At AGA Catalog Marketing and Design, a team of employees handpicked by the president interviews alllevels of applicants from the mailroom clerk to the chief financial officer.

The firm, a direct marketing agency based in New York, says its hiring committee ensures that those who gethired match the values of the organization.

Several companies, including AGA and the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, are using a team-based approachto the recruiting process, while at the same time keeping the human resource department involved. They havefound that by having employees screen and interview their potential coworkers, the company hires moresmartly and increases its retention rate. At the same time, these companies are speeding up their hiring cycle.

There are 20 people on AGA? s hiring committee who have been chosen by the president. They are the bestand the brightest of the company, learning-driven, proactive and committed to excellence, says DeborahFelton, the director of people development.

"We take very seriously the values and vision of this organization, and we protect that by hiring people whoalso support those visions and values," says Felton. "People like this are really good and have a sixth sensein recognizing those very attributes in other people."

After applicants are initially screened and skills-tested by the company? s director of people services, whichis comparable to the recruiting manager in another company, the applicant meets with the hiring manager andfour of the committee members, who have received training on interviewing. In 20-30 minute separateinterviews, each member tries to assess what kind of individual the person is, what motivates them, wheretheir passions lie, where they see themselves in five years and how they spend their time.

"When we are screening people [ at the hiring committee stage] , we are not looking at them in terms of thepositions they are coming for," says Celia Asprea, the director of people services for the 160-member firm."We are looking at them for the future of the company. That? s a very important part of the hiring committee."

Helps Sway the Applicants

The original purpose of AGA? s hiring process was to make sure the people who came on board were a goodmatch. But, the company discovered that the process is a good recruiting tool as well.

"[ The applicants] are so impressed with us that we take our people so seriously," says Felton, who sits in onevery four-member hiring committee. "They meet people across the agency, people they might never talk toin a traditional interview process and get a tremendous amount of information about AGA. They usuallyinterview at so many other places that it gives us a such a serious advantage."