A strong company is rarely built in silos with a narrow group of functional experts driving the process or product development from end-to-end. With that in mind, most hiring managers will include relevant cross-functional team members in the hiring process. Cross-functional team members will be key contributors to company initiatives that are complex and large-scale, with dependencies rooted on the team and associated with responsibilities listed in the job description of the position you are targeting.
Put simply, both in the interviews and on the ground, cross-functional team members play the role of the translator—bringing their expertise and skills to bridge the gaps, add value and get stuff done. It’s because of cross-functional collaboration that work happens, that connections, barriers, or breaks get identified, and that collective success is possible. Being able to effectively navigate the distance between different teams and disciplines, as well as find the commonalities to move quickly and productively through problems and toward big picture goals, is helpful for the candidates and hiring team alike.
Because of these factors, the cross-functional team member may serve as an astute judge for a specific set of your skills and capabilities, or might provide a more general read on how they believe you will collaborate, communicate, and contribute to relevant initiatives.
In an ideal world, the cross-functional conversations expand your understanding of the business, projects, and team dynamics and give you a more well-rounded view into the overall organization as well as how it operates day-to-day. Like a peer, cross-functional interviewers are often eager to find a strong, skilled hire and will spend the extra time in interviews and follow-up conversations to support that outcome. There will be occasions, however, where internal tensions, existing friction around project goals or ownership, in addition to interpersonal conflicts, will factor into their interview approach and decision-making process.
During your conversation, focus on the aspects of the broader, matrixed elements of the role that the cross-functional team member is best positioned to answer. Their view from the outside (at least of the specific team you’d be joining) will be different than what you’ve heard and learned from those interviewers you’d work with directly. It’s a great opportunity to listen for the differences and work to understand the underlying reasoning for the various points of view—are the gaps manageable or do you think there are fundamental issues with how each group views a particular situation? These new perspectives provided should help you uncover meaning, recognize additional opportunities for you to build strong relationships and contribute toward key initiatives, and connect dots between the bullets in the job description, the conversations you’ve had and your own skills and capabilities.