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The greatest things are accomplished by individual people, not by committees or companies.

 Alfred Armand Montapert,   Author (1906)

Organizations, particularly in the public sector, rely on volunteer “Screening Committees” to assist in the process of identifying candidates for employment. Typically a Screening Committee is ad hoc and can vary in size from less than 10, to more than five times that number of members.  Additionally, some are comprised of individuals from outside the organization, and the ultimate decision maker may or may not be on it.

 In many instances the use of Screening Committees at all levels of an organization has become unquestioned operating behavior.  They can become powerful influences within organizations, often functioning as surrogate managers  wielding authority, but without employee accountability.  There is much debate about the advantages and disadvantages of using a Screening Committee, particularly about the delegation of crucial employment responsibilities to a group, and whether these should be vested with the ultimate decision maker.  The actions of a  Screening Committee can also have lasting effects on organizations.   As a result, it is important that management is careful and deliberate before routinely establishing one. Some questions that management must address are:

  • IS IT NEEDED?  Organizational culture may dictate the use of a Screening Committee, based on past practice or procedure. They are sometimes used for political purposes: to “demonstrate” to the public that management is using a broad-based and inclusive process to select the right person. A Screening Committee should not be used only because of organizational culture or for political purposes, but rather for logical reasons or demonstrated value it can add to the employment process.  The need for special knowledge or expertise that  a collective group can provide, or to ease workload enabling staff to focus on other compelling matters, are examples of valid reasons for using a Screening Committee.
  •   HOW WILL MEMBERS BE SELECTED? Various factors are used in selecting members to serve on a Screening Committee, such as consideration for age, gender, ethnic diversity, or employee group representation. Regardless of considerations, in order for a Screening Committee to be viewed as credible,   it is imperative that anyone who serves is perceived as unbiased, does not raise issues of conflict of interest, or has been selected for ulterior motives.
  • WHAT ARE THE GUIDELINES? In many instances a Screening Committees is formed without clear guidelines about the expectations or how it will function. Lacking this, it may take it upon itself to determine these. At the onset, well written and concise guidelines should be provided to a Screening Committee.  Some examples of  issues that need to be answered are: what will be the process  for member  participation;  who will be the contact person for guideline questions; what are the essential functions of the position;  what method will be used to screen, select, and possibly interview applicants;  what  happens if confidentiality is violated;  and other pertinent information that will allow a Screening Committee to function within stated parameters.
  • WHAT HAPPENS WITH THE RESULTS? Even an effective Screening Committee faces major obstacles. Group decision- making generally requires compromised actions in order to advance activities.  This can result in either extreme or centrist results, which may fall short of desired goals.  In addition, a Screening Committee may become possessive of its work; not wanting recommendations and results to be altered. If this occurs, members may feel   minimized and unappreciated for their efforts.  Screening Committee guidelines should be absolutely clear that final outcomes or decisions about potential employment candidates are the prerogative of management. One of the most important decisions management can ever make is the selection of employees. Organizational success and growth is contingent upon having a quality, creative, and diverse workforce.  Despite the appreciative efforts of a Screening Committee, results should be considered recommended actions, and never replace the accountability of management for employee selection.


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