How to Nail the Interview: Peer (Team-member) Interviews (5 of 9)

November 13, 2013

Welcome to the latest installment of Argentus’ series: How to Nail the Interview. In the series, we discuss different types of interviews to help you prepare as a candidate. Why have you ended up in this format of interview? What are some common pitfalls to avoid? And what are some potential advantages to this type of interview that you can exploit? Read on to find out!

What is it?

Peer Interviews are usually conducted for more senior positions in highly collaborative environments. They usually occur around the 3rd interview in a job search, after you’ve interviewed with HR and the person you’ll be reporting to. Organizations will schedule you for peer interviews when the hiring manager is fairly confident that you’re a good fit. You’ll interview with someone on the team you’ll be working with. For example, if you’re interviewing for a Strategic Sourcing role, the interview might be with another Strategic Sourcing Manager who’s in a similar role (if Strategic Sourcing is siloed off in the organization). In this case, the hiring manager has probably identified teamwork as being specifically important because the Strategic Sourcing group needs to work together and present a unified front to get buy-in from other business groups in the organization. Sometimes you’ll meet with multiple team members for 15/20 minutes each.

The main goal of a peer interview is obviously to make sure you’re a team player. But this can be easier said than done.

Pitfalls:

As with any interview late in the process, you can fall into the trap of thinking it’s a rubber stamp. It most definitely is not. A peer interview is all about establishing “fit,” which is one of the most important AND intangible qualities of a successful candidacy.

For peer interviews specifically, the main pitfall is that you’ll somehow intimidate the team you’ll be working with. It’s important to be confident in any interview, but you don’t want to seem overly competitive. It’s important to understand the perspective of the peer who’s interviewing you. They don’t want to feel like you’re a replacement. A potential peer doesn’t want to feel like you’re going to walk in and act like you’re their boss. As much as we think that everyone is non-biased, everyone has some skin in the game. A peer won’t have final say about your candidacy, but a thumbs down can sour things.

Opportunities:

There are some great upsides to a peer interview that you don’t necessarily get from interviews with other formats. One is that you can get an inside look at what the job is really like. It’s an opportunity to ask questions a little more candidly: what’s the organizational structure? What are the challenges? What are the areas of achievement? How cohesively does the team work? What can you bring to the team? It’s an opportunity to really see whether the job is a good fit for you, as well as trying to prove that you’re a good fit for the job.

Again, a peer is not the ultimate decision maker, but if they like you for the role, they can be an advocate. Sometimes the hiring process drags because the hiring manager goes on vacation, or something comes up in the business (e.g. a supplier falling through), or any other number of reasons. A peer that you’ve interviewed with can sometimes restart the process in these situations. They might ask their boss “whatever happened to ____? I thought they were really good,” or other such questions, and that can jump start the process and put you back on the table.

So: What do you think? Have you done peer interviews? Did you feel like they helped you in the end? Or did it trip up your candidacy? If you’re a hiring manager: do you find peer interviews give you a good sense of whether a prospective hire is a good fit? Please let us know in the comments!

And stay tuned for Part 6 of our series, coming later this week.

 

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