The Semco Style 5 Principles to transform the way we work
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Participative Recruitment

Employees should have a say in who they work with.

No-one works for money alone and tapping into what people want from their careers and what they have to offer is essential. – Ricardo Semler


One of the biggest issues in running any kind of business is the churn rate. People quit their jobs almost as soon as they join because it doesn’t take really long to realize this: Either the job isn’t a good fit for who they are or they aren’t a good fit for the job they just landed. Simply put, the way most companies go about their recruitment process is quite risky for business because it’s a big drain of time and resources. Also, conventional recruiting processes don’t allow team members (who will be the most affected by a new recruit) to have a say in the whole process. Instead, it’s someone from the HR and then a slew of managers who repeatedly meet the candidate who ultimately gets hired.

Semco’s recruitment process turns all these conventional methods on their heads: The shortlisted candidates get interviewed by a group of all relevant stakeholders – people from the management level, peer level, subordinate level are also involved in the decision-making. As a group, they evaluate whether a candidate is the right fit for the team and they arrive at a decision through consensus. For the candidate, it’s an opportunity to better know and understand the company. Conducting such integrated interviews is a very unique process that’s not very common in the corporate world.

It’s extremely powerful because it minimizes gaps between the team and the new recruit; and shared decisions are far more effective than those taken by a handful of people. Besides, it’s quite easy for candidates to present their best selves in traditional interview settings, which makes it quite hard to assess whether they’d actually be a good choice for the role, team and the company. Participative recruitment, on the other hand, provides both the company and the candidate a vantage point from where they can make decisions they won’t regret.


Recruit new people using participative recruitment processes that involve all relevant stakeholders in the decision-making.


Traditional recruitment practices are much like the virtual dating scene of today: Every candidate projects professional, smart pictures of themselves; and, puts up well-written descriptions that highlight just the best things. In Ricardo Semler’s words, every candidate is a Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie in the recruitment process until we meet them a few months later and discover that they’re like everybody else. The truth is, traditional interviews make it easy for people to wear masks; and it’s quite possible that the interviewer was biased towards a candidate who exhibited some of their own characteristics. Participative recruitment processes will make it harder for people to be anything but themselves. They are also a great way to empower teams because they now feel like they have a say in who joins their team. On the whole, participative recruitment minimizes the chances of a bad recruitment – one where the person immediately quits or isn’t best-suited for the team, role or culture.


  1. Communicate the open position: Begin with a profiling meeting between the HR department and the relevant area manager to come up with a basic list of needs for the position that’s opened up. It’s not a job description, per se, but more a description of what the position is all about and what minimum specifications, expertise, soft skills and hard skills are required for the position. It can be a little specific, when it’s an engineering position, for instance, but in other cases, it should be broad.


  1. Internal CV filtering by HR – Prata Da Casa: Before going to the market, check to see if the opening can be filled internally. Semco resorts to the practice of Prata da Casa – silver house – which means you probably have the best candidate in-house. Initiate an internal listing and allow anyone who has a 70 percent fit for the requirements to apply for the job. If you don’t find anyone, or if there’s no one who’s interested in the opening, then ask all employees to recommend people (family members, friends or acquaintances) who they think might be a good fit for the job as well as the company. Note that the process might be decidedly shorter (around a week or so) if the right candidate comes from an internal recruitment. However, in very large corporations, where people who work in different departments might not really know each other very well, these integrated interviews can still be organized – maybe with lesser people. Or, if just one person doesn’t know the candidate coming in from another department, an informal one-one meeting can be organized. Despite all these efforts, if no candidates are identified for the open position, then the HR department should make the job listing public and find candidates via headhunters, campus recruitments, social media and so on.


  1. HR and area manager select CVs: Once you start receiving CVs, the first round of filtering should be done by the HR department. Then they should analyse the selected CVs along with the concerned area manager.


  1. Interviews with HR and area manager: The next step is to set up the first round of interviews, which need to be jointly conducted by an HR representative and the area manager.


  1. Selection of three candidates: At the end of the first round of interviews, the HR representative and the area manager should shortlist an average of three candidates. The three candidates should be invited for the next step: Integrated interviews.


  1. Define the group interview participants: The HR representative and the area manager should begin defining the group that will conduct the integrated interviews. People from different areas and levels (management, peer, subordinate) and other stakeholders must be selected for the process. Though it’s okay to keep it open for anyone to join, the idea is to build a group between 5-12 people to interview the shortlisted candidates. The HR representative and the area manager should also be a part of this group since they’ve been involved right from the beginning. Right at the beginning, they should refresh everybody’s memory by setting the context in which the opening came up. They should also remind people about what the main requirements for the job are. While the HR person can give everyone a short summary or guideline about the activity, the characteristics and the competencies required for the job, the area manager can make a brief talk to reinforce the job profile.


