Incorporating “Consensus Decision Making” for Increased Hiring Success


Ask any company owner or president and they will tell you that the single most important part of running a business is making good hiring decisions.


Having the right person in a role, and reducing attrition is categorically essential for success. Simply put, great people get great results.


However, if you ask 10 different people what the key is in making informed hiring decisions, you are likely to get 10 different answers.


For as long as I have been recruiting, it seems like I have been on a quest for the answer to this million-dollar question; how to make the best possible match,  between a candidate and a position.


What if I told you that there is a selection method that has been successful 97% of the time?


Would you be interested in hearing more?


I recently heard from an HR executive that I have had the pleasure of working with for the past few years.  He shared with me a selection method that he has been refining over the past two decades that has substantially improved his company’s accuracy of hiring and resultant attrition rates.  I knew I had to find out more!

Matt Ohrt is Director of Human Resources for Merrill Steel, and he has a solid 20 years of Human Resources experience under his belt. Matt has been responsible for hiring in excess of 1,000 people over the course of his career, and has developed a unique formula that results in remarkable success rates in terms of screening candidates for skill sets, personal characteristics, and the cultural fit needed for a particular role.

By creating a philosophy of “Consensus Decision Making”, as opposed to the more common “Majority Rules” philosophy that is typically the norm in corporate settings, Matt has been able to foster an environment in which members of a team are highly involved in the selection process and subsequently, are fully invested in the final candidate’s long-term success within the organization.

The beauty of this process is that it can be utilized for any position, at any level, within any organization.  If you are selecting a Vice President, a cross functional executive team can be assembled and trained.  Similarly, if you are selecting a Custodian, the Custodial team, along with the Manager and a member of HR, becomes the selection team.

  • Assemble and Train the “Selection Team”.  This is a one-time, interactive training session.  Each training participant receives a workbook and goes through activities, watches videos, and engages in open dialogue.  It takes about 3 to 4 hours to complete, depending on the participants’ previous level of experience.  Every team who chooses to utilize this method is required to complete the training beforehand.  The specialized training prepares the team to utilize the method and ultimately, choose a candidate who will be a successful addition to the team.
  • Identify 5 to 8 unique “Personal Characteristics” and draft them into the Job Requirements. The key to this is acknowledging that in order to have a long term successful hire, you need to bring people into your organization that not  only possess the requisite ‘hard skills’ and work experience that a role requires, but equally important, they also need to have the attributes to segue seamlessly into your team to become a positive addition to the group.
    • If you look back at people that have failed in your organization, it is almost always because they didn’t have one or more of the essential personal characteristics – opposed to a gap in knowledge or technical skill, which often can be taught more easily and quickly.  In fact, typically there is so much focus on skill, that important personal characteristics are assumed, or completely forgotten.  For instance, have you ever hired someone and learned soon thereafter that he or she does not have the work ethic you need for success in the role?  Have you ever tried to teach work ethic to someone who is beyond his or her formative years? Or how about creating that all elusive but monumentally important ‘Fire In the  Belly’ that core members of a start-up need to possess in order to launch it into the stratosphere? Hiring someone that lacks a key ingredient in their personal characteristics cannot only set them up for  failure, but also runs the risk of diminishing your entire teams synergy. Once someone hits their stride in their career, human behaviorists tell us that it is virtually impossible to ‘teach’ soft skills.  By intentionally identifying and sharing necessary personal characteristics upfront, and making those characteristics part of the key criteria in the selection process, we can dramatically increase our chances of success.
  • Determine how the team will measure the “Personal Characteristics”.  This is easier said than done.  Taking the example of the personal characteristic of work ethic further, have you ever asked someone in an interview if he or she has a strong work ethic?  If you received a response of “yes”, did you smile and breathe a sigh of relief? As we all know, candidates will tell you what they believe you want to hear.  There could even be a misunderstanding of what a strong work ethic is!  By utilizing more sophisticated and “out of the box” techniques, personal characteristics can be genuinely and accurately assessed.  We strongly encourage clients to take advantage of some of the amazing personality indicators that are now available, to further tilt the deck in your favor. Predictive Indexing is a phenomenal tool that when employed correctly, can help identify candidates intrinsic motivators and primary characteristics and how they will perform in a specific position.
  • Conduct the Team Interviews and Other Activities.  The power of the team interview is achieved only when everyone on the team is comfortable in sharing his or her opinion – even if that opinion differs with everyone else!  Groupthink (everyone subconsciously agreeing with the manager) must be avoided.  The HR  representative gives a brief introduction about the process, followed by members of the team, sharing information about the company and the role.  Once these things are clear, the discussion can begin in earnest.  In many cases, the team will decide on what additional steps or activities are necessary in order to fully measure whether the applicant has the needed personal characteristics as well as tangible skills required for the role.
  • Reach “Team Consensus”. Too often, decisions in organizations are made by majority vote or by the boss playing a trump card.  Not only does this reduce the intent of the team interview, it also creates other issues thereafter.  For example, if you were on a selection team and voted against a particular candidate, and that candidate was ultimately chosen for hire, how supportive would you be to insure success?  One might even be slightly inclined to watch them fail and later say, “see, I told you so”!  By everyone engaging in dialogue and reaching a team consensus decision, everyone MUST leave the room genuinely supporting the overall team decision.  This agreement and support must be sustained for 2 days, 1 month, 1 year after the candidates start date – even if things aren’t going perfectly.  With the understanding that the hiring decision was made by choosing the very best person for the role, everyone involved in the decision is committed to helping them succeed.  Some may doubt whether this can be achieved, however, if done the right way, reaching team consensus is surprisingly easier than it may seem.


