Organizational Wellness

An HR Manager's Guide to Peer Interviews

Jan 12, 2024
Last Updated May 10, 2024

Have you ever shared a moment with your work peers that your supervisors just can’t fully appreciate? Or maybe you’ve had some honest dialogue with your colleagues about a recent organizational change — but when it comes time to discuss it with your manager, you choose your words a little more carefully.

It’s totally natural for people to talk and act differently with people who rank above us in the workplace. Conversations can feel more formal, even when leaders foster an open and honest environment.

The same is true during interviews. When potential employees interview with a hiring manager, human resources director, or founder, they’re likely to think more carefully about their answers — and even filter their questions for your team. Candidates go through a formal question-and-answer process, instead of truly diving into the cultural fit and asking honest questions about the work.

Peer interviews may help relieve some of that pressure. During a peer interview, job candidates meet current team members. This gives them a chance to ask more direct and honest questions and get a true sense of the team dynamic before joining.


What is a Peer Interview?

A peer interview is a conversation conducted separately from interviews with human resources or the hiring manager. During the peer interview stage, qualified candidates will meet with two or more potential colleagues. They might be the new hire's future teammates or represent different areas of the organization.

The goal is to get an idea of how well the candidate would work with the existing team. The peer interview process typically goes over questions that are relevant to the job duties, company culture, and teamwork skills.

Benefits of a Peer Interview

Peer interviews can give job candidates a true sense of the inner workings of the team and where the role slots into the bigger picture. Your team may also get invaluable insights into that person’s working style, personality, and collaboration preferences so you can make more informed hiring decisions.

  1. They offer a realistic look into team dynamics: Candidates get an honest look at how the team works together day-to-day. And their potential coworkers can get to know the candidate without any outside influences or leaders disrupting them.
  2. Job seekers feel comfortable during the hiring process: When candidates have the opportunity to connect with potential colleagues, it can help make the hiring process feel less intimidating. It puts both sides at ease and lets them see one another as human beings rather than an employer vs. employee.
  3. Peers may be more candid: In a formal job interview setting, candidates might be hesitant to ask personal or specific questions about their role on the team. Potential peers may be easier to talk to, and the candidate will probably feel like they’re getting a more honest answer.
  4. You build camaraderie before day one: Peer interviews can help new hires feel like part of a team right away. And, as Dr. Jeffrey N. Doucette, chief nursing officer at Press Gainey,  writes: "You get feedback from more than one peer and, in the event the applicant is hired, more people are invested in the success of the new employee from day one."
  5. Candidates get an authentic look into the work environment: Recruiters, hiring managers, and HR leaders can talk in detail about the company's history and the responsibilities of the job. But peers can give a potential hire a better idea of what it's really like to be a part of the team.

Drawbacks of a Peer Interview

While there are many benefits to incorporating peer interviews into the recruitment process, you'll also have to account for some drawbacks before implementing them.

  1. Added Complexity: Peer interviews add another step to the selection process. If you're already tight on time, this step could create a bottleneck. Between interviews and feedback, you could spend a lot of time waiting on other people.
  2. Additional Training: Some team members, junior-level employees especially, might not know how to conduct interviews. Some folks will need training or coaching before they're ready to evaluate applicants — and to make sure they're complying with fair hiring practices.
  3. Inconsistent Questions: Without guidance, peer interviewers may ask irrelevant questions or overlook key areas you want probed. This could result in uneven or unhelpful information gathered across candidates.

With thoughtful design and preparation, you can maximize the value of peer interviews while mitigating their potential downsides. Setting clear guidelines and equipping peer interviewers  is key to success.

How to Conduct a Peer Interview

While peer interviews are similar to other conversations in the vetting process, they do have some steps of their own. Here’s how to start incorporate this interview style into your hiring process:

  1. Choose your participants: Decide who will interview candidates, and make sure they know what their unique responsibilities are.
  2. Set clear expectations: Explain to interviewers and candidates the purpose and format of the peer interview, and the unique perspective direct colleagues bring to the process.
  3. Have a plan: Create an action plan for each stage of the process, including pre-interview preparation and post-interview feedback. And don’t forget to set a timeline.
  4. Provide training for junior employees: If you’re including junior team members in the evaluation process, prep them on how to conduct interviews — from etiquette to compliance.
  5. Gather feedback: Encourage team members to write down their comments and observations about each candidate. You may even want to create a scorecard. A standardized process will help you get plenty of perspectives before you make a job offer to the best candidate.

Common Peer Interview Questions

When setting up peer interviews, questions that go beyond the typical job-related ones tend to be the most useful. Try to focus on more detailed questions about company culture and team dynamics.

You may have your team members ask the job seeker:

  1. How would you describe your ideal teammate?
  2. What would your coworkers say about you?
  3. What type of company culture or team dynamic are you looking for?
  4. How do you handle difficult tasks or challenging conversations with peers?
  5. How have you handled a situation when you held a different opinion from your colleagues?
  6. What approaches have you found effective for collaborating remotely?
  7. How do you typically give and receive feedback with peers?
  8. How have you contributed to a positive team culture in the past?
  9. What kind of support would you need from teammates in this role?
  10. If you disagreed with the team's decision, how would you handle it?
  11. How have you handled having your ideas challenged by peers?

Asking intentional questions like this allows teammates to assess whether candidates would add to the company’s culture and collaborate well. This sets the stage for strong hiring decisions and smooth onboarding.

The Foundation of a Good Candidate Experience

Successful hiring stems from building an intentional culture that fosters a positive team environment. This enables your team to give candidates a positive impression, and helps deliver a great experience for new hires.

Employee wellbeing is a critical piece of this puzzle — three out of four people say wellness is a critical part of whether or not they apply for a job

You can make your job opportunities more attractive to top talent by rolling out an employee wellbeing program. These initiatives can give your staffers access to gym memberships, meditation apps, or nutrition counseling — anything they need to live healthier lives.

Wellhub offers all of this and more in one simple platform. Speak with a Wellbeing Specialist today!

Company healthcare costs drop by up to 35% with Wellhub! (* Based on proprietary research comparing healthcare costs of active Wellhub users to non-users.) Talk to a Wellbeing Specialist to see how we can help reduce your healthcare spending!



Wellhub Editorial Team

The Wellhub Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.


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