The Frustration of Consensus Interviewing
Imagine a family of five driving along in a minivan and it’s time for dinner. The family has been out all day, so nothing has been prepared at home. The question gets posed, “Where does everyone want to eat?” The Dad is thinking that the steakhouse sounds good, yet the Mom wants to go to the new build your own salad place. The youngest wants chicken nuggets, the middle child wants pizza, and the teenager apathetically claims to not care. Sound familiar?
The eventuality is that the family is going to eat somewhere, but the decision is going to be painstaking and someone in the group is going to be unhappy with whatever decision is made. In the end though, the family eats and the need is fulfilled. Where am I going with this?
Many companies today are attempting to hire using consensus interviewing, which means that everyone on the interviewing team has to agree to hire the candidate before the company makes the hire. Many companies use the consensus interviewing model in an attempt to avoid a miss-hire. Additionally, the complete buy-in decision is spread to many stakeholders, and in doing so, the risk for blame of a miss-hire doesn’t fall on any one person.
Imagine a world class ice skater reaching their dreams of representing the US in the Olympic Games. The time comes when the skater takes the ice, and they have the routine of their career. They are landing triple luts sow cows like it nothing. As the routine ends, the skater knows they earned the gold as bouquets litter the ice. The scores begin to come in…10…9.8…10…9.7….9.9….now the Judge…8. Eight!?! That one person’s perspective and subjective bar for evaluation costs the skater the gold medal. What’s the point?
The potential downside with consensus interviewing is that the entire interview (the evaluation of a candidate’s ability to do the job and fit in with the company) is highly subjective in nature. Each interviewer has a valuable perspective yet a variable understanding of the role. Also, not every person feels the same amount of urgency to fill the position nor does everyone have the responsibility of carrying the extra workload if the opening persists. Furthermore, the interview team might each have wide-ranging opinions on what traits would make a candidate a good cultural fit at the company.
Though the idea and intent of consensus interviewing is good, the results are not always better. What I’ve seen is that with the consensus model settling on the right person takes much longer, and the process is very frustrating for the actual hiring manager.
Have you ever seen the show Pawn Stars? A guys walks in with a sword from the Civil War and claims it is authentic. The pawn store owner looks at it and it seems legitimate, but he calls in a couple experts for advice. The decision to buy the sword and what to pay for the sword is the owner’s decision, but the advice from others is highly valued. I’ve seen a similar approach to interviewing work.
I would never suggest a one-size-fits-all solution, and this is just an idea to consider if you’re feeling the frustration of consensus interviewing. What I’ve seen work more often than consensus interviewing is an approach that empowers the hiring manager and includes 2-3 support interviewers. The support interviewers evaluate from their area of expertise, and point out strengths and weaknesses that are uncovered. These interviewers help the hiring manager make a well-vetted decision rather than having an equal voice like in the consensus interviewing model.
The frustration of consensus interviewing can feel like being stuck in that minivan evaluating restaurant after restaurant until everyone agrees to eat somewhere. If your company’s open positions are persisting because it is hard to find a candidate that everyone can agree on, try the approach above.