For many years, Matt utilized the techniques outlined in steps 1 – 3.  These proved to be more effective than the traditional approaches, but there was still something missing.  It was only in the past 5 to 6 years that steps 4 (Team Interviewing) and 5 ( Consensus Decision Making) were added.  This resulted in solidifying the process and it was then Matt began to measure the method’s overall effectiveness.  By utilizing all 5 steps to form a complete methodology, Matt and his colleagues have achieved a startling record of 46 successful incumbent placements, with only 1 fail.  Although this process seems to be at a stage in which it has been refined by fire and is nearly perfected, Matt continues to read, learn, and make adjustments to the training and overall Selection Method when opportunities arise.  Please note, in this instance, “successful” is defined by having the candidate remain in the role and a good culture fit for at least 1 year.  To date, they become above-average performers.


What do you think of this approach to interviewing?


I would love to hear other HR professionals thoughts on implementing this process and improving hiring strategies to improve retention rates.


Ann Zaslow-Rethaber is President of International Search Consultants, a leader in executive search since 1999. ISC has the following teams of recruiters; Sales Recruiters, HR Recruiters, Financial Services Recruiters, Construction Leadership Search Consultants and Energy Headhunters.  Ann can be reached via e-mail at or direct dial at 888-866-7276.

Matt Ohrt  started his career in the auto manufacturing industry with Tenneco Automotive, a tier one supplier to Toyota and other auto manufacturers.  Matt was then recruited by Toyota Motor Manufacturing to work in Georgetown, KY facility.  During his tenure at Toyota, he had the opportunity to experience first-hand the Toyota Production System (TPS) and Toyota’s unique approach to Human Resources.  Matt’s other experience includes serving as the Director of Team and Culture at Badger Mining Corporation – winner of the SHRM and Fortune national #1 Great Place to Work awards, and at Ariens Company as Director, People and Culture in which he led the company’s effort in Lean and Continuous Improvement.  Currently, he leads the HR, Safety, and Leader Development functions at Merrill Steel as the Director of Human Resources.

Matt’s background has afforded him unique insight to approach Human Resources strategically and to lead in a way that change is accepted and embraced. His experience includes roles in Human Resources, Organizational Development, Training and Facilitation, and Lean Manufacturing.

Matt’s educational background includes a BS in Psychology from Western Illinois University and a MA in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from the University of Tulsa. He is currently working towards completing a PhD in Organizational Leadership and plans to attend the University of Indiana – Wesleyan to achieve the terminal degree.  Additionally, Matt holds a Lean Manufacturing Certification from the University of Michigan and is a graduate of Zappos Culture Camp.

Matt welcomes all invites to connect at his LinkedIn profile at