1. Doucette, Jeffrey N. DNP, RN, CEN, NEA-BC, FACHE

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Peer interviews: A hiring best practice

Q I'd like to initiate a peer interviewing program at my organization. How do I get started?

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Having a solid peer interviewing process is a hallmark of a strong nursing services culture. Staff involvement in the hiring process is linked to positive employee engagement scores and long-term staff retention. Before you begin any type of peer interviewing program, it's always best to consult with your human resource colleagues to ensure that you develop a fair and equitable process that complies with all local, state, and federal hiring guidelines.


Most organizations require that employees who participate in the peer interviewing process complete some type of training to avoid asking inappropriate questions that can put your organization at risk. You should also develop an interview guide that contains sample questions to direct the process, as well as evaluation forms to collect feedback from interview participants in a standardized format.


Finally, you should decide what types of positions will be peer interviewed. Will you use peers for all levels from staff to leadership or will the interview sessions be reserved for certain roles in your organization?


After you've addressed these basic issues, there are several ways in which a well-rounded peer interviewing process can be deployed. One model is a simple one-on-one peer interview. In this model, the applicant is scheduled to meet with the employee peer and led through the interview process using the guide, providing feedback at the end of the meeting.


A second approach is to use a panel of peers to conduct the interview. In this model, several peers are selected (sometimes from different areas of the organization), interview the applicant together, and provide feedback. One of the benefits of this approach is that 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. One of the potential drawbacks is having a panel that's too large and, therefore, overwhelming for the applicant. Ensure that the applicant is prepared to participate in a panel interview and keep the interview panel size to a manageable number. If possible, it's always best to inform the applicant with whom he or she will be meeting before the interview.


The type of peer interviewing I prefer most often is the unit observation method. Once again, it's important to coordinate this approach with your human resources team to ensure compliance with all appropriate rules and regulations for observers. In this method, the prospective employee is scheduled for a brief 2- to 4-hour observation on the unit and shift for which he or she is applying. The applicant is scheduled to observe multiple providers over the course of this time period to see how the unit works, measure the level of teamwork, and get a firsthand view of the type of work he or she will be doing.


In addition, this gives the peer interviewers a unique opportunity to talk with and observe the applicant in an environment that's typically more casual and relaxed. The team members meeting the applicant should include the suggested questions from the peer interview guide and provide formal feedback at the end of the observation period. It's also a good idea to elicit formal feedback from the applicant to gauge team fit based on his or her own observations.


Regardless of the method you use, peer interviewing is recognized as a best practice among top performing organizations and should be strongly considered for all position levels.