Peer-to-peer interviewing is an especially successful interview process for small companies and for team-based operations, as it allows the organization to get a more complete idea of a candidate’s overall fit.
The Upside to Peer-to-Peer Interviewing:
- Transfer of knowledge. Applicants are able to learn more about the company from employees (who are likely to tell it a little more like it is).
- Guard is down. Applicants are more likely to let their guard down with peers, so the organization will get a better sense of who their candidates are and how they’ll fit.
- Morale is up. Employees help to select their future coworkers. Being involved in the selection process is good for morale and productivity; employees now have more of a stake in the organization. All this strengthens workers’ commitment to the organization and builds on a community atmosphere, in which peoples’ opinions do matter.
- Happy together. As employees are invested in the new hires’ success (they’ve already met them and have a sense of who they are), they are more likely to help new employees. Similarly, new employees start work knowing their peers support them.
Is there a downside?
The downside of peer-to-peer interviewing can be managed, but should be carefully considered.
- Two-way street. It’s important to remember that the candidate is also evaluating the company in the interview process. There have been cases in which unhappy employees interview applicants, talk about the problems with the company, and end up discouraging the candidates from taking the job, if they’re hired.
Solution: Be sure that your employees are genuinely positive, happy, and enthusiastic about the company.
- Personal agendas. Some employees could be threatened by an applicant and not recommend him/her out of their own insecurities.
Solution: Here’s where a bit of managerial intuition comes into play. Beyond that, employees participating in these interviews should get along with their coworkers and be generally likeable people. It’s also a good idea to ensure that employee interviewers represent a cultural cross-section of the organization’s workers; that is, have an equal mix of ethnicities, races, and sexes. Employees should also have great people skills, be articulate, and understand what company is looking for in its next hire.
- An interview, not an interrogation. A three-hour, six person interview is not what the candidate will be expecting or appreciate.
Solution: Peer-to-peer interviewing certainly doesn’t mean a candidate should be interviewed by half of your staff. Not only is this intimidating for the candidate, but what kind of message does this send about your organization -- that any potential new hire should be questioned by everyone in the company? Keep the peer interviews to one or two people per visit.
- Sure morale is up, but productivity is down. How can peer interviews increase productivity when they take away so much of workers’ time?
Solution: Peer-to-peer interviewing can involve a lot of time -- preparing, conducting the interview itself, following-up with recommendations. Have a list of set questions for employees to ask, and a brief form (of recommendations) for employees to fill out afterward. Set a time limit of 30 minutes on the entire process. Again, this is another reason to keep the peer interviews to an effective and minimal couple of people.
- Interview training is essential. For example, employees must know what are legal interview questions and which are unprofessional, illegal, and therefore off-limits: Do you have children?
- Keep the evaluative forms quick and effective. Adapt a quantitative approach by using a rating scale (between 1 and 10). Employees should grade the applicant on his/her knowledge, skills, experience, etc.
- Make it clear that while employees’ feedback will be taken into high regard, HR and management still make the final decision.
What Is Peer Interviewing?
It is the process of having co-workers interview candidates for open positions. It’s a good way to ensure that new employees will fit into the culture of your department and helps to ensure that the relationship the new employee has with the current employees starts off on the right foot.
Why is Peer Interviewing Important?
Current employees have the opportunity to size up the candidate and tell you, the manger, what they think. Candidates learn more about your department’s culture, while employees help select their future coworkers, which can be good for morale and productivity. Peer interviewing is a great way to utilize the key people on your team to help find qualified candidates and determine if those candidates actually fit into our organization. Peer interviewing can be extremely effective in finding talent and retaining key people. It’s a critical element of building a cohesive department culture. You as the manager can get more insight into a candidate’s personality, since candidates are likely to let their guard down with peers. The candidate is also evaluating the company.
Who Should Be a Peer Interviewer?
Look for employees who have great people skills. They are upbeat about your department and understand where it's heading. You should choose employees who want to be peer interviewers who can offer diverse opinions. Pick people who are enthusiastic and articulate. The team of peers conducting the interviews should be representative of what your department does and represents; it is a microcosm representation of the demographics. Look for diversity in age, race, etc., and also look for differences in thought, geography and maturity. Blend newcomers with old-timers. The members of your peer interviewing team need to attend Peer Interviewing training or, if also in a hiring manager role, Targeted Selection.
What Is the Outcome of Peer Interviewing?
The outcome of Peer Interviewing is to ensure that co-workers have an opportunity to meet the candidates, help the candidates learn more about the culture of your department, and to help the new employee begin to make relationships with their co-workers. You as the manager have the opportunity to gather information from some of your key employees related to potential members of your team.