How to Use Peer Interviewing to Hire the Best Candidates
There is a growing trend in hiring to conduct peer interviews as part of the hiring process. Allowing employees a chance to meet, interact with, and evaluate potential new co-workers has been shown to help improve hiring and attract better talent. When employees are given the chance to have a say in the selection of their colleagues, it helps build better teams, improves morale, and gives them a sense of ownership in their jobs. At the same time, peer interviewing allows candidates the opportunity to evaluate their own feelings about your company, and get a better sense of what it would be like to actually work there.
In order for peer interviewing to enhance your hiring process, though, it must be done correctly. Even small mistakes can drive away top talent, or even leave your company vulnerable to legal challenges.
Beginning the Peer Interviewing Process
Imagine you are a candidate for a great position. You have made it through interviews with HR and the hiring manager for the job. You have had good rapport with everyone so far, and are excited when you are called in for a peer interview. Only when you arrive, you are ushered to a conference room where eight people sit around the table. They each have a copy of your resume, and a list of questions. For the next two hours, you are interrogated about everything from how you handle conflict to your biggest pet peeves at work. You leave exhausted, feeling like you just survived a round of hazing, and you are not sure you even want the job anymore.
Such scenarios are common in companies that use peer interviewing. In an attempt to get as many perspectives as possible and to see how the new person would fit in with the team, hiring managers bring together the whole department to meet with the candidate. While some people are up for that type of challenge, most end up feeling intimidated and exhausted.
Effective peer interviewing involves a lot more than just throwing the candidate to the team and hoping he or she comes out unscathed. You need to develop a plan, provide training, and a fair evaluation process to ensure that all candidates are evaluated equally.
Planning for Peer Interviewing
Including peer interviewing in your hiring process requires a few important steps.
- Consider the process. Because you want all of the candidates who go through the peer interviewing process to be evaluated fairly, you need to develop a standardized process. This includes:
- Determining who will conduct the interviews. At most, choose two or three employees to conduct your interviews. These should be your highest performers, who are genuinely happy in their jobs and can effectively demonstrate your company’s mission come to life. You do not want to select employees who are unhappy with the company, as they may inadvertently sabotage the hiring process by sharing the problems in the organization. Honesty is important, but you do not want anyone to discourage the candidate from accepting the job.
- Developing questions. While the interview should be a conversation, not an interrogation, you want the conversations to touch on the same topics so you can fairly evaluate candidates. Work with the people who are conducting the interviews to develop questions based around their priorities, and then run them past HR to ensure that they do not violate any fair employment laws.
- Developing an evaluation matrix. Again, you want to compare apples to apples, and when your team is interviewing multiple candidates, they need an objective form of measurement against which to evaluate them. Consider using a numerical rating scale to assess answers to specific questions, as well as an overall candidate rank.
- Provide training. To conduct peer interviewing, training is vital. Because most of your team are unlikely to be trained in HR and hiring processes, they may be unaware of the potential legal issues inherent in interviewing, such as the questions that are illegal to ask, as well as some of the finer points of evaluating candidates. Your staff should be trained to identify certain communication clues, such as vague or evasive language, and how to effectively guide the answers and keep the interview on track. Mock interviews can help immensely.
- Schedule evaluation discussions. It is important to make it clear to everyone involved that the peer interview is only part of the hiring process, and that the hiring manager and HR will make the final decisions. However, be sure to schedule time after the interviews to have conversations with the interviewing team to get their impressions and hear their concerns. Do not simply collect the evaluation questionnaires, but seek your team’s input.
Giving your employees a voice in the hiring process can help improve employee engagement, which in turn leads to higher morale, higher productivity, and in some cases, cost savings, so before you hire your next team member, consider getting the input of his or her potential coworkers.