Nailing the Internal Interview

If you are looking to get ahead in your organization don’t wait to be tapped on the shoulder and asked to step up.  Put yourself out there!  Applying for an internal promotion/new position within your company?  Here’s what you need to know.

1.  Rest on your laurels. Know your reputation before you interview. Are you known as being a team player?  Intrapreneur? Getting things done?  Capitalize on that!  Know your personal brand and speak to it in your interview by providing specific examples.

2.  Don’t rest on your laurels. Yes, this is the opposite of what I said above and yes this is purposeful.  While you need to know your personal brand within the office and highlight the strengths of your brand, you also can’t rely on it.  Make sure you take this interview just as seriously even if you know the interviewers. Just because you’re known internally for being a great employee doesn’t mean you don’t have to answer the questions well in an interview.  Don’t assume that just because you work at the organization the interviewer is going to know your accomplishments.  Even if they do, it’s okay to remind them of the highlights.

3. Treat it like any interview… but this time you have an advantage. Wear a suit even if you don’t wear a suit every day to the office.  Send a thank you note to your interviewer even if it’s a colleague in the cube next to you. Ask questions – don’t assume that because you work there you know it all.

4.  Research the future instead of the past. In a normal interview you need to research the organization extensively. In this case you have been doing research the entire time you’ve been working there.  Take a step back and think about how the new position is different, consider if it is in a different department or on a different team.  Instead of doing baseline research, you can wow them with your insights. Instead of answering only with your past experience, you can talk about future directions based on historical knowledge.

5. Don’t assume you will get the job. Just because you are an internal candidate doesn’t mean you’ll get the job.  The process is competitive so treat it as such.

6. Among friends? Interviewing with colleagues and friends can be awkward. Even if you are friends/colleagues with those involved in the process, you can have a familiar tone but make sure you remain professional.  Be up front with them that you may repeat things they already know but that you want to be thorough in your answers. Also consider how this will affect your relationships with friends/colleagues if you will be managing them in the new position – it may come up in the interview.

The age old question is whether to tell your boss about applying for the new position.  The age old answer is… it depends.  A good manager will want you to succeed and grow within the organization. If you have a positive relationship with your boss, honesty is the best policy.  You don’t want them hearing through the grapevine before you have an opportunity to address it yourself.  If you have a challenging relationship with your boss this can be a tough conversation and you need to determine how this will impact your relationship with them whether you get the job… or don’t get the job.

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