Have you ever been sure that you aced an interview — certain that you and the interviewer shared a great rapport — only to find that the company has decided not to move forward with your candidacy?
There are many reasons why you may have been rejected, and one possibility is that you failed to impress the “secret interviewers” — that is, those people who have influence on the hiring manager’s decision, who get to comment on your application, but who you never get to meet. Who are these strange entities I speak of? Your potential colleagues, of course! These secret interviewers don’t attend the interview, but they still have a strong say in the final decision.
When planning for an interview, it’s likely that most of your preparation is geared toward impressing the hiring manager. Why? Because this is who you expect to be interviewed by, and this is who you expect to have the most influence on the outcome of your candidacy. Often, candidates have no strategy for dealing with their secret interviewers, probably because they underestimate the impact that potential colleagues can have on hiring decisions.
But it is folly to ignore the secret interviewers. Your potential teammates may have already shared their new team member preferences with the hiring manager before your interview was even scheduled. Often, your potential colleagues have seen some or all the candidates’ resumes – or at least have heard about certain candidates — and shared their opinions. They may have their favorites already, and they will have the ear of the hiring manager.
It should be no surprise that the opinions of potential teammates carry a lot of weight in hiring decisions. Studies show that a candidate who has a good network fit — that is, a candidate who is able to collaborate well with their immediate team and their wider execution network — tends to be a higher quality candidate (30 percent higher) than a candidate with a poor network fit. Good hiring managers will therefore heavily consider a candidate’s network fit when making hiring decisions.
All of this is to say that impressing the secret interviewers — your potential but absent future colleagues — will be crucial if you want to land the role.
It’s one thing to impress a peer interviewer who is in the room, but it’s something completely different to impress a secret interviewer whom you never meet.
What strategies can you adopt to make a positive impression on people you won’t meet during the hiring process?
I believe the best thing to do is communicate to your interviewer your enthusiasm and ability to network effectively within the team. You can do this by asking specific questions and addressing the potential concerns team members might have as a result of your presence. The hiring manager will then communicate this information back to team members to allay their concerns – and hopefully win them over for you.
For example, you could inquire about the personalities of the team members, the structure of the team, the workflow processes, the communication processes, the decision-making processes, etc., etc. You can either raise these questions during the course of the interview itself, or save it for the end of the interview. Make sure that you remain as enthusiastic as possible during your questioning. You want to appear curious and inquisitive — not threatening or overbearing.
Whenever you get the opportunity, draw parallels between the way that the team works now and the way that you have worked in the past at previous companies. The more parallels you can draw, the better. Specific examples are great, as these will have more impact and credibility with both the interviewer and the absent secret interviewers.
And, of course, flattery will get you everywhere — as long as you don’t pour it on too thick. If you know about any of your potential teammates’ achievements or capabilities, you might want to praise them to your interviewer. Let the interviewer know you’d appreciate the opportunity to sit down with the team and learn about how the team works. This shows that you value team cohesion, and using the word ‘learn’ shows that you want to adapt to the team — not force the team to adapt to you.