Friday, July 8, 2016

#1498 sorting hat

If you ever serve on a search committee or are involved in hiring candidates, here is a process that I suspect will make your work easier than it is right now.

> When resumes come in, number them in a visible way. The numbers mean nothing, but serve as a quick way for committee members to a) discuss candidates [It is far easier to say: "I like #14" than it is to say: "I like Natalia Obertini Noguera"] and b) know whether they have reviewed all of the resumes ["#76 just came in, did you get that?" vs. "have you seen Schockemaliger?"]

> Instruct all committee members to independently review the resumes and place the number of each candidate into one of three categories: HIGH (I think we should explore further), MEDIUM (I could consider them) or LOW (I am ready to send a rejection letter now). Members can make notes about their candidates as they wish, but the goal is to get all the numbers placed in one of the three categories. (You can use this handy form.)

> When the committee meets to review candidates, the facilitator has the stack of resumes (or list of numbers if resumes aren't printed) in numerical order. The facilitator begins with "#1" and committee members go around the room and indicate into what category they placed that person. All numbers are called out in order and resumes are sorted (without any discussion) until all three piles have been made. If anyone gives the person a HIGH, they immediately go into the HIGH pile. If everyone categorizes the candidate as a LOW, they are in the LOW pile and are out of consideration. A MEDIUM pile is for everyone else. 

You could do the above sorting in advance, but I think it lends credibility and insight to the process to do it with everyone together. You quickly can learn nuances of the person's rankings (e.g. if someone gives lots of HIGHS you know they are less meaningful than the person who only had two), and people feel less angst ruling people out when they see that others feel the same way.

> After the candidates have been sorted, discussion begins about each of the HIGH resumes (only). If this yields a robust enough pool for the interviewing or screening process to begin, discussion ends there. If not, discussion can continue to the MEDIUM pile. The LOW pile is set aside and no discussion is necessary.

I can say with certainty that this method facilitates the screening process and allows for everyone to have a say on their top people. We have hired many candidates that only one person marked as a HIGH, but because of the automatic inclusion into the discussion pile, the committee member was able to make their case and move the candidate forward.

The next time you are involved with selection, give these techniques a try. I'll bet your days of fumbling around with names and digging or scrolling through piles of resumes to find someone are over. It's not as good as the Hogwarts Sorting Hat, but darn close!

-- beth triplett

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