How peer-to-peer interviews can help you secure top talent

In a highly competitive hiring landscape like public practice accounting, firms must do all they can to attract and secure top talent.

Traditional interviews often miss the mark, focusing solely on technical capabilities while overlooking the candidate’s fit within the team.

Enter the game-changer: peer-to-peer interviews.

This innovative approach doesn’t just add a layer of insight into a candidate’s abilities; it opens up a new dimension of compatibility assessment, ensuring the new hire is not just capable to do the job but also a perfect puzzle piece in the team’s dynamics.

Why use peer-to-peer interviews?

Peer-to-peer interviews stand out because they cut through the formalities, allowing candidates to interact with potential future colleagues in a setting that mirrors real work scenarios. This demystifies the workplace for the candidate and provides existing employees with a glimpse into the working style and personality of their potential co-worker. For accounting firms, where precision, trust, and teamwork are non-negotiable, such insights are gold.

How to use peer-to-peer interviews

To implement this strategy effectively, firms need to curate a process that is inclusive, structured, and, most importantly, reflective of the firm’s core values and work culture. Here’s how:

  1. Training your team: Before diving into peer-to-peer interviews, it’s crucial to train your existing employees on how to conduct these sessions. Emphasise the importance of open-ended questions, active listening, and creating a welcoming environment for candid conversations.
  2. Creating a comfortable environment: The setting of the interview should encourage openness and comfort. Whether it’s a casual coffee chat or a formal meeting room setup, the ambiance should reflect the firm’s culture.
  3. Structured yet flexible: While having a structure is important to ensure key areas are covered, flexibility allows the conversation to flow naturally, providing valuable insights into the candidate’s personality and thinking process.

Important elements to remember:

  • It’s a two-way street: During the interview, both parties are essentially interviewing each other. Candidates get a taste of the team dynamics, and employees can assess the candidate’s fit beyond their resume. This mutual evaluation is what makes peer-to-peer interviews a powerful tool for both recruitment and retention.
  • Feedback and decision making: Post-interview, collecting and synthesising feedback from all employee interviewers is vital. This collaborative approach not only democratises the hiring process but also ensures a well-rounded view of the candidate’s fit within the company.

What are the benefits of peer-to-peer interviews?

Implementing peer-to-peer interviews can lead to numerous benefits for public practice accounting firms:

  • Enhanced team dynamics: By involving the team in the hiring process, firms ensure new hires blend seamlessly into the existing dynamic, promoting a more cohesive work environment.
  • Reduced turnover: Employees selected through this method are often a better fit, leading to higher job satisfaction and, consequently, lower turnover rates.
  • Empowered employees: This approach gives employees a voice in the recruitment process, leading to increased engagement and a sense of responsibility towards the team’s success.

What are the challenges of peer-to-peer interviews?

While peer-to-peer interviews are transformative, they come with their own set of challenges, such as potential biases (here’s how to avoid unconscious bias) and the extra time required. Addressing these challenges head-on, through training and a structured process, ensures the benefits far outweigh the hurdles.

Tailored recruitment for a turbulent market

The skills shortage impacting public practice accounting continues to drive recruitment strategies and from our position as the largest agency in the UK recruiting accountants into practice, we see the challenges effecting both candidates and firms. Accountancy practices must change as the market does. Those stuck in their ways, holding onto traditional interview processes will be feeling the pressure the most. Firms embracing change and trying new ways of recruitment will be the ones to secure the top talent.

While technical ability is important, the focus of interviews has shifted from solely assessing skills to understanding the candidate in a holistic manner. This not only ensures the recruitment of individuals who are technically adept but also harmoniously fit within the team, propelling the firm towards success.

We are often asked by our clients about interview processes, and we are always happy to advise and guide them where possible. The truth is that the best process for your firm will be governed by your culture, your structure and the practical constraints involved; but as a rule of thumb we believe the process should focus on three elements.

  1. The ‘cup of coffee’ check: This can be an informal chat and is designed to check suitability. This works particularly well for senior positions where it’s crucial to hire someone who will fit into the team and shares the same vision for the firm.
  2. The competency check: This is the formal interview element to find out if they have the skills and experience to do the job. Why not try a peer-to-peer format for your next interview and see what difference it makes to the team and your decision-making process?
  3. The compatibility check: It might be a clever idea to expose the prospective employee to the environment they will be working in as well as involving some of the wider team in the process. This will paint a picture of how they will fit into the team within the office or remote environment.

By the time you’ve gone through these three elements, you’ll have a good idea of whether the candidate can a) do the job and b) wants the job. While peer-to-peer interviews aren’t a replacement for traditional approaches, they are a valuable addition to the recruitment process, offering insights that traditional interviews might miss.

Would your firm benefit from external, expert guidance on your recruitment strategy? As the largest agency recruiting accountants into public practice across the UK, we’re perfectly positioned to advise on the current state of the market and develop recruitment strategies that meet the demands of candidates in 2024. The team here at Public Practice Recruitment Ltd is always here to help, so don’t hesitate to contact us today.

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