Peer-To-Peer Interviewing

By Faizel Kearns

One of my first challenges at the helm of Globe Recruitment was to recruit senior talent acquisition consultants to the team. I recognize that the employees will be key to Globe Recruitment’s success, and I view a key element of my role to be the creation of a people engagement culture. Peer-to-peer interviewing was identified as an attractive vehicle to lay such foundations.

Peer-to-peer interviewing is where applicants are interviewed by employees, and the employees have a major input as to whom is selected to be hired.

The approach we followed was,

  • Develop a quality job specification, fully encompassing current and future needs
  • Discuss the need for the additional people with the team, the job spec, and the organizational structure impact.
  • Shortlist applicants from job portals, approach passive candidates in networks, and setup the interviews.
  • As hiring manager, I conducted the 1st round interviews, and where applicants qualified, they went for 2nd round interviews with the team they would be leading.
  • The hiring manager debriefed the applicants and the interviewing team respectively post the interviews.

Through this process, the following positives were noted,

  • Applicants were able to learn more about the company from employees (who are likely to tell it a little more like it is).
  • The organization got a better sense of who their applicants were and how they’ll fit, as the applicants were more relaxed in discussing with their peers.
  • Employee morale improved as they were tasked to help select their future team leaders. This strengthens employees’ commitment to the organization and builds on a community atmosphere, in which peoples’ opinions do matter.
  • Employees initiated greater support for the new hires’ when they arrived, as they’ve already met them, have a sense of who they are, and have a vested interest in their success.
  • New hires start work with a sense of confidence that their peers support them.
  • Accelerated development through the stages of team development, Forming, Storming, and Norming.

There is a potential downside to peer-to-peer interviewing, which needs consideration,

  • Unhappy employees interviewing applicants, may talk about the problems with the company, and end up discouraging the candidates from taking the job.
    Solution: Be sure that your employees are genuinely positive, happy, and enthusiastic about the company. Build a continuous culture of people engagement, and trust.
  • Some employees may be threatened by an applicant and not recommend them as a result of their own insecurities.Solution: Here’s where a bit of leadership 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 two or three 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.

Additional Tips 

  • 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.