Despite rapid adoption of assessment technology, peer interview questions remain one of the most valuable ways of getting to know a prospective candidate. 

In a peer interview (face-to-face) the candidate is able to ask existing employees questions about the company and job. The hiring manager is then able to observe the applicant to see whether they’d fit with the team and peer group they’re hiring into.

This recruitment tactic isn’t anything new but has been gaining more traction due to increased competition for talent and current zeitgeist around hiring for cultural fit. Companies have to fight to land top candidates and peer interviews will improve a firm’s ability to sell to in-demand candidates.

In this post we’ll take you through what peer interviewing is, what its pros and cons are, the process of setting up a peer interview, and what peer interview questions to ask.

What is a peer interview?

In a standard interview process, the candidate will meet with a hiring manager and/or a recruiter. In a peer interview, the candidate will meet with a present employee or group of employees in the company. Usually, this future peer (or peers) is someone who has a direct connection with the role being hired for; either a team leader or someone who’s held the position before.

Peers will then report back to the hiring manager, feeding back their thoughts on the candidate.

This is a great assessment method for small companies and team-orientated businesses because peer interview questions can give a greater indication of a candidate’s culture fit. However, that’s not to say large scale hiring professionals aren’t utilising this method. The likes of Amazon, IBM, and Google are working peer interviews into their recruiting process [1].

When thinking about whether to include peer interviews in your hiring process, you want to be sure that it will enhance the recruiting process. Let’s run through some of the pros and cons of the method.

What are the advantages?

Done correctly, peer interviewing will make it easier to see if the job is a good fit on both sides for the following reasons:

  • Transfer of knowledge

Candidates will be able to learn more about the company from current employees. They are much more likely to tell it like it is and give an honest picture of what it’s like to work there.

  • Candidate’s guard is down

Applicants are far more likely to let their guard down with peers. The organisation will get a much better sense of the behaviour of a candidate and how it fits with the business culture. 

  • Employee morale

Engaging current employees in the recruitment process is good for morale and productivity. Involving team members in selecting their future coworkers and allowing them to ask questions gives them a greater sense of belonging in the organisation. 

  • Building relationships

As employees are already invested in the candidate’s success having already met them, they are more likely to actively engage with them at work. New hires are also able to start their first day having already met their new colleagues.

What are the disadvantages?

The downside of peer-to-peer interviewing can be managed, but should be carefully considered:

  • Peers may portray the company in a bad light

The interview is a two-way street; the candidate is also assessing the quality of the organisation. Unhappy employees might interview applicants, talk about the problems with the company, and end up discouraging the candidates from taking the job.

  • Peers might feel threatened by qualified candidates

People are competitive. Some employees will feel their position is threatened by a candidate who might outperform them. Objectivity could go out the window. The employee could not recommend him/her out of their own insecurities.

  • An interview, not an interrogation

A six person interview is not what the candidate will be expecting or appreciating. If a candidate isn’t expecting to talk to employees, it can feel incredibly overwhelming and can scare some candidates away.

  • Peers become less productive

How can a peer interview increase productivity when they are using so much of employees’ time? Staff have to take time out of work to participate in a peer interview. This causes a dip in productivity. This is even more acute when a peer has to speak with multiple candidates.

How to create a peer interviewing process that works for your business

The peer interview process most often fails because employees aren’t provided specific guidelines on what to look for in new hires or given appropriate training. If you want to create an efficient and productive peer interview process that will indicate the best candidate for your vacancy, then follow the following steps:

  1. Interview training

Employees should know the right and wrong peer interview questions to ask. They need to be aware of what questions are unprofessional and in some cases illegal.

Put employees through a training process before they conduct any interviews. Check-in on employees regularly to see if they’re still up to speed.

  1. Create an interview structure

While you want to give a certain level of conversational flexibility, there needs to be an established structure for the interview process. In order to minimise the risk of hiring bias, all candidates should be asked the same questions.

Setting a time limit for the interviews is useful but don’t put pressure on the employee so it becomes robotic. 

  1. Choose the right peer interviewers

Decide who’s going to be in the peer interview. Whilst you’re not conducting it yourself, you should still have a large amount of authority over the process.

Select employees who are enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the position and the business. It’s also important to pick a diverse group of employees to ensure all applicants feel like this is a place for them and to help reduce the chances of hiring discrimination

Make sure there aren’t too many people in the room – you don’t want to overwhelm the candidate.

  1. Make candidate requirements clear

Each peer chosen for the interview needs to be aware of what they’re looking for. The expectations and requirements of the role should be forefront in their minds.

While their personal feelings and rapport is important, they’re not looking for their best friend to join the company. The candidate needs to be able to do the job.

Employees should have read the ideal candidate profile ahead of the interview and be aware of how unconscious bias can hurt the hiring process. 

  1. Create a structured evaluation process

Exactly the same as desiring a structured interview process, employees should also have clear guidance on how to assess and provide feedback following its conclusion.

An evaluation process that each peer follows will provide consistency and allow accurate comparison between candidates. Many use a rating scale, such as 1-5, for each required job characteristic.

  1. Put peer interviews towards the end of the interview process

The candidates who go through your peer interview process should be those you see as near-definite potential hires. Instigating them too early in the process is a waste of time and resources.

  1. Make it clear who has the final decision

While peer feedback is very important – it’s not the only basis on which to make a hiring decision. At the end of the process, you should calculate scores on a number of factors that have been accumulated through the whole recruitment process.

Highlight who the final decision-maker is early on in the process so everyone has realistic expectations and to avoid disappointing team members who may have strong candidate preferences. 

Closing

Peer interviews are a great way for you and your team to get a clear picture on what a candidate might be like to work alongside. It also gives an indication of what working in the role might be like for the candidate themselves.

However, you must establish an appropriate structure and ensure that employees are well versed in what peer interview questions are appropriate. 

Lastly, understand it’s a moving process and open to amendments. Try utilising this type of assessment in your next hire if you haven’t before. Reassess after completion and make appropriate changes.