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The stakes are high when hiring for a high-level role, whether it’s a C-level executive or a high-impact single contributor. The temptation is to throw more and more people at the problem, thinking that by spreading the responsibility across a committee, the chance of making a bad decision would be lowered. Unfortunately, as the size of the hiring committee increases, so does the chance that groupthink will creep in.

What Are The Signs That Your Team May Have Succumbed To Groupthink?

Rationalization

This can arise when there is a candidate who is well liked, but does not meet the prescribed requisites for the position. Working together the team members convince each other that previously critical competences or experience are of less importance and that the candidate they wish to confirm can be trained into the role.

Pressure for Conformity

The team member who does offer objections is soon silenced by the other members of the committee. This frequently occurs when the hiring process has gone on too long and the team just wants to get it over with or is under pressure to fill the role quickly. This is a prescription for disastrous hiring.

Us Against Them

The team begins to develop a mentality that stereotypes people into insiders and outsiders, with the outsiders being inferior.  They become set in their ways and refuse to consider candidates who are not just like them, even those who may be bringing much-needed talents and experience to the table.

Self-Censorship

Team members begin to censor their opinions in order to conform to the group. They may withhold dissenting views and counterarguments. When no one feels free to openly share their opinions, they doubt their validity, thinking that if they are the lone dissenting voice, they must be wrong.

Illusion of Unanimity

This is the natural consequence of self-censorship. Because no one speaks out, everyone in the group feels the group’s decision is unanimous. Individuals in the group are reluctant to rock the boat because they believe that they are the only one with doubts.

How Can Hiring Groupthink Be Avoided?

The team should have a leader who will take responsibility for guiding the team and its decision. It’s critical that the leader establish an environment that is open and accepting of questions, objections and dissent. Benchmarks should be established at the outset of the process so that the group doesn’t veer too far from their original intent.

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