Seven Tips for Setting up an Excellent Review Team

Simply put, there’s no reason to accept submissions for an opportunity if you’re not committed to picking the very best applicants or content at its conclusion. Establishing a group of qualified and dependable reviewers can be imperative to this endeavor, especially when you anticipate substantial interest in a submission call. If your organization is preparing to incorporate a review team into an upcoming application process, the following suggestions should help you along.

1. Align with Your Mission

The key to any successful search is clarity around what you’re seeking. Before calling for reviewers, it’s vital to establish why a review team is necessary to support your vision:

  • Will reviewers be necessary to help facilitate submission volume and workload?
  • Will they sustain or enhance your organization’s authority and credibility?
  • Do they fill in for professional or experiential gaps on your current team?
  • Are they essential to your organization’s diverse, equitable, and impartial application process?

It can be useful at the outset to clearly enumerate how reviewers will be critical to the good work you plan to do.

2. Envision Ideal Candidates

Determining what purpose a review team might serve will also help you clarify the types of reviewers you’ll want. Consider the professional and personal skills you’re looking for in a reviewer. Will a certain level of education or experience be significant to your process? Do reviewers need an industry-specific background or a qualification related to your particular organization?

Based on whether or not you use a digital review system, you may also need to consider geographical limitations for candidates. Should reviewers live in your neighborhood, county, city, or state? Lastly, just as you might for hiring any professional position, it can be helpful to determine a range from minimum (absolute) requirements to desired (dream) qualifications.

3. Run Some Numbers

Based on your review process (expected volume, number of reviewers per submission, number of submission types, timeline), anticipate the time commitment required of each reviewer:

  • How many applications (and of what length) will each reviewer likely be assigned?
  • Will the review process be a simple yes/maybe/no or will a specialized (and potentially more time-consuming) review be expected?
  • How long will an average review take to complete?
  • How long will reviewers have to complete their work?
  • In addition to reviewing, how many times (if at all) will you meet (even virtually) as a group?
  • What other tasks may require reviewer time?

Communicating with potential reviewers about their expected time-commitment will help ensure everyone is on the same page before reviewing begins.

4. Establish Incentives

Good reviewers will spend valuable time and energy helping your organization select the best submissions. What will they get in return? While some reviewers may assist solely for personal, philanthropic, or professional reasons, others may desire compensation, monetary or otherwise.

If your reviewers are volunteering their time, consider how you might repay them, even if it’s something as small as a group lunch or discount for some service your organization provides. If you’ll be paying reviewers, will you compensate all members of your review team with the same amount or will it depend on the number of reviews completed? When will they be paid, in what form, and will you need tax documentation?

5. Strategize Outreach

Once you’re clear on what potential reviewers need to know (how they’ll serve you, what skills and availability they’ll need, and what they’ll get back), you’re ready to seek out team members. This step will look different for every organization depending on the number of reviewers you’re seeking and how wide you cast the net. To find reviewers, you might create an application form that you then promote within relevant networks. The form could be part of an email campaign to contacts already associated with your organization (even including previously accepted applicants).

Some organizations keep review team applications open at all times, generating a reviewer pool to draw from as needed.

You could make a list of ideal reviewers who you are already connected with and solicit them directly via email or phone—a more personal approach may yield better results but will likely take more time. You might also cold call candidates you aren’t already associated with but whose presence on your review board would be significant (and create a draw for others). The best approach might even be trying a combination of these steps until you’re certain you can assemble the best possible team.

6. Make Smart Selections

If you’ve effectively communicated your desired reviewer qualifications, time and performance expectations, and compensation strategy with the right audience, hopefully, you’ve received a good amount of suitable applicants. Still, it’s important to ensure that the reviewers you ultimately select are the right ones to help facilitate your mission. A brief interview, especially with reviewers who are unfamiliar to you or the organization, may be a wise approach.

Apart from your organization’s unique requirements, excellent reviewers are:

  • Authoritative: They have appropriate expertise in the discipline they are assessing.
  • Articulate: They can communicate their reasoning for review decisions.
  • Responsible: They can be relied upon to complete assigned work at a high level.
  • Timely: They respect your deadline and use time wisely.
  • Discrete: They can be trusted to respect applicant privacy.

If you’re using an online platform for your review process, reviewers will need to be comfortable enough with a digital interface to complete their assignments (one benefit to using an online application for reviewers is the ability to assess this capacity early on).

7. Account for Tiered or Multi-round Approaches

If you end up with enough quality reviewers or reviewers with varying levels of expertise, you may wish to segment your review process. For example, you could have reviewers with less experience do an initial pass for specific criteria, while others complete more in-depth reviews once the first round has been completed. This strategy requires more reviewers but potentially less time-commitment per individual. If you decide to incorporate tiered reviews, be sure to equitably account for it in the qualifications you seek out, the expectations and deadlines you set, and the compensation you offer reviewers.


Assembling a top-notch review team requires clarity in approach and a dedication to selecting individuals that value your organization and respect the significance of their role in supporting you. Happy hunting and may your new reviewers make your upcoming submission or application process a great success.

Rachel Mindell

Rachel Mindell is a Special Projects Editor at Submittable. She also writes and teaches poetry. Connect with her on LinkedIn.