The Honest Recruiter’s Guide to Collaborative Hiring (with Examples)

9 min read

Hiring might be the highest risk, highest reward activity in the entire business world.

After all, the decisions you make in hiring could impact every single thing you do as a business, from the way you design your products and services, to the way you serve your clients. In marketing, sales, or customer support, it’s not all that hard to see which activities can make and lose you money. But in hiring? Not so.

When it comes to hiring, if you make a bad call based on “good feelings”, you could end up with a $50,000 fine in stupid tax. On the other hand, if you get it right, you could end up with the next business supernova on your team.

But let’s not forget, top talent has more leverage than ever before.

You need to be sure that:

a) Top candidates choose you over the other guy.

b) The candidate is just as awesome in the role as they were in the interview.

That’s where collaborative hiring comes in.

What is collaborative hiring?

Would you trust one of your biggest business decisions to a single, burned-out HR department?

In the past few years, forward-thinking SMBs and Silicon Valley startups have been using collaborative (a.k.a. team-based) hiring as a way to cut through the bureaucratic BS and get a real feel for the person behind the tick-boxes.

Collaborative hiring is exactly what you think it is. It’s the process of involving not only HR and the hiring manager, but also your founders, functional heads, employees and — last but not least — your job candidates, in the hiring process.

And let’s not forget. That last one is the BIG one.

Why is team-based hiring important for job candidates?

We all know “hire to fire” is NEVER cool. And for new hires, getting fired from a job can feel pretty disrespectful — especially, when the hiring wasn’t honest to begin with.

For many “bad hires”, it can feel like all the facts were never really on the table. If you’re conveniently (or even, unknowingly) keeping certain aspects of your company culture hidden from sight, a new hire has every right to feel upset if they got fired for not measuring up to those invisible expectations.

Same thing goes for the 25% of new hires who quit within the first 6 months. How can you expect them to stick around, if they had no real idea whether the job was truly a fit for them to begin with?

Face it. In most organizations, employees don’t work in a vacuum.

To have any chance of succeeding in their role, they need to be able to connect with, and get buy-in from, other team members and departments. A truly honest hiring process is one that gives the candidate access to those people and teams so they can see the full picture of what it’s like to work for you. (And btw, you know a little transparency is of MAJOR importance to millennial workers, right?)

The benefits of collaborative hiring

We’re not going to sugarcoat it. In some ways, collaborative hiring can be more work.

Under a team-based process, hiring managers reach out to different parts of the company to help with interviews, onboarding and more. There are tons of different collaborative hiring processes, some involving the CEOs, some involving pilot programs, some using informal “meet and greets” and voting systems. There’s no magic formula — no right or wrong way to go about it.

But opening this door does mean you’ll have to engage with (and trust!) your teams more than ever before. You’ll have to get senior leadership to latch on, and you’ll have to convince managers to let go.

But the extra effort is a net gain for the leading companies that do it (yes, including Google) because of just how crucial hiring and onboarding are to a business’s bottom line — and unlike traditional hiring, collaborative hiring has one foot set firmly in the onboarding process.

Here are a couple quick stats to remind you why onboarding matters:

  • Companies with a standard onboarding process get 54% more productivity from their new hires and 50% better retention — UrbanBound
  • Great onboarding experiences make “69% of employees more likely to stay with a company for at least 3 years” — O.C. Tanner

By having potential hires meet their future teammates, they’ve already done that critical (and often painfully awkward) first part of the onboarding process by introducing themselves to their coworkers (icebreakers optional, but not recommended).

In fact, in an interview with HR Magazine, HR rockstar Becky Mossman even asserts that team-based hiring could play a part in fostering employee engagement because candidates “understand the role better and build relationships more quickly once they’re on board as people feel like they were part of the decision-making process and so are more engaged.”

And if we know one thing, it’s that engaged employees have a tendency to stick around.

But the benefits don’t stop there. Team-based hiring also minimizes bias by widening the panel of hiring “judges” and putting checks and balances in place to make sure the manager doesn’t pass on the most qualified candidate just because they don’t share a love of mountain climbing. 🙄

If increased employee engagement, less turnover, and better onboarding aren’t your thing, how about the fact that collaborative hiring gives your business a competitive advantage by leveraging your relationship with your current employees?

Or, in the words of one of HR’s oldest and truest clichés: Your employees are your best salespeople.

Only they can prove that there is zero snake oil involved in your recruitment process — that when you said your company was a good place to work, you weren’t lying. Your employees can actively demonstrate your culture, point out the hidden positives, offer a more accurate picture of what the job looks like, and guess what? They might even feel jazzed enough about getting the chance to drop that knowledge that they refer their own talented friends to come work for you. Sweet, huh?

But okay, enough high-level benefits. Speaking of walking the talk, let’s see how you can get your hands on some of these perks at a practical level.

5 awesome examples of team-based hiring

As mentioned, the goal with team-based hiring is to give everyone a real flavorof what it’s like to work together so you can make better hiring decisions (and fewer costly mistakes).

In order for that to happen, your collaborative hiring process should reflect your real-world workflows and culture — and that’s always going to differ from place to place.

Here’s how some of the best and brightest are making hiring a team sport:

1. Hiring for rapid growth at Knock

If you haven’t heard of Knock, you soon will.

