DEATH BY COMMITTEE: How to streamline the interviewing process and still hire great employees

Cutting through the red tape that has become part of today’s typical hiring process is nothing short of burdensome for top candidates, especially those in high demand like senior-level executive assistants. And the result isn’t a desirable one…the best candidates just aren’t putting up with it. When I hear stories of candidates being called back for three or four interviews, I understand why they’re leery of considering a new position.

I call this type of interviewing process “death by committee.” With unemployment at just 4.3 percent nationally and at 5.3 percent in Atlanta according the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it’s important to hire right the first time. Not only will it become increasingly difficult to attract new candidates for your open positions, but bad hires result in higher turnover rates, which wreak havoc on your bottom line and your culture.

What does a cumbersome interviewing process look like for near six-figure-salaried executive assistants and other senior-level support positions?

Imagine being called by a recruiter to learn about yet another unadvertised position. If you appear to be the right fit for the role, you’re going to be asked to update and forward your resume, as well as schedule a phone screen with the recruiter in the next day or two.

Assuming your curiosity is now piqued, your resume will be forwarded to the employer who will likely schedule another phone screen. If you’re lucky, the employer trusts its recruiter and will skip this step in favor of a face-to-face interview. You arrange to take a few hours off at the last minute with your current employer and head off to the interview.

The interview goes well and now both sides are very interested. The employer requests that you come back in a couple of days for a second interview, or maybe even a working interview. You like what you’ve seen so far, so you arrange to take a half-day off from your current job.

At this point in the interviewing process, candidates are usually expecting an offer. So, when they’re met instead with a request for a third (and sometimes even a fourth) interview to meet the team, frustration sets it. Already invested in the new opportunity, and having spent an entire PTO day on the process, they usually agree to another half day of interviews.

Some candidates, and most independent recruiters, recognize this cumbersome process as one where the employer is hiring by committee. They’re trying to gain everyone’s consensus about the candidate. And, this is precisely the time when the process derails into a case of “death by committee.” The candidate has invested up to two full days into the interviewing process, which also includes writing thank you notes and spending considerable time conducting research. When the candidate receives a “thanks, but no thanks” impersonal rejection letter, they are understandably upset.

In my 30+ years of recruiting, I’ve yet to see a consistently successful hiring process that began with a multiple, committee-based series of interviews. But there is a way to incorporate several people into the interviewing process without demanding too much of the candidate’s time and risking elevated levels of frustration. Instead, schedule a panel interview where everyone has an opportunity to ask questions during a single period of time.

Learn how to structure a panel interview and streamline your hiring process.

Lou Adler, CEO and founder of The Adler Group, helps companies improve their hiring processes by implementing Performance-Based Hiring℠. A long-time proponent of the panel interview, he advises companies on how to adopt an effective panel interview process. Adler believes that panel interviews are more objective, and they give candidates a clear picture of the job expectations and the culture.

Here’s a five-step approach to implementing a panel interview process at your workplace:

  1. Develop a detailed job description that is rooted in performance metrics and ask everyone to review it prior to the panel interview. The candidate is preparing by researching your organization, so it’s respectful to do the same by ensuring your hiring staff has the same expectations. Schedule a pre-interviewing meeting if necessary.
  2. Have one person on the panel lead the entire interview process. This person should ask the core questions that determine how qualified the candidate is for the role. The others should ask follow up questions to learn how the candidate accomplished tasks. But only the leader should change the topic.
  3. Make sure your questions are behavioral and performance-based and prepare them ahead of time. Use the same series of questions for each candidate so that you can objectively compare one candidate to another and avoid the risk of personal biases. It also ensures you’re asking questions that focus on past performance, which is the best predictor of future performance.
  4. Schedule time for the panel to debrief immediately after the interview. You could use a scoring template or simply have a conversation where everyone can share their perceived pros and cons of the candidate’s ability to do the job.
  5. Make a decision within a week of the panel interview and follow up by telephone with the candidate. Thank the candidate for his or her time regardless of the outcome and answer any questions you can.

Finally, if an additional interview becomes necessary, use modern technology to minimize additional disruption if at all possible. There’s no reason to believe that a Skype interview after meeting a candidate face-to-face won’t be effective.

Need help finding qualified candidates?

Let’s talk. You can reach me at 404.822.9392 or email me at For 30 years, I’ve been dedicated to helping companies, medical practices, law firms and creative agencies in Atlanta thrive by staffing them with the very best talent. I fill a variety of positions including executive assistants, receptionists, medical front office billing staff, as well as legal staff just to name a few. I look forward to helping you reach your goal.