How to involve staff in the interview process

panel interviewYou narrow down a hiring choice to two candidates. You thoroughly check qualifications but remain undecided. What to do next?

An increasing number of employers are having applicants sit down with key employees whose opinions they trust—either in a group or one-on-one. In such peer interviews, both sides can ask each other questions, which helps the candidate get a clearer picture of the company culture.

Pros: Candidates tend to be less guarded with peers, allowing hiring managers to glean more information. Employees feel empowered when participating in the selection process.

Cons: Secretly disgruntled employees may give off negative vibes—either via answers, nonanswers or body language—that turn off candidates. If employees feel threatened by a superstar candidate, they may undersell the candidate to HR.

Questions to ask  

Peer interviewers should avoid most of the typical questions that managers and HR professionals ask. Interviewees should take an easygoing approach, infusing questions with “we,” “us” and “our” to encourage candidates to relate peer-to-peer. Examples:

  • “A co-worker in my department had a problem (describe it) and asked for help to solve it. How would you have helped him?”
  • “Sometimes it’s difficult for us to contact a manager right away to resolve a pressing problem. How would you handle that situation?”
  • “Sometimes we receive tasks from more than one manager. How would you prioritize the work?”
  • “Bosses don’t always agree with our decisions. What would you do in those situations?”
  • “Supervisors are demanding about excellence. How would you deal with that?”

After the peer interview, debrief those employee/interviewers with questions like:

  • How would the candidate relate to co-workers?
  • Is the applicant a good fit for the company?
  • Describe the person’s strengths and weaknesses.
  • How would the applicant handle tough problems under pressure?
  • How would the person deal with disagreements with supervisors?  

Final tips: The candidate is also sizing up your company and employees, so be careful in selecting your peer interviewers. Choose only enthusiastic, engaged employees who have good people skills.  

Vary interviewers by race, ethnicity, gender, age, tenure and position. Diversity provides a range of views.  

Remember that most employees don’t know about hiring discrimination laws. Make sure they understand that they can’t ask any questions related to the candidate’s protected characteristics—age, race, color, national origin, religion, sex or disability.

Every question should somehow relate to this central theme: “How are you qualified to perform the job you are applying for?”