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Collaborative Recruiting and Hiring

Collaborative recruiting gets employees from as many departments as possible to engage in your hiring process. Here's how.

Recruiting teams aren’t typically considered “revenue-generating functions,” and that’s an unfortunate misconception, since hiring may actually be the highest-reward activity in business. After all, the hiring decisions you make impact every other aspect of your org—from how you design your products and services, to the strategies and innovations you conceive, to the manner in which you serve your prospects and customers. Your people are your lifeblood—yet traditionally, hiring decisions get made by a hiring manager, with the support of someone in recruiting. Studies show that 20% of employee turnover occurs in the first 3 months of employment, and 25% of turnover happens in the first 6 months. These numbers suggest that the traditional method of arriving at hiring decisions could use a little care and attention. Perhaps the siloed approach—in which only a few people are touching the process—isn’t the most effective approach, after all.

This is why forward-thinking companies—both smart startups and the great innovators like Apple, Google, and Netflix—are practicing collaborative recruiting, also called “team-based hiring.” Collaborative recruiting is exactly what it sounds like: rather than leaving hiring decisions in the hands of a single hiring manager, it gets employees from as many departments (and from as many levels) as possible to engage in the hiring process. As such, recruiting becomes a business priority and a team sport—including founders, C-levels, department heads, the candidate’s prospective managers and supervisees, those on other teams they’ll be cross-collaborating with, and the candidates themselves.

Ultimately, collaborative recruiting is a win for the candidate, the team, and the organization as a whole, because it’s based on the theory that an organization’s success is determined by the strength of its internal relationships. No employee works in a vacuum; and collaborative recruiting allows candidates to meet all (or most) of the employees they’d be working with to get a real taste of the culture, the team’s dynamics, the organization’s ecosystem, and their fit in it. They know the facts about your org are all on the table because they’re connecting with, and hearing straight from the mouths of, your employees. As such, it’s a more honest process, it empowers candidates to make career decisions more confidently, and it means lower new-hire turnover. From the employee perspective, a collaborative approach means teams bring on hires they’re excited to work with, they know will be a values-fit, and they can already imagine working closely with. They’re also more invested in new hires’ success because they were involved in the decision to bring them on.

Gem recently published The Talent Team’s Guide to Collaborative Recruiting and Hiring; and if you’re just starting off on your collaborative recruiting journey, we recommend that guide. It includes more suggestions for the touchpoints below, along with the benefits of collaborative hiring (in case you need to get broader company buy-in to tweak your model), and best practices. Below are the primary touchpoints you’ll have with prospects and candidates, along with how, and why, different members of your org could participate:

Candidate Personas and Job Descriptions

When it comes to your persona—the semi-fictional representation of your ideal candidate—start with the best employees in that role, on that team. Employ your interview skills to learn more about them. Your best employees know what it takes to do the job successfully; they’re aware of the qualities they have that’ve allowed them to thrive. They’re also paying close attention to the team—to the places it’s most robust, to what it’s currently lacking. What qualities and temperaments thrive on this team? What are you missing that would make for a critical culture add? What’s currently holding the team back from being as good as it could be? Clarify the skills and competencies the role requires by asking about the impact the new role will be expected to have. This will help you separate “must-haves” from “nice-to-haves.”

The more employees on the team you pose these questions to, the more perspectives and insights you’ll have; and the clearer, more complete picture you’ll have of your ideal hire. The outcome? Candidate personas and job descriptions that are better-aligned with the opening. Moreover, current employees can help you “sell” the job: dig into why they decided to come work for you, what’s made them stay, what they love about working on this team. Those answers form the basis of your employee value proposition (EVP). Highlight them in your job ads and in your outreach.  

Sourcing, Referrals, and Advocacy

Consider holding sourcing marathons, or source-a-thons, for your open roles. These are exactly what they sound like: social gatherings with your team that involve friendly competition to see who can source the most qualified prospects in a given amount of time. Kick off the event by educating everyone on best practices for searching and sourcing, equip them with templates for their outreach, and let them craft and send the outreach themselves.

Employee referral programs are another way to turn your entire organization into “the recruiting function,” and one of the easiest ways to encourage collaboration. Referrals not only cut down the time sourcers and recruiters spend searching for talent; they also have the highest application to conversion rate, experience greater job satisfaction, and stay longer at their respective companies. (That said, note that referral programs work best when measures are in place to ensure you’re not replicating any homogeneity on your team. If your org has diversity goals in place—and you should—preempt this problem by asking for referrals or advocacy specifically from your employee resource groups, who can reach underrepresented audiences more authentically, or offsetting incoming referrals by putting resources into diversity sourcing).

