Collaborative Hiring — the Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Switch to It

For hundreds of years, managers have owned the hiring process. However, as more firms learn the benefits of shifting away from top-down decision-making and toward a collaborative model, it’s time to rethink the manager’s sole ownership of this critical business process.

In the Silicon Valley, we frequently operate under a different hiring model known as “collaborative hiring” or “team-based hiring,” which involves most members of the team in the hiring process.

Collaboration Has Become the Norm

Firms like Google, Facebook, and Apple demonstrated the direct connection between improving collaboration and increasing highly profitable innovation. Ever since, numerous firms from multinationals down to startups have added collaboration to their business processes. In order to create a culture of collaboration, these firms have adopted approaches like transparency, team-based goal setting, 360° feedback, and team decision-making. But unfortunately, the traditional manager-dominated hiring model does not include collaboration.

Collaborative Hiring Should Be Added to the Mix

Because hiring is a major decision, there is no logical reason to exclude it from collaborative decision-making. By adding collaborative hiring, you get a higher level of employee involvement, stronger employee buy in, and more diverse assessment and candidate selling approaches. By altering the hiring process so that the team is involved, you also eliminate some of the biases that hiring managers often have (Google, for example, completely excludes the team manager from the hiring process).

You will not be able to convince hiring managers to give up their traditional power and role until you demonstrate to senior executives the major benefits that result from collaborative hiring. These benefits are outlined in the next section.

The Top 10 Benefits Associated With Collaborative Hiring

The most impactful benefits that result from instituting collaborative hiring can be separated into three categories, A) improved hiring results, B) improved productivity and C) retention benefits.

A) Improved hiring results

  1. Showing off team members is a key selling point — one of the key job acceptance decision criteria used by top talent is whether they will be working with great coworkers. Obviously, involving your employees in the hiring process makes them highly visible, and as a result, their interaction and knowledge sharing with the candidate may end up creating your strongest selling point.
  2. Your employees may be the most effective salespeople — because team members live the job every day, they are most likely to know the most compelling features of the job. They are likely also to be viewed by the candidate as credible and authentic, so what they say is likely to be believed. In addition, because employees know the job, they are much better able to accurately answer questions and to be able to alleviate any potential fears that the candidate might have.
  3. Fewer disgruntled new hires — because under this process candidates continually interact with future teammates, they are likely to get a realistic job preview of their job and their teammates. And that means that they are less likely to be surprised and therefore disgruntled when they actually begin their new job. Fewer surprises and developing team camaraderie before the start will likely reduce the chances of early new hire dissatisfaction and turnover.
  4. Diverse opinions reduce major hiring errors — because multiple individuals are involved, using collaborative hiring you are likely to get diverse assessments of each candidate. Numerous perspectives will also increase the odds that the new hire will be a good fit and also be someone who the team can work with. Taken together, these factors mean that there is less likelihood of a major hiring mistake.
  5. Employee involvement may improve referrals — being involved in the hiring process will help remind your employees of the tremendous value added by quality new hires. This realization may directly increase both the volume and the quality of the referrals submitted to your company’s employee referral program.
  6. An external competitive advantage — publicize on social media the fact that your firm intimately involves employees in this and other important decisions. That information will build your external brand image, and thus improve future recruiting.

B) Improved productivity

  1. The new hire will get up to speed more rapidly — because the team members had input into the hiring decision, they are more likely to feel like they “own” the new hire. This feeling of ownership and responsibility will increase the chances that the involved employees will immediately help, mentor, coach, and train the new hire. Also because employees will get to know the candidate quite well during the hiring process, that will accelerate the getting-to-know-them process once they start the job.
  2. Interviewing increases employee learning — the exchange of questions, answers, and ideas during the interviewing process can by itself be a learning experience for your employees. They will also learn about best practices at other firms and the different ways to handle their problems. Taken together, this may directly increase employee productivity and innovation. Unfortunately, they will also get a sense of what the job market is like and that could inadvertently cause them to consider beginning a job search.

