Guide: Hire by committee

Introduction

Hiring committees are built into the Google hiring process. Research shows that teams with divergent opinions can make better, less-biased decisions, something that's key to selecting a great hire. At Google a hiring manager can say "no" to any candidate, but if they find someone they want to hire, they alone cannot give a final “yes” - they must pass the candidate onto a hiring committee for review. The idea is that a single hiring manager isn’t necessarily motivated to wait or search for the very best candidate. Especially as a search drags on, the hiring manager is eager to fill the position. But making a quick hire to satisfy a short-term need is not a long-term solution for an organization. Hiring committees help select candidates who will be good for Google, who will grow with the company, and perhaps take on future roles that don’t exist today.

Hiring committees are great for several reasons. They can help:

Guide: Hire by committee

Set up a hiring committee

Hiring committees at Google usually consist of four to five members who have had prior interview experience and understand the hiring attributes. At Google, the committees include peers and managers of various levels and a cross-functional member who can assess partnership ability. There are specific hiring committees reviewing candidates within each function of the company, so Engineering committees review engineering hires, Sales committees review sales hires, and People Operations committees review HR hires.

Just as interviewers need practice and experience, so do new members of hiring committees. At Google, the first three visits to hiring committee are considered “shadowing.” During the shadow phase, new members are encouraged to participate in the discussions; later, the more experienced members will review their written feedback, answer questions, and help get them calibrated.

Before building a hiring committee of your own you'll want to:

Learn the research.

Understand the benefits. Sitting on a hiring committee can be a beneficial experience for employees for several reasons:

  • Participating in a hiring committee is rewarding. You’ll directly contribute to growing your company by weighing in on hiring decisions. You’re also given the responsibility of providing guidance and feedback to the interviewers in your organization.
  • You get to network. This is a great opportunity to network across various teams.
  • You gain more visibility and a deeper understanding of hiring. This is a critical part of growing the organization and fostering culture ownership.
Guide: Hire by committee

Assemble content for committee review

Research shows that decision quality tends to be better when information is equally distributed across members. In the hiring committee context, an obvious way to avoid the discussion of unshared information is to ensure that all committee members have access to the same information.

Ahead of meeting, the hiring committee members should review the candidate packet, which can include:

  • Candidate resume/CV
  • Employee referral notes, if any
  • Internal references, if any
  • Interview questions and interviewer feedback
  • Recruiter notes (including trends across interviewers or anything the recruiter feels is very important to call out)

The hiring committee should not consider:

  • Competing offers
  • Compensation

After reviewing the packet but before the committee meeting, members should record individual comments on each candidate. Then at the start of the committee meeting, all comments are shared to facilitate a discussion and start deliberations.

Guide: Hire by committee

Rate candidates and make recommendations

Rating Candidates

Hiring committees discuss not only the quality of the candidate but also the quality of the feedback. Rating a candidate includes the expected “yay” or “nay” and a discussion of the correct job level for the candidate.

Hiring Committee Outcomes

Hiring decisions in Google's hiring committees are usually made by consensus (not majority vote). Research shows that unanimity enhances decision quality, because discussions tend to be more thorough. Voting produces one of three possible outcomes: Hire, No Hire, Hold/More Information Needed. In the last case, the recruiter will take the committee's feedback and gather more information (potentially scheduling additional interviews) so that at a future committee meeting they can reconsider with more data.

Feedback

As part of maintaining an efficient hiring process, it’s good to provide feedback for interviewers. The role of a hiring committee member is to provide feedback to interviewers, both positive and constructive. Research suggests that peer feedback is a useful mechanism for improving group decision making. This feedback will not only help interviewers get better at conducting interviews, but regular feedback should also make the job of a hiring committee member much easier in future meetings.