Once we start moving out into the world again, your employees and leadership team will be attending seminars, conferences, and professional meetings—they may even be doing so now, virtually—and they should perpetually be on the lookout for talent at these events. Have team members join you at recruitment events, seek out talent at meetups and other networking events, and repost open roles on their LinkedIn or other social media profiles: content shared by employees receives 8x the engagement of content shared on brand channels.

Employee-Generated Branding Content

Your employees are the best ambassadors you’ve got. Have them help you attract candidates by writing blog and social posts about what it’s like to work at your company, getting spotlighted on your careers site or in blog posts, and being featured in photos on your culture page or recruitment videos on your careers site. Video testimonials, employee “takeovers” of your social feeds—all of these things will help showcase your company culture; the organization’s goals, mission, and values; and your employees’ expertise and enthusiasm for their work. They’ll give both active and passive talent a sense of what being a part of your team would actually be like. What’s more, those who apply will already be on board with the company mission and the values of existing employees.

Interview Questions and Interviews

Based on their experience in the role, employees can help you come up with interview questions. What skills were they surprised to learn they needed that should be assessed for in interviews? What behavioral or situational questions can they think of that are inspired by a situation that arose for an employee in that same role in the past? Moreover, what are the ideal answers to these questions that will be posed during the interviews?

Peer interviews are valuable not only because participating employees work in, or very closely with, the job being filled and can best assess the candidate’s abilities; but also because they give candidates the opportunity to hear authentically about the role from those who live the job every day. Current employees will understand and appreciate candidates’ concerns and know how to assuage them; and your best talent will effectively convince and sell your candidates, who feel like they’re getting the real picture of the role.

Keep in mind that “interviews” don’t need to be restricted to one-on-one 30-minute Q&As in quiet rooms (or, these days, on Zoom screens). Collaborative recruiting processes allow you to think outside the traditional box and discover new ways for candidates to get to know your team. Maybe this means roundtable discussions. Maybe employees “assess” candidates over informal lunches with a mix of employees from different teams. Consider job shadowing. Consider having candidates participate in small projects as a collaborator. These hands-on collaborative interviews will tell you a great deal about cultural fit—and you’ll get to see teamwork in action well before that offer is extended.

Decision-Making

The final decision might be made by the hiring manager or collectively as finalists are discussed; but either way, the hiring manager should allow each team member to share their honest impressions of every candidate. The more people who share perspectives, the more likely you are to avoid unconscious bias in the final decision, ultimately choosing the best candidate for both your team and company culture.

Offer and Closing

There are any number of ways your team can help close your candidate of choice once the offer has gone out. One involves senior executive calls, in which the CEO contacts finalists to congratulate them and encourage them to accept the employment offer. Another involves having the entire team write the finalist to congratulate them, express how thrilled they’d be to get to work with them, and encourage them to accept. Maybe you create welcome decks for candidates to get them to accept an offer. Maybe the recruiting team provides the broader “hiring team” with selling points that they can use, comparing what your company offers with what your competitors offer in those congratulatory reachouts. This is the last stage of your “wooing” process; so get as many team members involved as you can.

Onboarding

Consider a “buddy program,” in which new hires have one “buddy” from their team and another from a team they work closely with (we call these “cross-functional buddies”) for regular check-ins. Include a range of people in your onboarding sessions. (At Gem, onboarding sessions include our CEO presenting Gem’s values, our VP of Sales discussing sales and customers, and our CTO presenting our product roadmap.) Host team lunches or 1:1 coffee chats to ensure the new hire gets to sit with as many people as possible—virtually or not—as they’re learning the lay of the land. Recruiters should schedule regular check-ins with new hires as well. Find out if there are team members new hires haven’t built relationships with yet that they should. How are they feeling? What are their concerns? As you get these answers, invite the teammates who can best speak to these concerns into the conversation.

Again, this is a broad overview; and we dig more deeply in The Talent Team’s Guide to Collaborative Recruiting and Hiring. For now, we hope this gives you a taste of the ways you can include your entire team in some of the most important decisions you’ll make for your org.

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