Internal Interviews Require Just as Much Preparation

Susan Hall

You would think that interviewing for a new position within your own company would give you an inside edge. Not so, according to an article at Harvard Business Review.

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I know I’ve worked at organizations that frustrated staff by seeming to think the outside candidate was always better – sort of the opposite of the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.

Internal interviews require just as much preparation as outside interviews, these experts say. You may think managers within your company know you and what you’ve done, but don’t count on that. Too often, internal candidates come in unprepared to fully demonstrate what they have achieved during their time employed there.

One hiring manager I interviewed recently advised candidates of all sorts to come in with a list of points they want to make about themselves –with what he called “crisp” stories to illustrate them. If the interviewer’s questions aren’t allowing the candidate to make those points, he advised steering the conversation in that direction and not leaving until your points are made.

Internal interviews can seem like casual conversations about your professional development, but the candidate can help direct the level of professionalism and formality they entail.

The HBR post advises asking the hiring manager beforehand how he or she wants to handle the conversation, but it’s also OK to say something like, “I’m going to provide the same level of detail as I would in an external interview, so I may be telling you some things you already know. Is that OK?”

Internal candidates might find that their reputation precedes them – and not necessarily in a good way. It’s a good idea to get a sense of your reputation within the company and to address any career blemishes candidly. Tales of what you’ve learned from the experience can go over well.

A major point the experts stress is to spend the time researching the new position to fully understand what it entails so that you can confidently make the case that you’re the best person for the job.

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