There is a good chance you’ll get to meet someone during the process who would be a peer on the specific team you’d join. This conversation can be a powerful glimpse into an important business relationship, and the information you’ll gather from the interview as well as the questions that a peer might ask will illuminate critical elements of the role. Put simply, prospective peers are often closest to the details of the work to be done, understand the status, challenges and opportunities, and what it takes to be successful relative to the goals the team is responsible for achieving. They might also have a similar background or set of skills and capabilities and therefore ask very targeted or specific questions to evaluate your expertise and determine if you have the qualifications to meet the expectations of the role and work well with the team.
During the interview, they may play the role of a companion or partner that would be a trusted collaborator on projects and someone who will bring internal insight and context to support your integration and success. It’s also possible that they will take a more competitive approach and step into the interviewer role as someone who is not necessarily a judge (they are not the hiring manager), but also not a friend. They may challenge you subtly or directly to test the boundaries of this potential relationship while weighing the trade-offs of how you might make their life better or potentially worse.
In an ideal world, people in these roles want nothing more than a super talented, smart, capable team member to work at their side, but others will be threatened if they believe you will outshine them, “take away” something they enjoy doing, or upset a status quo that works for them.
During your conversation with a peer, prepare to share your expertise thoughtfully and with an extra emphasis on humility and empathy. Hone in on the questions that they ask you—these are probably quite relevant to the problems you’d encounter and experiences you’d discover in the role. Listen for cues about the team dynamic and cross-functional collaboration that might be playing out at their level and therefore less visible to the management team. Ask as many questions as possible about the hiring manager and team and company leadership to suss out if the interviewer appreciates the direction, development, and support provided, and if they seem committed to the team and company. Look out for inconsistencies or flags that the leaders might be able to effectively avoid addressing or have a polished and convincing response prepped and ready to share.
You’re going to spend a lot of time with your peers and strong relationships here can make the tough days easier, the wins more thrilling, and the journey from one role or stage to the next, one team or company to another, more fulfilling, and even more fun.
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.
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