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  • Writer's pictureAJ Cheponis

Identifying and Eliminating Hiring Committee Bias: A Proven Strategy for Better Hiring Decisions

Hiring decisions today often involve multiple rounds of interviews, extensive background checks, and other time-consuming steps. In cross-functional organizations, a new hire often needs the support of a multitude of colleagues to be successful. It can therefore seem respectful to let everyone that will be involved in a person’s success have a say in them being hired. As a result, many companies have developed consensus-oriented hiring cultures, often rooted in the fact that colleagues don’t want to hurt each other’s feelings. This process is a significant form of inefficiency and can be as bad as the mishires themselves.

The bureaucratic method is also sometimes rooted in hiring managers trying to protect their own careers. They might have seen how a colleague has been reminded about a poor recruiting outcome and as a result lost status in the organizational hierarchy. In reality, the bureaucratic method of hiring destroys a lot of value by missing out on stellar candidates while adding little value.

Is the Cost of Recruitment Bureaucracy Worth the Benefits?

The current historically high number of unfilled jobs, 50% higher than the prior record, poses a question: Is a cautious approach to recruiting worth it if doing so means that we leave money on the table by having unfilled revenue-generating positions? One reasonable answer is “maybe.” If it improves the quality of hires, it might be worth the effort. But in our experience, it is nearly always assumed that asking job candidates to jump through extra hoops and rejecting candidates as soon as a colleague expresses the slightest doubt about them improves the quality of hires, but this assumption is rarely tested.

Helping Your Company Transition to Better Hiring Practices

If you recognize that defensive hiring practices are hurting your chances to land great candidates, here are a few measures you can take to nudge your organization in the right direction:

1. Reduce the number of interviewers in your process.

If you have more than four or five interviewers, chances are that the costs associated with the additional complexity in your process have exceeded the benefits they produce.

2. Be explicit about whose decision it is.

Steer your organizational culture away from a consensus-oriented approach. Instead, for each role, make it explicit whose decision it is, who else might have veto power, and those other interviewers should not be offended if a candidate is hired despite not getting their approval. And then keep repeating this message until most of your colleagues adapt to this new approach.

3. Ask interviewers to use numerical ratings when evaluating candidates.

We’ve experienced that doing so helps hiring committees focus on the holistic view rather than on one-off negative comments. Having interviewers submit their ratings before getting input from their colleagues will have the further benefit of reducing the chance of groupthink in your evaluations.

4. Remove the “Dr. Deaths” from your hiring committee.

Track which interviewers turn down the most candidates, and if they are not better at picking good hires, communicate with them that they will be removed from the hiring committee if they don’t correct their behavior.

Streamline Your Hiring Process with Straightline Consulting Group

If you want to streamline your hiring process and make better hiring decisions, consider partnering with Straightline Consulting Group, a certified Talent Optimization consulting firm that serves clients nationwide. We specialize in helping organizations optimize their talent strategy, design job roles, assess candidates, and develop high-performing teams. Contact us today to learn how we can help your business thrive.

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