What to Expect in a Peer Interview

Get Ready for Peer InterviewsFinding a job that suits you isn’t easy. But prospective employers want to make sure you’re the right fit for them, too. Don’t be surprised if that includes talking to a group of prospective co-workers.

The so-called peer interview is increasingly common. If you haven’t had one yet, you will at some point.

“I think that in this environment in healthcare, with hospitals moving more toward Magnet status, it’s just one of those things that encourages buy in from the team,” says nurse recruiter Jill Jarufe at Kaye/Bassman International in Dallas. “[Employees] work more harmoniously when they are given more input into the hiring process.”

That can mean a sit-down with two or three to 10 prospective co-workers.

Don’t make it too casual

But don’t make the mistake of thinking this will be a let-your-hair-down chat over coffee and bagels. The idea is for everyone to be honest, but you’ll be asked carefully planned questions. Those questions may not be dramatically different from those in a manager interview. But the difference here is that the team is assessing how you fit from their perspective, not the manager’s.

At the Answer Line department at St. Louis Children’s Hospital in St. Louis, Mo., nurse manager Suzanne Wells will begin peer interviews this year. She currently has job candidates “shadow” a staff nurse for several hours.

“Just through conversations with this individual, [staff nurses] can pick up on things that they can share with me,” she says. “They might say, ‘Oh my, the candidate was a deer in the headlights.’ Or ‘She said this was something she’d be apprehensive about doing.’ Whereas, in an interview with a manager, they will come across polished and more skilled.”

In fact, Wells believes the peer interview is a more reliable indicator than the manager’s.

“If you invite staff to participate in the peer interview, you have to listen to their feedback on the candidate. If they recommend ‘no hire,’ I would not hire the candidate,” she says.

It goes both ways

The peer interview is your chance to evaluate co-workers, too.

Jarufe describes a job candidate who was interviewing for a position as director of cardiovascular services. During the peer interview, the intensive-care unit manager made comments critical of the hospital’s nursing officer and told the job candidate why they wouldn’t want to work there.

“It could be that the ICU manager wasn’t getting what she wanted in her job, but the peer interview wasn’t the place for that,” Jarufe says. The job candidate decided to look elsewhere.

And if the peer team wants another candidate for the job – say, someone already at the hospital who they know – they may ask things they shouldn’t, or air dirty laundry that could make you think twice about working there.

That’s why Wells is an advocate for peer-interview training. And that training also should include federal employment laws and regulations to avoid no-no questions like “Do you have kids?” she says.

Properly done, the peer interview will let you shine and show your team spirit. Just be sure to do your own evaluating, too.

About Terry Sheridan

Terry Sheridan is a New England-based freelance writer who has covered business issues for 20 years.


  1. BY Amy says:

    I had an interview with a manager and team leader. Not sure how it went. They immediately sent me into a peer interview. After about 10-15 minutes the team leader came in and said issue came up and she needed the peer interviewer to come into the managers office. Is this a bad sign?