Guest Post by Lily Herman

The internal interview poses its own set of challenges. Believe it or not, it can be even more difficult than external interviews. There are challenges and preparation necessary to face before the interview. It should not be assumed that you will get the job because you work for the company – no matter how many years.

Margaret has been a supervisor in her current situation for the past six years. A management position has become available that she would like, but she is not sure how to sell herself within the organization. She applied for a similar job two years ago, but did not get it. There have been a lot of changes since that time and she feels she is ready to try again. This time she is going to use a different approach and do some upfront research.

Margaret’s boss is Ron Green. He has been with the company for a little over a year. He thinks highly of her work and has been encouraging about career development within the company. She makes an appointment to discuss her plan with Ron and get his advice. He advises her to treat this interview just as she would an interview outside the organization. Ron is very supportive and tells her he will put in a good word for her based on her excellent performance.

She takes Ron’s advice to heart, and begins to do internal research on the department. She has a friend, Marianne, who works directly with the Director of the department and meets with her to get insider information about the personalities involved. She finds out that they are a friendly group, but that they take their work seriously, and work long hours when necessary. Marianne gives her some ideas for projects to research that this department was responsible for.

Next, Margaret calls Mike, who was on the interviewing panel the last time she interviewed internally. Mike is more than happy to talk with her. He gives her some feedback, which is hard to swallow, but necessary. He tells her that she came across as overly confident, almost like she was sure the job was hers for the asking. She thanks him for his honest feedback. It will help her a great deal in the way she presents herself this time. He says he will put in a recommendation for her based on their work together.

Margaret has her work cut out for her. She spends a great deal of time on the internal website, looking through reports and budgets. She finds some surprises and new information among the archives. She is excited about this opportunity and becoming a member of this department. She formulates questions to ask them.

She does a mock interview with her friend Marianne, and gets some pointers on answering the questions. She plans her interview outfit as though she were interviewing externally. She wants to look professional.

This time it feels completely different from the last time she had an internal interview. She is mentally ready and feels confident, but knows she is one among several who will be interviewed. She asks good questions and gets input as to how the department works as a team, and what her role would be. The interview goes well.

After the interview she sends a follow up letter outlining what she sees as the challenges and opportunities that she has picked up from the interview. She also offers some reasons why she is a good fit for the department and the position.

Margaret is satisfied that she has put forth her best effort. She has followed the advice given her.

  • Use the same preparation techniques that you would for an external job. Research, Practice, and Follow through.
  • Know as much as possible about the department and the players involved before you interview.
  • Don’t assume the job is yours because you have worked for the company for many years. In most cases, you are an applicant to be considered like any other – internal or external.
  • Ask questions to make sure this job is for you. Find out about the department morale, and how the department fits into the bigger company picture. What are the challenges and issues this department faces?
  • Send a follow up letter just as you would if you were an external applicant. Let them know what added-value you can bring to the department/job.

Margaret is thrilled when they call and offer her the position. Her research, planning, and solicitation of help and support have really paid off.