Hiring managers should not underestimate the value of peer interviewing in the recruitment process.
Best used in the final interview stage, peer interviews can help you make the right hire with the support of your team.
Getting candidates to answer peer interview questions helps assess many things.
For example, their technical abilities, fit within the team environment, and potential for success in the role. But equally, it can also be a deciding factor for the candidate, who may already have another job offer on the table.
In this article, we’ll cover:
- The definition of peer interviewing and why hiring managers use it
- Pros and cons of using peer interviewing in recruitment
- How to master peer interviewing in your hiring process
- The different types of common peer interview questions
What are peer interviews?
Peer interviews are a common recruitment technique where candidates are interviewed by a team member or members with relevant expertise. The purpose is to give the team a chance to also assess the candidate’s skills, culture fit, and suitability for the role.
A peer interview is often the final interview the candidate will sit – and the first time they will meet their new teammates if hired. Giving both the candidate and team members a chance to see who they will be working with and have a say in the final selection.
As the job market is increasingly competitive, and with companies looking to identify the best candidates, including a peer interview can play a pivotal role. Especially when done correctly. How a candidate answers peer interview questions can provide valuable insights and advantages in the recruitment process.
Why should hiring managers consider peer interviewing in the recruitment process?
As a hiring manager, you have many tools and techniques at your disposal to evaluate job candidates. However, peer interviewing stands out as a popular and successful technique because it provides valuable insight into job seekers from a different perspective – their peers.
The involvement and feedback from a candidate’s peers can help you to better understand a candidate’s communication style, leadership, specific technical skills and knowledge, soft skills, and problem-solving strengths and weaknesses, for example.
By taking a holistic approach to the peer interview process, you can make informed hiring decisions that are based on a well-rounded evaluation of the candidate’s qualifications – and pick up on anything that was missed in earlier rounds.
6 Benefits of using peer interviewing in recruitment
There is a multitude of benefits to incorporating a peer interview into your hiring workflow – we’ve picked out six of our favorites:
1. Provides valuable insight into the candidate’s skillset
Since the team member is familiar with the skills and knowledge required for the job, they can ask the type of detailed, technical questions that a hiring manager can’t.
2. Accurate assessment of fit within the team and company culture
As a current employee, they have a good understanding of the team’s dynamics and can provide feedback on candidate fit. This also helps ensure the new hire is set up for success – and can even help in making the final selection between two equally strong candidates.
3. Assesses a candidate’s soft skills and emotional intelligence
In addition to technical abilities, many jobs also require strong soft skills, such as communication, leadership, work ethic, and problem-solving – many of which will be revealed in a peer interview.
4. Better hiring decisions save recruiter time
Because leveraging the expertise and insights of the peer interviewer can help make more informed hiring decisions, this can help save a lot of recruiter time in the long run.
5. Reduces bias in the recruitment process
By involving team members in the evaluation of job candidates, you can get a more diverse and comprehensive assessment of the candidate. This can help to avoid bias and ensure that the hiring decision is based on a well-rounded evaluation.
6. Cost-effective recruitment solution
Not only can the wrong hire be costly, but by involving team members in the recruitment process, you might also save time and resources that would otherwise be spent on external recruitment consultants or agencies.
3 Disadvantages of the peer interview technique
Peer interviewing certainly has unique advantages. However, there are a few ways in which it can go wrong.
What characteristics do I look for when hiring somebody? That’s one of the questions I ask when interviewing. I want to know what kind of people they would hire.Jeff Bezos
1. Peer interviews can be subject to bias
You run a risk by involving current employees in the hiring process. They may have personal biases or preconceived notions about the candidate that could affect their assessment, making it difficult to accept why you hired the candidate anyway.
2. Need to prepare the team
Peer interviews should never be done on a whim. The team needs to be prepared and informed about what they should look for and what to expect from the interview. For example, who will speak, when, and having a pre-approved list of questions are some ways that can help prepare your team for a peer interview.
3. Don’t always provide a comprehensive assessment of the candidate
Each peer is likely to be thinking of the impact of the hire on their role and not holistically within the team. Mostly concerned with the skills and knowledge that would help them out personally, they may not be assessing other important qualities such as communication, problem-solving, or conflict management skills that help determine the quality of hire.
7 steps to master peer interviewing in your hiring process
Now that you have a better idea of what peer interviewing is and why it’s such a great tool, let’s dive into eight steps to help you and your organization become masters of the peer interview.
