Anyone who applies for a senior position in a collaborative environment should prepare for the possibility of a peer-to-peer interview. Organizations will often schedule one as a final stage in the hiring process when they're fairly confident about your candidacy. The idea is to turn you over to your potential teammates, or peers, who will grill you to make sure you're a team player and can rub along nicely in the trenches.
Perils for INTJ Candidates
Unlike first and second round interviews, which are all about technical competency, peer interviews are about establishing fit. Since this is often the most intangible quality to judge, peer interviews tend to take place before multiple coworkers in a group setting. That way, different people can decide on your suitability and uncover the qualities they feel you need to do the job well. This isn't an interrogation, however. Most peer interviewers will strive to create an atmosphere of camaraderie where you feel confident enough to say what's on your mind.
For INTJ candidates, this approach runs dangerously close to pushing the wrong buttons. The main peril is that you'll somehow intimidate the team you'll be working with. INTJs are confident in their skills and will not think twice about correcting a person if it leads to a more factual outcome. Caught in the moment, you may find yourself happily tearing apart someone's ideas or bluntly pointing out all the things that are wrong with the organization without even realizing you are doing it. It's not the greatest game plan for winning friends and influencing people.
A second pitfall comes from the collegiate nature of the interview. It's no secret that INTJs dislike personal talk, team bonding moments and other touchy-feely stuff. The atmosphere that is carefully designed to put candidates at ease is the very thing that will put you under pressure. Combined with below-par empathy skills, you may find yourself withdrawing from the conversation or churning out rote answers. These traits may distance you from your interviewers, who may perceive you as cold and robotic.
These problems are exacerbated when the members of the interviewing panel are not properly trained in interviewing and observing the candidate. Hiring managers may be able to see that you are dedicated, fiercely independent, logical, value-driven and organized, but a coworker will likely be thinking, "Will this person make my life easier?" If you give even the merest hint that you will upset the status quo, there's a chance that a peer will see you as a hindrance - or a threat. There is a risk that he will give his vote to the more affable candidate.
Acing the Peer Interview
The good news is, if you can convince a hiring manager to hire you, you can certainly convince a panel of three or four peers. Here are some tips to help you get the kudos you deserve:
- Don't go into the interview thinking it's a rubber stamping exercise. Peers may not have the final say in whether you get hired, but they can certainly sour the hiring manager's decision. Put in at least as much effort as you did with your primary interviews.
- Spend some time alone before the interview to clear your mind. You need to go into the room with enough energy to tackle the interview with charm, enthusiasm and humor.
- Be confident but not overly confident. The people who are interviewing you need to see you as an ally and not as someone who could hijack all the promotions. They are looking for an associate, not someone who acts like they're the boss.
- Observe how your peers speak and act, then model that behavior in your own responses. For example, if the panel members are formal and respectful with each other, be formal and respectful back. If in doubt, repeat back what the other person is saying. Mirroring dials up the empathy and makes you appear sympathetic to your co-worker's concerns.
- Brush up on your small talk. Having a light and friendly anecdote up your sleeve is a great way to break the ice. Plus, the peer panel will warm up to the candidate who takes the initiative and puts the room at ease right out of the gate.
The final point is that peer interviews are a two-way street. This is a unique opportunity for you to speak to the people on the frontline and find out how the team and company really work. Don't be afraid to ask the difficult questions - what are the challenges of working here? How is performance really measured? If the coworker could change one thing about the organization, what would it be? Remember, the peer interview can shed a lot of light on whether the job is a good fit for you. Use it wisely, and you'll be golden.