection) on dos and don’ts for finding great candidates. They follow up the training by working with hiring managers on individual strengths and weaknesses. So, if a hiring manager has a difficult time screening for culture fit, our recruiters work with them to polish that skill. Because of the training, hiring managers feel more confident in their ability to select the right candidates.

2. Involve only necessary collaborators. You can avoid committee decisions while still involving more than one person—just make sure you don’t involve too many people or anyone who isn’t vital to the decision. Team members who will work really closely with the hire? Probably good to get their opinion. A director from another department who will work with them every once in a while? The hiring manager shouldn’t need their approval.

Also, have hiring managers set expectations for how weighted collaborators’ opinions are. A lot of people with veto power makes it difficult to find an acceptable hire—you can have the absolute most qualified, easy-to-get-along-with candidate, and someone still won’t like them. Hiring managers should make it clear to collaborators that their opinion is valued, but they don’t have veto power.

3. Help hiring managers coordinate. It’s important to have everyone on the same page before candidate screening and interviewing starts. If hiring managers are going to have collaborators interview a candidate, they need to coordinate who will be asking or screening for what (even if everyone will be in the same room at the same time).

If hiring managers fail to coordinate, they end up with a couple of problems. First, the candidate might be asked the same questions over and over. And, second, the hiring manager might not end up with all the information they need to make the decision. A coordinated effort ensures that the candidate won’t feel like they’re stuck giving the same answer with each interviewer and that all interviewing subjects are adequately covered.

If you’re finding it difficult to get great candidates approved, you may want to decide if you’ve got a hiring-by-committee problem. Talk to hiring managers to find out how many people they include in the candidate decisions. Then help hiring managers feel confident, weed out unnecessary collaborators, and coordinate with necessary ones. This should help you remove an unnecessary barrier keeping you from hiring great candidates.