1. Clearly define the role and responsibilities
As part of your prep, make sure that the team is clear on the role and responsibilities that you are hiring for. This will help the interviewers to focus on the most important aspects of the candidate’s skills and qualifications.
2. Provide training and guidance to peer interviewers
Especially for team members who are participating in a peer interview for the first time, we recommend providing them with the relevant training and guidance on the peer interview process. This can include information on how to ask open-ended questions, active listening, and appropriate examples of common peer interview questions.
3. Use a structured interview format
To ensure that the interviews are consistent and provide a comprehensive assessment of the candidate, consider using a structured interview format. This can include implementing a standardized evaluation process for fairness or a standard set of peer interview questions.
4. Choose the right peer interviewers
It is also important to ensure that all the right people are included. For example, in small teams, this could mean finding the time when everyone can attend. While for larger teams, it means not only selecting the people with the right knowledge but also those who the candidate is most likely to work closely with or who best represent the company culture.
5. Collect feedback from the candidate
After the peer interview is over, it’s important to receive feedback and discuss how it went. This will help to ensure that all relevant information is considered when making a hiring decision and that everyone’s opinions are heard.
6. Let the candidate question the team
Of course, interviews are a two-way process – your candidate will also have questions for the team. Allow them time to pick the brains of their potential future co-workers. This interview section may just show you what the candidate’s teamwork skills are like.
7. Use the results of the peer interview as one piece of the puzzle
While the results of the peer interview can provide valuable information, it is important to remember that it is only one piece of the puzzle. The hiring decision should be based on a combination of all relevant information, such as homework assignments, other interviews, and employee references.
4 most common types of peer interview questions
There are several types of peer interview questions that you can use, namely:
Ask an informal personal question, such as “what is your favorite book?” or “where was your last vacation?” This helps to make the candidate feel at ease in the interview and will show interviewees a glimpse of their communication skills.
Here are a few icebreaker questions you can steal:
- If you had to cancel all but 3 tools you’re using for work, which ones would you keep and why?
- What show on Netflix did you binge-watch embarrassingly fast?
- What are the best and worst purchases you’ve ever made?
For many more creative icebreaker questions, head over to this blog!
2. The team player
Have the peer interviewer ask how the candidate fits into a team, for example, how they fit into their last team, what the work culture was like, or the value they brought to past projects.
3. Overcoming challenges
Have the candidate answer questions about previous challenging moments at work, such as tight deadlines or a personal example of dealing with difficult customers.
4. Under pressure
Throw in a few random questions to see how the candidate performs under pressure. But be wary of using any brainteasers as it’s bad practice and can turn away potential colleagues.
What not to ask during the interview process
There are a few things that you should avoid asking to ensure that the interview process is fair, legal, and unbiased. Some examples of things to avoid include:
- Sex, age, race, religion, or other characteristics
Not relevant to the job and in many places, these types of questions are illegal under equal employment opportunity laws and could expose the company to liability.
- Personal life
Questions about the candidate’s personal life or family situation are not relevant to the candidate’s ability to perform the job, and could make the candidate uncomfortable or discourage them from pursuing the position.
- Leading or biased questions
Questions that are leading or biased or that suggest a certain answer. For example, questions that begin with “Don’t you agree that…” or “Isn’t it true that…” As these can skew the results of the interview and make it difficult to get an accurate assessment of the candidate.
- Illegal or unethical questions
Questions that are illegal or unethical could also pose a liability problem for the employer. For example, questions about the candidate’s criminal record, medical history, or financial status.
- Questions that are difficult or impossible to answer
Lastly, avoid asking questions that are difficult or impossible to answer or that are not relevant to the candidate’s ability to perform the job. For example, this evil question: “Name 15 ways to use a brick.”
It’s time to supercharge your interview process
Peer interviews provide valuable insight and advantages in the recruitment process. By involving team members in the selection of peer interview questions and evaluation of job candidates, managers can get a more accurate assessment of the candidate.
Additionally, they can save time and resources for the hiring manager and can help to foster a sense of ownership and involvement among the team.
However, it is important for recruiters to carefully consider the potential disadvantages and take steps to mitigate any potential bias or limitations in the assessment process. As the wrong peer interview question may chase the candidate away.
By following best practices and using a structured interview format, hiring managers can effectively use peer interviewing to make informed hiring decisions.
Juste loves investigating through writing. A copywriter by trade, she spent the last ten years in startups, telling stories and building marketing teams. She works at Toggl Hire and writes about how businesses can recruit really great people.