Internal Interview Tips

By Joe Stein

We are going to tackle a slightly different topic in this article.  Traditionally, the focus of this column is how to improve your success when trying to find a job with a different company.  This time, we are going to take a look at what you should do if you are currently employed and are seeking a new position “within” your current employer.

It is a situation that has happened to virtually everyone - an opportunity exists within your current employer that interests you.  Sometimes a person is elevated naturally (either due to time in position or as a result of some type of succession planning), but often, however, a person has to physically “post” (i.e. complete internal application) and interview for the open position.  This is especially true in larger employers.  What can a person then do to improve their chances of landing that internal position they covet?

• Plan Ahead – If you are interested in moving forward in your company, it pays off to lay the groundwork long before a position is open.  You can do this in a number of different ways.  Consider informing leadership of your interest, volunteer to learn/do additional things that will provide you new knowledge and exposure, and cultivate advocates for you amongst management.  If you do all of this, you may find that you are in the mind of the Hiring Manager when the position becomes open.

• Supervisor Endorsement – If you are applying for a position outside of your current department, make sure you have the endorsement of your supervisor.  Explain to this person why you are interested in the position (hopefully it ties into career discussions you have had previously), and ask for their full support.

• Create Cover Letter and Resume – You may be tempted to think that the internal application is sufficient and you do not need to include a Cover Letter and Resume.  I would recommend that you do attach both to your internal application, unless expressly asked not to do it by the Recruiter or Hiring Manager.  Ensure that the documents are of the same high quality that you would send for an external opening.

• Understand Dress Expectations – Each company is different, so I recommend understanding the expectations within your organization.  There are some organizations that, even when a dress code is business casual or casual, the expectation is that you dress in traditional attire when being interviewed.  You don’t want to make a false assumption in this area and not meet expectations.

• Prepare Like an External – So often, an internal person does not take the internal process seriously enough.  Treat this search like you would an external opening.  Research what you can about the position and mock interview with a friend or family member.  Don’t ever assume you have the position locked up already or that the conversation will be casual because you know the person interviewing.  If the conversation starts to become really casual, you have the obligation to make sure you are communicating why you are the right person for the position.

• Leverage Your Internal Status – If you think about it, you have an advantage that a person outside of the organization does not.  You are already in the company!  Find out what you can about the position by asking others about what they know about the job, Department, and Supervisor.  If you have stellar performance reviews figure out a way to make sure this information is known as a form of “internal validation”.

• Don’t Name Drop – When I am internally interviewing, one thing that some internal candidates do that really irritates is “name drop”.  You may know my supervisor of even the person above that level, but that does not mean I want you to tell me over and over again.  If you truly know some key people in the organization that will come out naturally without having this information hammered into me and leaving me feeling like you are trying to pressure me.

• Regular Post- Interview Activities – Just like with an external interview, your interview discussion should be followed-up with a Thank You note.  You should also make contact for an update like you would normally do.  You should not allow the immediacy of having access to the Hiring Manager (front lobby, hallway, lunch room) to create a situation where you ask daily for an update.

In many situations, the best “new” position for you is one within your current company.  The tips above should help you in preparing for an open internal position.  If you do decide to leave your current organization, don’t forget all the benefits of WNYJOBS to an area job seeker.

As always, best of luck in your job search!