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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Top 10 Interview Tips

The biggest downfall of interviews:  assuming that because you are a “people person” you don’t need to practice.  While you may be the life of the party, natural networker, or social butterfly, it doesn’t mean that you can necessary ace the interview. The fact is, most of us aren’t comfortable talking about ourselves and our accomplishments, much less in a clear and succinct way.  Start your interview prep with identifying your top 3 strengths and 3 specific examples of each.  This will get you started and most interview questions will come back to those strengths and examples.

There is a ton of information out there on interviewing here are our top 10 tips:

1.  Sharpen your pencils.  Just like when you had to bring 5 #2 pencils to the SAT’s, make sure you have everything you need and know where you are going.  Do a dry run to check out the parking situation and see how long it takes to get there.  Bring a pen, paper, tissues, mints, a snack, extra copies of your resume and cover letter, and a bottle of water.

2.  Research.  While this is an obvious one, we can’t reiterate it enough!  And we’re not just talking about googling.  Find connections in your network (hint: fellow Hoyas) to talk to about company culture.  Look at industry trends, recent news, their competitors.  Take your research a step further by a) integrating your research into the interview and b) asking questions based on your research. Bonus points for researching your interviewer(s) in advance. Note: It’s not a good idea to connect with those interviewers on LinkedIn until you get an offer.

3.  EVERYONE is part of the interview process.  From the person who schedules your interview to the receptionist who greets you, to the hiring committee, your interview starts as soon as you begin correspondence with a company or organization.  The content and timing of emails, responsiveness to phone calls, and how you treat employees when you actually get to the interview all count in the process.

4.  The hardest question:  Tell me about yourself.  This question is inevitable so make sure you nail it.  I’ve done alot of mock interviews in my career and hands down this is the question that most people not only don’t nail but flub miserably. This is your open-ended chance to talk about whatever you want – take advantage of it.  It frames your entire interview. Keep in professional in nature and choose a few most relevant highlights.

5.  Respond in bullet points.  You have 30-60 minutes to discuss the highlights of your educational and professional background.  That’s alot to encapsulate and alot for your interviewer to take in. Make it easy for them by breaking down your answers into succinct pieces of information and examples.  Keep your answers clear, concise, and linear by enumerating where possible.

6. First impressions count.  According to Forbes, you have 7 seconds to make a first impression.  The first 5 minutes of your interview are the most critical.  People want to hire employees who are smart but who are also enthusiastic and that they like. It’s human nature.

7.  Ask for business cards – it sends a signal that you want to follow up and are invested in the process.  And yes, a thank you note is critical.  My personal preference is to send an email thank you within 24 hours of your interview.  If you have multiple interviewers, send separate, unique emails.   While a written note is great, the time to write, send, and mail may leave your interviewer assuming you didn’t send one.  In a world where decisions can be made quickly, timing is everything. Make your thank you note substantive too – chances are each interviewer will forward to the hiring manager.  If you are a traditionalist, feel free to send a handwritten note in addition to the email but make sure you use professional stationary and the content is not identical.

8. Ask about the interviewer’s experience.  Everyone likes to tell their story.

9.  Bring examples.  Do you have examples of marketing pieces you put together, annual reports you have compiled, anything tangible that represents your work? If so, use them as props to supplement your answers during the interview.  It will make you stand out from the competition.

9.  Finally… breathe.  When asked a question, don’t be afraid to take a moment to collect your thoughts.

We all get so wrapped up in the competitive nature of the job search that sometimes we need to take a step back and remember that interviewing is a two way street. You want to use your interview as an opportunity to determine if this is the right company and job for you too.   It’s not all about them!

We love this infographic on interviewing as a little reminder to hang on your mirror before the big day!  (source: http://visual.ly/what-you-wish-youd-known-your-job-interview)

We want to know – what questions do you have about interviewing?