  1. Introduction of Employees: When the candidate arrives, the HR person should welcome him/her and explain the process. It can be a little frightening for many people to enter a room and find 12 people in there. It’s the HR person’s responsibility to create a safe space and explain the proceedings. It’s very important to always begin with an ice breaker to diffuse the tension. It could be a joke or an anecdote from a previous interview. Then the employees should take turns introducing themselves, the department they work in, their role in the team and the number of years they’ve worked in the company. This last information is really important because it helps the candidate see that people have been in the company for long periods of time and it already sends some messages to the candidate. In general, the environment should be very informal, like it’s just people talking about what they do and how much they love it.


  1. Introduction of Candidate: Once everyone on the interviewing group has spoken, it’s the candidate’s turn to introduce themselves and their background. They can talk about where they studied, worked, and what they’ve achieved so far. Everyone on the group should already have the candidate’s CV at hand so that they can follow and ask relevant questions.


  1. Employees question candidate: After all introductions, the group of interviewers should begin asking their questions. They can be related to technical aspects of the job or the personal aspects of the candidate to assess whether they’d be a good fit. Of course, it’s important to keep in mind the limits of how personal or specific the questions can be. It should feel more like an informal chat between friends and less like a formal interview.


  1. Candidate asks questions: After everyone’s had a chance to ask the candidate some questions, the HR person should invite the candidate to ask the interviewers any questions they might have. Conventional recruitment process in most companies involve just the interviewer asking all the questions. And then, in the end, they might very quickly ask, “Do you have any questions?” but it’s mostly just lip service. At Semco’s integrated interviews, the interviewers spend real time encouraging the candidate to ask questions. Some of the common questions from candidates are, “Why have you worked at this company for so long?” or “How is the daily work?”.


  1. Interviews with other candidates: Once all the questions from the candidate have been answered, the interview comes to an end. Before the next candidate steps in, the group should have a quick debriefing on what were the major highlights, positives and negatives and so on. Then, the next candidate should be called in and the same process repeated. These interviews are usually done in a row, with each of them taking anywhere between one to 1.5 hours. Overall, the integrated interview process might take the whole day, or at least the whole morning, depending on the number of candidates.


  1. Debriefing and selection of final candidate: By the end of all the interviews, the group must settle down for a general debriefing and try to arrive at a consensus about which candidate should be hired. Everyone on the group must be allowed to share their opinions without any differences in weightage given to anyone’s opinions. For instance, the intern’s opinion must be given the same weightage as that of the CEO. Since it’s not possible for all 12 people in the group to block their schedules for the entire duration of these interviews, there might be people who are able to participate in only one interview or so. In other words, someone who stepped in for the first interview, to answer a candidate’s question, will still add value to the whole process but he/she can’t have a say on the final candidate selection. Only those who are present during all the three interviews should be allowed to make the final call.

Level to implement



Create an informal environment with ice breakers to make the candidate comfortable

Encourage candidates to ask questions about the people, the organization and the culture

Gauge whether a candidate will be a good fit for the role, as well as the culture

Be very transparent by bringing real people from different levels and point of views into the process

Give as much exposure to the candidate as possible about the company and culture


Have different groups of interviewers meeting different candidates. It needs to be the same set of people (more or less) that interviews all three candidates. Otherwise it won’t be possible to compare notes and arrive at a consensus.

Intimidate the candidate because the process might already be intimidating for a lot of people

Have a very restrictive job description: It’s much more about what’s expected from this role so it needn’t be very specific

Bring 30 people to interview candidates – stick to groups of 12-15 people

Allow just one person to take the lead and talk all the time. There should be room for the entire group to interact – not just the extroverts


Minimizes risks of a bad recruitment because you’re sharing the decision and not allowing just one or two people to make it

Reduces the chances of hiring people who might quit in just three/ six months or a year

Empowers the team by integrating them into the decision making process

Ensures candidates have no choice but to be themselves because it’s not very easy to hide or pretend in such a transparent and immersive process

Makes it much easier to identify if the candidate has the right fit with the company’s culture or not  

Makes the onboarding process much more smooth.

