Top 10 Hiring Mistakes, #6: Freezing Out Your Team

We often picture the hiring process as a one-on-one kind of activity, with a manager facing the candidate across a table, and later making the final decision about who to bring on. But like nearly everything in business, you’ll get far better results if you make hiring a team effort.

Your best people are an invaluable resource in deciding who to add to the team. They’ll be able to see subtle things about a candidate that you missed, personality traits that you didn’t register, and technical strengths or weaknesses that you don’t understand. They’ll be able to give you a collective gut read on whether the person would fit on the team, and they’ll have ideas for how to define the candidate’s position and responsibilities.

As a leader you don’t have to agree with every impression, but having the opinions of the people you trust always helps you shape your own. On the other hand, if the team feels excluded from the hiring process, they may feel like you don’t have confidence in their opinions. If your employees feel frozen out of the hiring process, they may feel resentful of the new hire, or even threatened by her. That type of toxic feeling can and will get in the way of the new hire’s success, no matter how qualified the person is.

The guidance in this post works best if you’ve got a team of trusted people that you can rely on for objective opinions and intelligent analysis. If you don’t have that kind of group, you may have to go back a step and work on developing a culture of cooperation and collective goal-setting — the less ego the better. A good team knows that the more team players it has, the more “wins” everyone will earn.

Good people recognize good people: High-performing employees tend to want to work with people who enhance the team; they know that groups of productive, self-driven people help each other perform at the top level. It’s in their interest to help you identify a great new hire, so take advantage. As I wrote in the post about interviewing, come up with a plan for which of your team members will cover which facet of the candidate’s background and performance. Your best engineer can evaluate technical skills, your best communicator can form an impression of the person’s people skills, and you can try to get at the deeper-seated qualities like “brains and heart.”

Meet again after the interviews and compare notes: Are there any unanswered questions, uneasy impressions, or potential red flags? Or do you all agree that you’ve got a potential great hire on your hands?

Hiring as an exercise in trust building: When you invite your team into the hiring process, you’re sending them a signal that you trust them, not just for their business sense, but for their judgment in people. The new hire will always be part of a team, so have the team think of each new hire as an investment you’re all making together. If the hire turns out to be fantastic, everyone gets to reap the benefits of having found a valuable new person. If a flop, well, you all flop together. You’ll all pick up the pieces and cover the bases while you look for the next candidate.

A hire that has the group behind it will have a better likelihood of success in part because the team will collectively want its new hire to work out. Most people will go out of their way to help make the hiring choice succeed, because they helped make it. In that way, you’re also giving the new hire a better chance to find mentors and collaborators – powerful helping forces in getting new hires to their potential – and of energizing your veterans.

The value of team-based hiring is easy to see if you put yourself in the shoes of the new hire: You’ve already had meaningful conversations with many of the people you’ll be working with – supervisors, colleagues and direct reports. If those people have agreed that they want you on board and are eager to work with you, you’re half way home. With good feelings in the air before you even show up on your first day, you can feel confident that you took a job at the right place.