There is wisdom in crowds when it comes to spotting talent. But without careful orchestration, groups can make bad decisions too.
When individuals do not think long and hard about their own opinions before a group discussion, they are likely to gravitate toward the view that seems most popular; even with a good moderator who promotes psychological safety and dissent, free-form discussions reduce the variety of judgments, and this, in turn, suppresses useful discussion that would otherwise occur.
To make true group decisions about candidates, I advise hiring managers to follow a rigorous process, to ensure that interviewers maintain a healthy level of independence:
First, make it clear to interviewers that they should not share their interview experiences with each other before the final group huddle.
Next, ask each interviewer to distill her interview rating to a single numerical score and write down her main arguments for and against hiring the person, and her final conclusion, before the group huddle.
Finally, hiring managers should take note of the average score for a candidate. At this point, it is OK to have a lively discussion during a group huddle, with the purpose of influencing and being influenced by others. If interviewers want to change their scores, let them do so. They should also know it’s OK to not conform with the group, whether they want to stick with their original opinion or take a new stance.
When the above process is applied — regarding decisions ranging from new CEO hires to hedge fund investments — I have observed healthier discussions that are not overly influenced by the most charismatic person in the group.
Written by Atta Tarki, the founder and CEO of ECA, an executive-search and staffing firm.