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Is your 'consensus hiring' a dog’s dinner?


It’s the 1st quarter of the new year and the busiest time for career moves and hiring. This year has seen consensus hiring reach epidemic proportions. Yes, consensus hiring is actually a ‘thing’ … it basically means running any prospective candidate through three or more interviews in your business with lots of different people, then expecting them all to hit the ‘like’ button to hire or not hire at the end.

Done well, within a pre-defined framework and properly allocated interview tasks, consensus hiring delivers great results for companies (see Google’s journey to a cut down version).

But done poorly to try and confirm like-ability or because someone wants to spread the interview load and de-risk decision making, you’ll be trying to turn a dog’s dinner into a Michelin Star experience, which is just not going to happen.

People seem to think sharing the interview load makes for better qualifying of candidates, but this approach rapidly becomes ...

the perfect storm for opinion-based bias, indecision, and an elongated process that loses great talent.

Other reasons for passing a candidate around the team include:

Being Inclusive – helping everyone feel like they’ve been involved in new hire selection
Fear of Failure – not wanting to take responsibility for a hire that might not work out
Improving Collaboration – Getting team pre-hire approval they can work with someone
Market Conditions – hedging bets that someone can cover lots of internal bases
Generational differences – testing the water with personalities

I’ve recently tracked two well-known blue-chip technology businesses take candidates through a seven-plus stage interview process, not because this was their advertised and proven hiring process but just made-up as they went along to keep everyone happy!

The end the result in both cases was, of course …

“we can’t reach consensus”

For one business it took nearly nine weeks of elapsed time … hardly blue-chip performance.

For the candidate it was an investment of more than seven hours of interviewing, seven hours of prep, approximately £300 in travel expenses and the emotional cost of interview torture. Only to find that these companies could not make a decision!

Brand damaging? You bet!

There is no value in a 30 minute per person, six-person interview marathon. It’s a race to the bottom line of ‘average’ not to mention destroying your brand by frustrating candidates, while watching business productivity fall because your team are tied up fumbling around for questions such as “what dog would you be?” (Ok maybe not that bad … but I have actually seen that one!)

So how can you make consensus hiring successful?

The most important thing is getting the front-end job analysis thinking right (check out this article from HBR)

This means getting all the stakeholders (not opinion holders!) in a room and teasing out the true performance objectives of the role. If you have ever done it, you’ll know that it’s great fun to surface the differences of opinion. For a small business it is a supremely powerful differentiator to reach consensus, go to market purposefully, hire decisively, save time and create a great interview experience – and that’s when you can land the top performers.

When, as a team, you agree what the business objectives are for the role, what good looks like, what kind of evidence you need to uncover and who is best placed to ask, you are onto a winner. The 6Ps principle! No clear plan equals poor end result.

So, that’s a long way of saying, too many cooks spoil the broth. A Michelin star restaurant achieves the standard it does by having specialist team members focused only on delivering their part of the of the recipe and of course the experience and the result is amazing.

Which would you rather have … a Fat Duck experience or a dogs dinner?

If you’d like help nailing your hiring processes Peopley might just be able to help.

About Peopley
Peopley provide flexible Human Resources and Talent Management for people-centric SMEs

Peopley has recently been shortlisted for Best Candidate Experience & Best Supplier Partnership against stiff competition from some of the UK’s biggest employers in the 2020 FIRM Awards (Forum for In-House Recruitment Managers).

About The Author

Debby built the recruitment tools for the world’s largest executive search franchise and has trained over 1,000 recruiters worldwide.  She was one of the first recruiters to recognise and adopt candidate sourcing techniques using social media in an 1100 global office network and has subsequently built the hiring operations for several founder-led technology & engineering businesses.  She is a Chartered member of the CIPD and a Solent LEP Skills Advisory Panel Member. 

Her interests lie at the intersection of technology, people and the environment, she is an advocate for Ocean Alliance and a regular Solent sailor.

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