Although hiring managers and HR reps are the most visible members of the hiring team during the interview process, they are not the only people who will influence the final hiring decision. In fact, a candidate’s fate is often partially decided by a team of “secret interviewers” whom the candidate never meets — that is, the organization’s existing employees.
Many candidates never meet their potential colleagues — but, if you’re lucky, you may get the chance to sit down with your possible future teammates in a peer interview. If you are one of the lucky ones who gets to meet their “secret interviewers” in person, here are four questions you should be sure to ask them.
1. I have been looking forward to meeting you all and learning about what you do. Would each of you mind telling me about your jobs and what you do?
People love to talk about themselves. Giving potential colleagues the opportunity to wax lyrical about themselves is a great way to charm them.
While your potential colleagues tell you about themselves and their jobs, make sure that you listen actively and show genuine interest in what they have to say. Asking follow-up questions is a great way to demonstrate that you care about your future colleagues’ answers and truly want to know more about them and their roles.
Try to give everyone equal attention, as you never know who could have the most influence. It can also reflect quite badly on you if you neglect someone because they are of a lower rank than you, as doing so can make you appear conceited.
2. What advice would you give a new hire trying to succeed on your team?
Once again, make sure you ask the question of everyone and listen carefully to each colleague’s answer.
This question works well on three fronts. First, it shows that you value your colleagues’ opinions and consider them to be sources of expert knowledge. Most people will be flattered by this gesture.
Second, this question shows that you are open to learning and that you want to adapt yourself to suit your colleagues’ needs.
Third, this question can reveal the strengths and weaknesses of the business. For example, a potential colleague might say something like, “Don’t wait to be told what to do,” which could be a sign that there isn’t much of an onboarding infrastructure at the company.
3. What do you hope a new hire will bring to the team?
Your potential colleagues may worry that a new hire will upset the status quo. If you demonstrate interest in your potential colleagues’ particular hopes for the new hire, you can reassure them that you do not seek to shake things up unpleasantly.
Listen to each person’s answer carefully, and if you find that your particular strengths match some of their hopes, then you have a great opportunity to sell yourself to the team. For example, if a few of your future teammates say they hope the new hire can bring some organizational skills to the team, you can tell them about your own organizational skills.
4. How do you like to work and collaborate with others? (E.g., Skype, phone, social media, email, face-to-face, formal meetings, informal break-out meetings, over lunch, after-work drinks?)
Asking this question allows your future colleagues to express their preferences regarding collaboration and communication, which will make them feel valued. This question also shows that you are willing and able to adapt to the communication and collaboration styles of the team.
These four questions should go a long way toward proving to your future colleagues that you can adapt to the team and make meaningful and valuable contributions. This will help you to get the team on your side, who will hopefully vouch for you to the hiring manager, increasing your chances of landing the job.
Even if you do not get to meet your future teammates during the hiring process, you can still take some steps to impress these absent interviewers. For more, check out my previous article, “How Candidates Can Impress Influential Colleagues Who Aren’t at the Interview.”