You’ve done it! You’ve captured the attention of your boss or other senior leaders, or you’ve applied to an internal job posting and have been selected for an interview. So, what do you need to know about how to ace an internal interview? For some, there may be a tendency to view an internal interview as simply a formality or even a “necessary evil.” Avoid that tendency! This is your opportunity to shine—and to share information about your accomplishments and goals that even those you’ve worked with for some time may be unaware of.
5 Tips on How to Ace an Internal Interview
1. Get Your Boss’s Support
One critical first step, according to Paul Harris, president of Global Recruiters Blackhawk is to make sure your immediate supervisor or manager is aware of your interest in the position and that you plan to, or have, applied. Then, enlist their support Harris recommends. “Make sure you and your current boss are on the same page in terms of the answer to the question, ‘Why do you want to leave your current role and boss?’,” he says.
2. Take it Seriously
Just because you’re an internal candidate and a known commodity doesn’t mean you’re a shoo-in for the position. Other internal candidates may also be applying, and your company may also be reserving the opportunity to explore external candidates if they don’t find the talent they’re seeking within.
Gina Curtis, an executive recruiting manager and trainer/career coach with Employment BOOST, says that one of the biggest missteps that internal candidates make is “feeling too comfortable and not taking it seriously enough.” Prepare for internal opportunities in the same manner you would external, she advises. She suggests taking the time to think about your successes and what you’re most proud of in your work with the organization, as well as any challenges you may have faced and how you learned, or grew, from them. That will put you in a good position to ace the internal interview.
3. Do Your Homework
David Bakke is a career expert with Money Crashers. He recommends that internal candidates do a thorough job of preparation prior to the interview. “Talk with coworkers or managers about exactly what the position entails and make sure you can answer questions about how you’ll be able to handle the new responsibilities,” he says.
In larger organizations where you may not know the hiring manager, Helen Godfrey, a career counselor with The Authentic Path, recommends finding the hiring manager through colleagues and asking for an introduction. “Connect with the hiring manager, express your interest, and find out more about the job,” she suggests. Convey your interest in the job and why it caught your attention.” But, she stresses, “always ask for advice rather than the job,” at this point in the process.
4. Take Nothing for Granted
While you may feel as though the interview team, and hiring manager, are well aware of your tenure with the organization and all of the great things you’ve done, avoid making assumptions, says Deborah Ostreicher, CEO of Distinguished Communications. “Sometimes internal candidates wrongly assume that interviewers are intimately aware of their work and projects, just because they are internal,” she says. “This can backfire if the judges don’t know what the candidate is talking about so it’s important to explain your experience and work as if you’re telling it to a stranger, just in case.”
5. Don’t Skip the “Small Stuff”
The same niceties you would observe when applying for a position at another company can help you make a position impression at your current company and shouldn’t be overlooked.
As Bakke notes: “Although this might sound irrelevant, you do need to prepare and bring your resume. Make sure it has been updated with all of your most recent accomplishments.” He also suggests being prepared with a list of references—even if they’re also with the organization. And, just as you would (or should) with an external interview, don’t overlook the step of sending thank you notes to those who are part of the interview.
“Although you might know the interviewer and all other parties associated with the interview you still want to come off as being 100 percent professional,” says Bakke.
And one final piece of advice on how to ace an internal interview from Lori Scherwin, founder of Strategize That: make sure your behavior after the position has been filled, whether by you or someone else, remains professional. “If you get the job, it’s OK to be excited, but be mindful of other colleagues who may also have wanted the role and didn’t get it,” she says. “If you don’t get it, diplomatically ask why, and how you could improve to get there next time.” And, she recommends: “Know your Plan B is it doesn’t go your way. While it’s important to be optimistic, it’s smart to scenario plan just in case you don’t get the promotion.”