More businesses are recognizing the value of healthy company culture. That’s why hiring managers and recruiters are adding a peer interview step to the hiring process. This gives job-seekers a chance to meet your current team members to see if they would be a good fit for your work environment before you make the final hiring decision.
Get the most out of holding peer interviews by knowing their benefits and which common peer interview questions to ask.
What is a peer interview?
A peer interview is the last phase of the interview process. In it, a job applicant is questioned by their potential coworkers to see if they’d feel comfortable working with the person.
What is the purpose of a peer interview? The purpose of a peer interview is to ensure that your new hire would work well with your current staff. Organizations can gain more insights into an applicant’s soft skills and abilities from workers who know the day-to-day challenges best.
Your employees can ask the applicant specific questions regarding work ethic, personality, teamwork skills, communication, and self-management. The meeting is staged like a face-to-face panel interview where a human resources manager or direct supervisor serves as the moderator.
Is a peer interview the last step in the interview process? Yes, the peer interview occurs after the initial screening and the leadership-led interviews to vet bad candidates. Applicants are not introduced to the current staff until leadership is near making a final decision. Hold the peer interview after other preliminary meetings like the phone interview.
Just because the candidate meets your current staff, it doesn’t mean you’re making a job offer. And a peer interview does not mean the applicant gets the job. It simply lets your existing employees have a say in the decision-making by determining if the interviewee would be a good cultural fit.
Pros and Cons of Having Peer Interviews at Your Company
Builds familiarity between potential colleagues
Reinforces a lack of diversity
Gives applicants more information about your organization
Discourages Good Candidates
Shows you value your employees
Monopolizes time and resources
Provides the opportunity to gather more insights about candidates
Benefits of Peer Interviews
Consider these advantages when deciding whether to incorporate a peer interview into your hiring processes.
Familiarity With Potential Colleagues
Make sure your applicant’s personality won’t clash with the interpersonal dynamics of your current team. Let your workers assess the person directly by meeting face to face. This also gives your staff a sense of responsibility and investment throughout the onboarding of your new hire.
Applicants Learn More About Your Organization
Candidates gain a realistic picture of the job by talking with current staff and asking more specific questions on day-to-day operations. A peer interview sheds light on your company’s operations, values, challenges, and workplace.
This will also help the applicant verify if they want the job — especially if they’re an independent contract worker who has other gigs lined up.
Value Your Current Employees
Involving your most trusted workers in the peer interview process shows them that their voices matter and opinions are heard. This display of respect can make your staff feel like they’re an important part of your company, which builds loyalty.
Provides More Insight into a Candidate
A peer interview gives the potential hire a less-formal environment for self-disclosure than a traditional job interview with management does. This casualness can encourage them to raise concerns, admit shortcomings, and describe their skills more honestly.
You’ll see their potential beyond how their professional experience fits the job description. Plus, having more people listening can provide new perspectives and avoid blind spots.
Disadvantages of Peer Interviews
To be best informed, you’ll also want to consider the disadvantages of holding peer interviews.
Reinforces a Lack of Diversity
It’s a natural human tendency to respond more positively to people who are similar to you. Interviewers may show partiality to candidates who are the same race, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, or political position as them. That can fortify bias and groupthink.
But the benefits of having a diverse team are well documented. And having someone on your team who doesn’t always get along with their peers can actually be a good thing.
Discourages Good Candidates
Pessimistic or combative attitudes from your staff can dissuade talented, valuable applicants from accepting your job offer. You may have the best candidate for the role sitting in your office, but they might not want to work with your staff after meeting them.
New employees don’t need to be a perfect fit immediately, but a job-seeker who can sense conflict may jump ship before their starting day.
Extends Hiring Timelines
Peer interviews take time to arrange and host — and you may not even learn anything valuable from them. Consider how much paid time you’ll take from the meeting organizer and your staff.
Don’t forget about the time spent discussing everyone’s reactions afterward. That adds up if you hold peer interviews for multiple candidates. A peer interview can be a time-consuming additional step in an overly thorough selection process that wastes time better spent on other duties.
Processes for Effective Peer Interviews
Establishing a set process for peer interviews can save time and maximize their value. Here are some tips for deciding what to do during a peer interview with a job applicant. You can use these ideas to create a peer interview procedure guide for your company.
Choose the Right Staff Members for the Meeting
Invite team members who will ask good questions and portray your company in a positive light. Select a handful of attendees who are good communicators, happy with their jobs, are respected by their peers, and have full knowledge of day-to-day operations. Build a diverse panel with workers of different ages, races, and genders.
Establish Expectations in Advance
A peer interview can only be successful if you know what you’re trying to achieve. Setting goals for the meeting helps your panel ask relevant questions and receive insightful responses.