Knock is a real estate startup (from the founding team of Trulia) that helps people trade in their homes, without the pain of moving. They’ve got plans to open in 10 new markets by the end of 2020.

For Knock, collaborative hiring is crucial to making growth happen. Knock’s candidates meet with their TA pro, hiring manager, team members and a founding member — all before receiving an offer. That might sound like a lot, but believe it or not, the process doesn’t have to be slow.

Knock’s Head of Talent, Terra Soloski nailed 6 interviews plus all the references for their top candidate, in just 7 days. 👌

2. Employee-led recruiting at Pret a Manger

UK retailer Pret a Manger also goes all-in on team-based hiring.

Each store recruits its own candidates and team members get to vote on who’s hired. Talk about a democratic approach!

Pret a Manger has a lot to say for their method too, filling 80% of their vacancies in 3 days or less. In addition to lightning-fast hiring, Pret boasts an awesomely diverse work environment. The next-level employer brand has rockstar employees from 106 different nationalities!

3. Facebook’s firmly-focused hiring

Everyone wants to know what it’s like behind the scenes at Facebook.

The tech giant keeps much of its recruiting work spread among a core group of sourcers who lockdown the most qualified candidates, while simultaneously offering industry insight and knowledge to potential applicants, thereby putting Facebook’s name (and open positions) front and center in the tech community.

Still, their process is collaborative. Sourcers for entirely different teams regularly come together to discuss hiring strategy at the highest level. They even work across teams to develop their own recruitment-focused bots and apps.

Facebook’s process might not be easy to swipe for the majority of SMBs who, for resource purposes, are better off keeping hiring limited to a intimate team of in-house experts. But it’s a great example of how you can work together to bring hiring to the top-level of your business strategy.

4. Apple’s original approach

Apple is known as a pioneer in the area of collaborative hiring.

At Apple, it’s common to interview with several different people across several different disciplines, long before receiving a work offer. As the late great, Steve Jobs once said, “When we hire someone, even if they are going to be in marketing, I will have them talk to the design folks and the engineers.”

This goes back to one of the core advantages of collaborative hiring — ensuring that the candidate is a true cultural fit and can get what they need internally to rock the role in question.

5. Millennials hiring millennials at Unito

Unito is an awesome startup that makes life for project manager’s WAY easier.

The app-syncing tech startup uses collaborative hiring to win the type of in-demand talent everyone needs — super smart millennials.

Not only does Unito focus on transparency throughout their initial 2-part interview process, they go the extra mile to give the candidate the true picture of what it’s like to work for them by offering a paid pilot project and following that up with an informal lunch meeting with a mix of players from different teams.

And it’s an approach that seems to be working. Unito won the Founder’s Institute award for Best Canadian Startup in 2017 and according to their CMO, Trevor Longino, they have “yet to have anyone quit Unito for a reason other than ‘moving out of the country to deal with family issues.’”

Given how mobile millennials can be, that’s kind of a big deal. 👍🏾

How to start hiring collaboratively

As mentioned, there’s no wrong or right way to build your team-based hiring process. And the way it looks at the above organizations may or may not reflect what will work at yours.

Here are 4 steps to help you build-your-own collaborative hiring process:

Step 1 — Think it through

While it’s never a bad idea to look to other companies and industries for inspiration, your collaborative hiring process must always be tailored to your unique culture and way of working.

Start by reviewing the company mission, goals and values and check your current hiring process against those metrics. Where is there a lack of alignment? Pinpoint the problem areas in your current process and brainstorm with your teams to see how those could be fixed through a more transparent and active hiring process.

Step 2 — Reach out

There’s no way around it.

If you want candidates who can work well with everyone you need to talk to, well, everyone. Reach out to multiple teams and departments to learn what people want in a team member and what level of hiring workload they can reasonably handle.

Collaborative hiring requires a shift in responsibilities and mindset, potentially at every level of the business. You probably already know whose buy-in you need most, so gather up your data and make your pitch. The transition will be way easier when everyone feels like they’ve had their say.

Step 3 — Train for change

Be prepared to actively train and brief your teams as the new approach rolls out.

If the new players on your hiring team don’t know about the importance of diversity or the role of bias in hiring, you could end up dealing with a plate full of legal troubles. Take time for one-on-one and group meetings to make sure everyone’s on the same page.

Step 4 — Choose your weapon

Last, but not least, when you have more cooks in your hiring kitchen, you’ll definitely want an efficient hiring system to keep them from stepping on each other’s toes.

And an Excel spreadsheet ain’t gonna cut it.

Use a simple ATS that helps you easily communicate with all the members of your hiring team so you can vet candidates together, in real time.

(We think our custom scorecards and automated scheduler are pretty clutch for any hiring team adverse to group email chains — but of course, we’re biased. 😉)

Remember this

Collaborative hiring isn’t all about the raw positives or a glittering HR image.

It’s about being more honest with your candidates.

By empowering your top applicants to engage with future teammates, you balance the hiring scales and let candidates judge for themselves whether or not they’ll fit with the culture.

And for so many of today’s job seekers, that’s an experience they’ll never forget.

Want to see how your entire team can hire better candidates, faster?

Join the thousands of companies already hiring with Breezy HR.

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