Best Practices: Conducting Peer Interviews in Healthcare

April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

This blog post continues our series of patient experience best practices from the HealthStream Engagement Institute. Every week we share information that demonstrates our expansive understanding of the challenges faced by healthcare organizations and the solutions we have identified for improving the patient experience and patient and business outcomes.

You’re finally ready. You have thoroughly prepared and are eager to meet the potential employee. The next thing to consider is the setting.

The Setting

The setting for the interview should be comfortable and neat. You want to put the candidate at ease and, at the same time, make a good impression. Just as you are forming opinions of the candidate, he or she is forming opinions of you and the organization. Be sure to arrange the room to its most effective and efficient use. In addition, team members should wear appropriate, professional attire.

The setting should be:

  • Comfortable
  • Neat
  • Private
  • Spacious enough for all participants

    During the Interview

    Establish Rapport with the Candidate

    First, put the person at ease. When a candidate is comfortable, his or her answers will be more genuine. Begin the interview with a few simple questions to break the ice and get the conversation going. Then begin using your pre-planned questions to qualify the candidate for the position.

    Ask Questions About Past Job Performance

    Using your behavior-based questions, explore how the individual performed in real situations in the past. The answers will help you evaluate how the person will likely handle similar situations at this organization. Be sure to ask if you don’t understand a particular response. Allow the candidate to finish a reply—don’t interrupt. As the dialogue flows, be sure to take good notes and record your impressions as they occur to you. Explain to the candidate that you are doing so because you want to be sure you don’t forget any of the information.

    Allow for silence if the candidate needs time to think. These are difficult questions, and the candidate is probably somewhat nervous. You need to get comfortable with silence so you don’t feel a need to fill the quiet space yourself. Strive to stay in control of the interview.    If the potential employee starts to ramble, bring him/her back into focus by asking another question.

    Probe to Clarify Understanding

    Key phrases that help you probe for more information are:



  • Tell me about a time...


  • Describe a situation...

  • Tell me exactly how you dealt with...


  • It will help if you can describe in more detail...

Seek contrary evidence. When a one-sided impression is becoming evident, try to gain a balanced perspective. No one is perfect, so endeavor to obtain a full picture of the candidate, both strengths and weaknesses.

Allow the Candidate to Ask Questions

Remember the objective is for you to find the right person for the job and for the person to discover the right job for him or her. Don’t short-circuit the process. Those who take time to learn more about the organization prior to the interview will usually have more questions. Be sure to take notes on the questions asked. You will want to compare the kinds of questions asked by candidates just as you compare the answers they give you.

Close the Interview with Courtesy

This is an important part of the process. You want to leave a good impression in the mind of the candidate. Remember, that person will be talking about your organization to friends and acquaintances.

Thank the candidate for taking the time to meet with you, and set expectations for next steps.  Be sure your closing comments don’t imply that you definitely plan to hire this specific person.

Afterwards, review your notes and summarize your findings. Compare the skills of one candidate to another.


About the Best Practice Series

We are pleased to share the best practices developed by our expert coaches from the HealthStream Engagement Institute. This series of how-to publications offers proven techniques, key words and phrases, and processes to help you transform your culture to one of high performance.

Our Best Practices Series, based on employee-developed and employee-managed practices and programs, includes the following:

  • Hourly Rounding
  • Reward and Recognition
  • Peer Interviewing
  • Bright Ideas™
  • Purposeful Rounding
  • Words that WorkSM
  • Service Recovery
  • Standards of Performance

Our goal for this collection is to offer you even more tools to achieve extraordinary service and higher levels of performance excellence.

Learn more about the services offered by the HealthStream Engagement Institute.