C) Retention benefits

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  1. Involvement in hiring may increase employee retention — because employees will be asked during the interview process to sell their firm, they will have to learn more about and be aware of your firm’s great features. Learning and repeating those features may remind them why they should continue working at your firm.
  2. Reinforcing your culture of collaboration may further increase retention — making hiring a collaborative effort will reinforce your employee’s feeling of community. It will also remind employees that your culture values and practices collaboration, consultation, feedback, and transparency. These benefits, along with the fact that employees like having a voice, being trusted, and feeling needed, may increase the retention rates among your employees that are involved in hiring.

Collaborative Hiring Is Not Without Its Problems and Issues

I have done extensive research on collaborative hiring. Yet I have not been able to find a single public, academic, or corporate source that has run the numbers to prove that collaborative hiring produces superior quality hires, when compared to the traditional manager dominated hiring process. Nonetheless, even without hard proof, literally hundreds of firms have still adopted this practice. However, before you consider the approach, identify the potential problems and issues associated with the method. My research has discovered seven major potential problems associated with collaborative hiring. Those problems and issues include:

  • The added time may cause you to lose top candidates — the most important problem by far is the fact that giving employees a chance to “touch” candidates takes a tremendous amount of time. The scheduling of multiple employees for interviews may literally add weeks to the hiring process. That added delay will definitely cause you to lose in-demand candidates with multiple offers that simply can’t wait for your decision. These delays can be partially minimized by scheduling multiple interviews on the same day and through the use of live remote video interviews that allow everyone to participate, no matter where they may be located.
  • Teammates are not trained in hiring — it’s unlikely that employees who participate in interviews will be trained in the process. Because they are not trained, they may not know the job requirements or they may not be accurate assessors who adhere strictly to the requirement that only job-related factors be used in candidate assessment. Only structured interviews produce quality hires, and unfortunately most employee-run interviews are unstructured. This lack of structure may mean that employees will ask non-job-related or even illegal questions. It is difficult to get employees to document their interview and to provide their subsequent feedback on time.
  • Teammates may feel threatened and thus under-hire — some employees may be insecure and feel threatened by well-qualified candidates. That insecurity may cause some employees to purposely or unconsciously recommend weaker hires, so that they are not threatened by the new hire. Of course the same problem can occur when hiring managers are in charge of hiring.
  • The cost of the lost employee productivity — you will lose significant employee productivity in their regular job because of the many hours that your employees will have to devote to the hiring process.
  • Confidentiality may be a problem — candidates who currently have a job and don’t want their boss to know of their search activity may want to limit the number of those who know. And as a result, involving multiple employees in the hiring process may actually scare away some candidates because it certainly does reduce the odds that the information will remain confidential.
  • It’s a manager’s job — many argue that managers are paid extra to do hiring, so they shouldn’t delegate that responsibility. Managers may produce hires who better fit company needs because they have a different perspective as a result of knowing the strategic plans of the company. And unfortunately, hires made by the entire team may only fit the short term need of the team. In addition, taking away or minimizing their hiring responsibility may cause managers to refuse to accept the responsibility for bad hires and poor team performance. And further difficulties may arise: because the new hires were mostly chosen by the team, their manager may be frustrated that these new hires may have more loyalty to the team than they are to them. The reverse might also be true when managers do the hiring, because in this case, employees may ignore or even mistreat new hires who they had no hand in selecting.
  • Ignoring employee input can have repercussions — under some collaborative hiring models, employee feedback is only advisory. This may be a problem if the employees feel that their advice is not listened to. Having their advice disregarded may result in employees who refuse to participate in future hiring or they may simply no longer take the hiring process seriously.

Final Thoughts

Collaboration is beginning to permeate all aspects of business, and there appears to be no logical reason for hiring to be exempt from that trend. Perhaps innovators, top performers, and many in the next generation are simply learning to expect and even demand collaboration. If they don’t see it in their first encounter with the company (during the hiring process), they might mistakenly assume that collaboration does not exist in other aspects of the business.

Even though I have identified several major drawbacks associated with collaborative hiring, if you develop effective methods for minimizing the first two major problems, speeding up the time it takes to complete the involvement process and thoroughly training your employees in the hiring process, you will find as others have, that the benefits of collaborative hiring far outweigh any risks.

Dr. John Sullivan

Dr. John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions. He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," Staffing.org called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website www.drjohnsullivan.com and on www.ERE.Net. He lives in Pacifica, California.