Divide and Conquer: Better Hiring Decisions Through TRUST

Let’s say you are about to buy a large, multi-tenant investment property in a major city, and there are several competing bidders in the mix. You have only one hour to bring in your team of five inspectors to examine the building. Which approach would you take:

  • “Five Competing Opinions.” Each inspector rushes through the building top-to-bottom in one hour, bumping into each other, attempting to quickly inspect every element and coming to his or own independent conclusion on the overall quality of the property. The five inspectors each cast their vote and then debate endlessly about who got it right.
  • “Divide and Conquer.” Each inspector devotes a full hour to a specific aspect of the property's design and construction (e.g. plumbing, electricity, foundation, roofing, etc.), in accordance with the areas where they are deepest and most calibrated. The inspectors pool their individual deep-dive data as a group and make a decision on the collective body of evidence. Each inspector has an opportunity to review, and incorporate, all of the detailed feedback that each "expert" gathered individually.

Traditional hiring processes are like the “five competing opinions” approach. We ask each hiring team member to interview the candidate independently, and make a hire/no-hire decision or “vote” based on this single interaction with the candidate. This forces each interviewer to attempt to make a comprehensive go/no-go decision on a candidate in an hour or less. As a professional assessor for over 10 years, I can assure you this is nearly impossible! We end up with three problems as a result—(1) nobody was able to go deep into any given area, (2) the candidate was frustrated and unimpressed with the redundant questions, and (3) we come to our debates defending our own narrow opinion rather than trusting and utilizing the data that our colleagues gathered. This final risk is perhaps the most insidious, and can lead to major internal frictions. I call it the “personal data bias.” It’s essentially a manifestation of a psychological concept called the availability heuristic, which says that the information that is most available/retrievable is the most reliable. In other words, I tend to trust my read on a candidate more than yours, because I don’t have direct access to information you gathered.

The best-run hiring processes are all about “dividing and conquering,” sharing information, and coming to a decision as a group. We have only a short amount of time to get to know a complex human being, so why should we spend this precious time duplicating efforts, annoying the candidate and ignoring the data that our colleagues gathered? Instead, let’s each focus on specific facets of the role in question—for example, one of us goes deep on intellectual capacity through problem solving interviews, another goes deep on interpersonal skills, another focuses on market or industry knowledge, and another dives into character and motivational issues. This approach is a little scary at first, because it forces you rely upon data that you did not gather yourself. Ultimately, it involves trust—trust that you have done your own job, and trust that your teammates have done theirs. Fortunately, it can be quite easy to trust each of your fellow “inspectors” when he or she is gathering hard facts rather than gut impressions.

Stop duplicating your efforts. Ask your team members to go deep in the areas they are best equipped to assess. Train them to gather hard facts about the candidate's past performance. Encourage them to take good notes and present those specific data points to the group. Put all of the data on the table, and decide as a group based on the combined body of knowledge. You will know the candidate far more deeply than your competitors, and your candidate will be impressed by your tight coordination and the strong, connected, team-oriented vibe that your process exemplifies.