While most college recruiters tend to focus on GPAs and student résumés, a group of Yale Business School MBA students say these tools are outdated and ineffective in the new world of work, where collaboration and team skills are valued. They decided to research a new approach to recruiting–one that would marry teamwork and recruiting.
“Business school is anchored on this idea of working in small groups or teams, whether it be learning teams or group projects. You’re constantly in this mode of collaborating with others,” says Lauren Cohen, one of the students who is behind the team-hiring approach. “We couldn’t help but notice that once teams formed that really clicked, they wanted to stay working together.”
In light of research suggesting that employees who work in teams are more productive and have a lower turnover, Cohen and her student partner, Robert Kimball, thought companies could reap tremendous rewards by recruiting existing teams. “Bringing in groups of people who know and trust and enjoy working with one another can really build up those relationships and network ties throughout the company,” says Kimball. Having strong social bonds at work, they believe, will also help to strengthen company loyalty and reduce turnover for the hiring company.
Not only would teams be happier working together, recruiting a team that has previously worked together with success sends a strong signal to the recruiting company of candidate quality. “Instead of trying to tease out from résumés and cover letters and interviews, [recruiters can] go to the people who really know the candidate the best–their colleagues,” says Kimball. “If you get a person saying, ‘Yes, I 100% trust this person, my teammate,’ then you can really trust that signal as accurate and credible. You don’t have to worry so much about trying to tease out those signals of quality [from other means, such as résumés].”
Team hiring can also improve lateral knowledge transfer in the company. By bringing in groups of people who have experience working with each other and who enjoy working with each other, and spreading them out around the company, employers can increase the potential of those individuals to pick up the phone and call a friend in another department that they got hired with. “Those strong personal ties across the company are way more important and valuable to the culture of the company than big, vast networks of weak ties,” says Kimball.
The team-hiring process, Cohen and Kimball say, would look similar to the normal college recruiting process, at least at first. A firm would come to campus and do its normal recruiting presentation about the company and what it’s looking for. It would then generate a list of students who are interested in the company.
Students would then form their own small teams among the list of interested students, and would perform a case challenge that would be submitted for evaluation. It’s highly likely, Cohen and Kimball say, that students would already know or have experience working with some of these individuals since they would all be from the same school program.
This approach, they argue, provides a much stronger predictive signal of success than either a résumé or GPA–the normal recruiting tools. “Résumés and GPAs aren’t particularly good predictors,” says Cohen. “People can easily bluff on résumés,” says Kimball. Not to mention job candidates often simply list their responsibilities on a résumé.
This means that one individual who performed in the 90th percentile on responsibilities would look exactly the same as a candidate who performed in the 10th percentile on the same responsibilities. There’s no real way to distinguish the quality of the two candidates just by looking at a list of responsibilities on a résumé. GPAs also fail as a good indicator of success. “A GPA of 3.0 at one school is completely different than a 3.0 at another school,” says Cohen.
Team recruiting can give students with a weaker résumé but a strong work ethic a boost, since their teammates would be vouching for them. “They’re saying, ‘I’m willing to bet my job prospects on that person,’” says Kimball. Cohen calls it “an employee referral program on steroids.”
This hiring model, Cohen and Kimball say, is much more in alignment with the team-based work model that is becoming increasingly popular. “We see more and more this idea of teamwork as something that’s highly valued, that every company mentions at the top of their list,” says Cohen.
Although Cohen and Kimball don’t know of any companies that have implemented a team-hiring approach yet, they are working with some that are willing to give it a try, and they hope others will soon jump onboard.