Your team can better assess the interviewee by gauging the traits that matter most. Without clear goals and an evaluation rubric, the interviewers’ opinions are unhelpful.
Let Your Panel Choose the Questions
The candidate has already passed multiple screenings, so your team’s input should guide this meeting. Let them decide what matters when choosing a good teammate.
They can choose questions tailored to their industry, department, or craft, such as interview questions for:
Or broader technical interview questions for other I.T. jobs.
Your hiring manager or recruiter can give the final approval for appropriate peer interview questions, but they should refrain from telling the panel what to ask.
Select an Inviting Setting
It is normal for applicants to be nervous at a peer interview, so choose a pleasant environment for your meeting. With reduced stress, applicants can focus on their answers and accurately presenting themselves.
Choose a location in your office that is not intimidating or distracting. Even if the interview is remote, you can still make the experience agreeable by testing the video-conferencing equipment beforehand and being prepared.
You can set a friendly tone regardless of where you meet by opening with an icebreaker, employing active listening with eye contact, and turning off all potential distractions.
The job applicant should expect a casual, friendly welcome at a peer interview, as any hostility can sabotage future team cohesion.
Gather Feedback and Improve the Process
Meet again with your interview team to share everyone’s evaluation scorecards and discuss the applicant’s future with the company.
During the meeting, take time to reflect on the peer interview itself. Find ways to improve the procedure in the future by reviewing what worked and what didn’t. What questions should or shouldn’t be asked next time? Was too much or not enough time allotted?
Common Peer Interview Questions
Your staff will benefit from having a list of common questions and answers when interviewing a candidate. This resource will help them brainstorm specific questions for the particular role or workplace. And having sample answers will alert them of good responses to actively listen for.
1. In what ways do you support your teammates?
A good candidate knows the value they bring to a team and how they can serve their peers. Be wary of an applicant who doesn’t know how to be helpful or assumes they already know what colleagues need.
2. What do people enjoy most and least about working with you?
This is similar to the previous question by revealing the candidate’s ability to self-assess their strengths and weaknesses. They should be realistic regarding their personality and emphasize that they are striving to overcome their faults.
3. What traits do you value most in your workplace peers?
The answer should involve 2-3 specific traits concisely explained through real-life examples. These characteristics should contribute to the success of the team (and company) rather than the applicant’s personal placation.
4. Describe your ideal company culture.
Learn what a candidate cares about and what environment they thrive in — and whether or not it’s what you are offering. The response should exhibit the interviewee’s expectations for your workplace by listing specific qualities that a healthy office culture has.
5. How do you handle stress in the workplace? Describe a stressful situation you were in.
The response should indicate that the applicant can self-cope independently and still follow a procedure for solving problems. They must perform thoughtfully under pressure by following directions rather than relying on their gut or becoming overwhelmed. Have them share about personal stress management techniques.
6. How do you handle interpersonal tension with your teammates?
Listen to the interviewee’s willingness to talk to their peer and admit any mistakes or misunderstandings. Conflict resolution should occur without the involvement of a supervisor.
7. What do you do when a colleague asks you for help, and you’re very busy?
The candidate should show that they understand the value of collaboration and prioritization. A good answer explains how they assess the urgency of both tasks to determine what to do right now logically. Teamwork is important for company success, but only if done judiciously.
8. How do you stay on task when you’re working remotely?
This question examines self-discipline and motivation. The candidate should talk about their techniques for staying productive and focused regardless of their environment.
9. How do you handle extra time in the workplace once you finish your tasks?
You want to hire a new employee who is dedicated to the company’s success and seeks ways to stay productive. Listen for a response that reveals the applicant’s desire to assist their teammates before focusing on their own interests.
10. What are your observations about this company and our culture so far?
Hiring managers want potential employees to grasp an organization’s values and identity accurately. Asking this question lets you assess which statements shaped the applicant’s impression of your corporation.
11. What do you do for fun in your free time?
You can ask this question to learn about the applicant’s passions. Most answers aren’t right or wrong, but this query can give you insight into the person’s interests and personality to see if they’d bond with your team.
12. What questions do you want to ask us?
It’s a big red flag if the interviewee doesn’t want to learn more about your company, their peers, or the workplace. A good candidate expresses interest in the job by wanting to know more about it.
In addition to following a fixed method for all peer interviews, you can enhance the process with these practices.
Hiring companies can prepare for a peer interview by having a pre-interview meeting with the committee. Refresh everyone on the expectations and goals of the meeting. Agree upon the questions to ask and traits to grade on the evaluation scorecard.
Provide training for new interviewers to teach them about proper etiquette, bias recognition, and ways to read behaviors and responses.
Don’t invite too many staff members to join the meeting. There are typically 4 to 6 people in a peer interview, including the moderator and interviewee. Any additional people and the meeting can become overcrowded and not give the interviewee enough time to answer or ask questions.
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