Hiring by consensus – is it wise to let your team choose your new recruit?

Some business owners and managers hire recruits via word of mouth, others scan LinkedIn, some do a formal CV hunt, and many check Facebook profiles to glean insights.

When the candidates are narrowed down, largely, it will be management who make the final decision on a new staff member.

However, some managers are adopting the trend of ‘hiring by consensus’, and are inviting their team to have a say in who gets to sign the contract.

E&I People Solutions co-director Abiramie Sathiamoorthy told SmartCompany that this approach is being used to assess the candidate’s personality fit and cultural fit for a business.

She says it is usually done when the manager is down to a small number of candidates, and can be facilitated by taking a candidate to lunch with the rest of the team, or having a less formal workplace visit day.

Sathiamoorthy explains this is usually reserved for people who will be in people-focused roles, with influence over other members of the team.

“They can meet their direct reports, where getting along with the team is critical,” she says.

“It works best in flat-structure businesses, where people are used to having a say.”

Sathiamoorthy says when hiring by consensus, the team need to remain objective and fully understand there are many requirements to a role, not just personality.

“The manager will have to weigh up the negative opinions against the candidate’s skills for the job,” she says.

In industries such as retail or hospitality, consensus hiring can be useful, particularly if done in a less formal manner, she says.

“You can have the candidate go into the shop and see how they interact with the team…and see if they show interest in the products. Are they passionate about the clothes?”

Recruitment Coach director and recruitment specialist Paula Maidens says she knows quite a few business that hire by consensus.

She says it works best in businesses that are more robust with opinion sharing rather than traditional corporate structures.

“They often do it for sales roles, where how they interact in a social setting is important,” she says.

“They can meet the team over drinks or morning tea, and it is a test of their interactivity skills. You can see how they engage, if they are nervous.”

Maidens recommends the technique to clients when cultural fit matters, emphasising it is a particularly useful tool for small businesses where getting along matters in a small team.

“Candidates can drop their guard the longer you spend with them…you can find out if you laugh at each other’s jokes and get along”.

On the negative side, Maidens says it can be hard when managers have their heart set on a candidate and their team don’t agree.

She says it can be difficult to bring someone into the team knowing there is negativity.

To deal with this, Maidens recommends being really clear with the team as to why the decision was made, and highlighting the skills-based values that have steered the decision.


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