Gives candidates the opportunity to gain different perspectives about the position, the department, the challenges, the culture – a human recruitment process without hidden agendas or corporate games.

Creates a win-win situation for the company as well as the candidate because it reduces risks, frustrations, misalignment of expectations

Helps the selected candidate feel integrated and welcomed by the team, right from day one, because the whole team was involved in their hiring


Time-consuming because it can involve up to 12 people and an entire day

Might be difficult to align the agendas of everyone on the group

The process might be intimidating for most people, particularly for introverts


If a person gets hired at Semco, then they know everyone on their team, their area manager and maybe even the interns in the department right from day one. That’s because all these people were actively involved in their hiring. Yes, at Semco, new recruitments aren’t a rushed affair and neither are they done in the conventional way, where candidates interact with the HR and the top-level management only.

Known as participative recruitment, the process involves a number of steps that empowers not just the candidate, but also the team that’s looking for a new person to come onboard. While the candidate gets an insider perspective, the team members share the decision of who joins their team next – after all, it’s them and not the top-level management, who will be interacting with the new recruit on a daily basis.


Prata da Casa

The process is set off as soon as a position opens up in a department. The HR and the concerned area manager go through an initial profiling phase, where they focus on all the requirements for the position. Then an internal posting is created to check if the opening can be filled by someone from within the company. This process is called Prata da Casa (Silver House) and If they do find someone who seems like a good fit, the process becomes much shorter. However, if they don’t find anyone internally or via the recommendations of existing Semco employees, the posting goes public. Semco uses a variety of channels to attract candidates from the market such as headhunters, campus recruitments, social media job posts and so on. Once the CVs start coming in, the HR department does the initial filtering and before analysing them with the area manager.

Very soon, these candidates are invited to attend the first round of interviews, conducted by the HR representative and the area manager. The goal is to create a shortlist of candidates and the average number of candidates shortlisted is three. Until this point, the team members and other relevant stakeholders aren’t involved and things proceed much like any other recruitment process.


Integrated Interviews

But now is the moment when the HR and the area manager begin inviting team members and stakeholders to participate in an integrated interview. Though anybody is free to join, they try not to exceed the 12-member mark. On the D-day, the HR and the area manager set the stage by reminding everyone about the job profile and the various requirements (technical and otherwise) they should be on the lookout for. Then, it’s time to meet the first candidate.

Since it can be quite intimidating for the candidate to walk into a room full of people, it’s crucial to keep the environment informal and friendly. Ice breakers games, jokes or funny anecdotes are some of the ways in which the HR person tries to diffuse the tension. In order to make the candidate feel safer and calmer, the group of interviewers begin talking about themselves first. They talk about themselves, their roles, departments and most importantly, the number of years they’ve worked for Semco. This is an important piece of information for the candidate because it immediately shows them that Semco’s a company that people never quit.


Questions And Answers

When everybody’s had a chance to introduce themselves, the candidate is invited to introduce themselves, their educational and professional backgrounds and so on. All the interviewers have a copy of the candidate’s CV so that they can ask pointed and relevant questions when necessary.

Then, they move onto the interview questions: Depending on the opening, the questions are technical or non-technical; or, they’re personal questions aimed at understanding whether the person will be a good fit for the team’s dynamics. The candidate is also encouraged to ask questions about the company, the role, the team, its members and so on.


Hiring Based On Consensus

Once all questions have been answered, the interview draws to a close and the group briefly convenes to share highlights of the candidate. Then, it’s time to meet the other two candidates and repeat the whole process with them. At the end of all the three interviews, the group deliberates together and arrives at a consensus. Every person on the group, whether it’s the CEO or the intern, gets a say and all opinions are treated equally.

That said, it’s important to note that only those who were present for all the three interviews are allowed to have a say in the final decision. People who were there for just one or two of the three interviews are allowed to weigh-in, but they don’t get to choose in the end.

The entire process can take anywhere between a week to a couple of months to get wrapped up. It all depends on the urgency with which the opening needs to be filled and the availability of good candidates.

Unlike conventional interviews, where interviewers tend to be the ones asking the questions and the candidates trying to sell themselves, the participative recruitment practice allows both sides to show each other why (or, why not) they’re suited for each other. The interviewers reveal what exactly it is like to work at Semco, while the candidate shows their true personality in the way they interact with this microcosm of the company.


Expert avatar

Borges, Ian

Co-founder at LeadWise | Partner at Semco Style Institute | Entrepreneur | Lifestyle Strategist | Digital Nomad

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Portuguese, English, French, Spanish

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