The question on every HR professional and manager’s mind is -- how do you hire, retain, and develop the best employees?
Of course, it starts with knowing how to write a job description. And when it's time for the interview, there’s one interview technique in particular that is becoming more and more popular -- peer-to-peer interviewing. This interviewing practice has job candidates meet one-on-one with employees; the candidate is able to ask the employee questions about the company and job, while the employee can size up the applicant and then tell the boss his or her thoughts.
Peer-to-peer interviewing is an especially successful interview process for small companies and for team-based operations, as it allows the organization to get a more complete idea of a candidate’s overall fit.
The Upside to Peer-to-Peer Interviewing:
- Transfer of knowledge. Applicants are able to learn more about the company from employees (who are likely to tell it a little more like it is).
- Guard is down. Applicants are more likely to let their guard down with peers, so the organization will get a better sense of who their candidates are and how they’ll fit.
- Morale is up. Employees help to select their future coworkers. Being involved in the selection process is good for morale and productivity; employees now have more of a stake in the organization. All this strengthens workers’ commitment to the organization and builds on a community atmosphere, in which peoples’ opinions do matter.
- Happy together. As employees are invested in the new hires’ success (they’ve already met them and have a sense of who they are), they are more likely to help new employees. Similarly, new employees start work knowing their peers support them.
Is there a downside?
The downside of peer-to-peer interviewing can be managed, but should be carefully considered.
- Two-way street. It’s important to remember that the candidate is also evaluating the company in the interview process. There have been cases in which unhappy employees interview applicants, talk about the problems with the company, and end up discouraging the candidates from taking the job, if they’re hired.
Solution: Be sure that your employees are genuinely positive, happy, and enthusiastic about the company.
- Personal agendas. Some employees could be threatened by an applicant and not recommend him/her out of their own insecurities.
Solution: Here’s where a bit of managerial 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 one or two 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.
- 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.