Team-oriented companies use peer hiring to build stronger teams

Teamwork is so important at work these days...everyone has to do their share to produce a good end product. And if one of your co-workers isn't pulling his or her weight-or worse, isn't qualified-it hurts the whole team's results. Have you ever wished you could be the one to hire your co-workers? Well, you may get your wish. Peer hiring is one of the fastest growing new trends in team-oriented companies.

Here's how it works:  

First, decide who the interviewing team will be. It might be peer managers along with the person who is to be the person's manager. It could be a combination of peers, employees and "internal" customers who will be interacting with the new person. Ideally, the group will make the ultimate decision by consensus, so if there is anyone who could veto the choice, they should be included from the beginning.  

To start, the team gets together to list all the qualifications they want in the new position. It might be a good idea to have an independent facilitator to help the group stay on track. It helps to create two lists: 1. "Musts"(qualifications that are requirements) and 2. "Preferred" (qualifications that are desirable but aren't absolutely required). For example, it might be a requirement to have "2 years of customer service experience in a retail environment" but a Bachelor's degree may be preferred but not required. The manager or team leader should write these on a flipchart so the team can see both lists as they are developed. The team may not be experienced at this process, so the manager may want to suggest some criteria.  

Next, the team figures out what questions to ask each candidate and which people will do the interviewing. In most cases, everyone participates in determining what is needed but only a few actually interview. For example, one person who has the best technical skills might ask candidates all the technical questions. Two people who work with customers could focus on customer service questions.  

It's also a good idea to educate the group on how to conduct a good interview. The interviewers on the team may need some help developing open-ended questions. For example, they may need coaching on how to avoid asking illegal questions and how to probe after a general answer is given.  

The team may decide to do some behavioral interviewing, where real life case studies or role plays are developed to evaluate candidates. For example, a team I was working with decided to present candidates with a "problem customer" scenario to see how they would handle it. The position was a Customer Service Manager and a cross-functional team of employees and managers were on the interview team. The team predetermined the appropriate response to the "problem customer" and were able to objectively determine if the candidates indeed had the behaviors they were looking for.  

Once a few candidates are chosen, they are scheduled to move from interviewer to interviewer. Afterwards, the team gets together and rates each candidate against their original list of required qualifications. If there are a few people who aren't doing the interviewing, it may be a good idea to at least introduce the final candidates to them. For example, in the prior example of the Customer Service Manager, the entire employee group had a chance to meet the two finalists and ask them some questions. Once a consensus is reached about who to hire, the manager takes over and makes an offer.  

Team interviewing does take more time but it is particularly effective when hiring a key position where a lot is at risk or where employee buy-in is critical. The team feels a sense of ownership about the decision and they are committed to making sure that person succeeds. When you consider the high cost and emotional destruction that comes from hiring the wrong person for a job, the time spent on the front end is well worth it.  

The candidates I've spoken to, who have gone through this process, often comment about how impressed they were. They are more eager to work for a company that includes employees in the hiring process because it demonstrates a strong, participative culture. The candidate is well informed about what the expectations are as well as about with whom they will be working. Candidates are impressed with the depth and breadth of the questions they are asked. It's no surprise when you consider how closely team members will scrutinize a potential co-worker who can influence their results!

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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