Applying for internal positions is one of the best ways to advance your career. You can lean on your personal network during the job selection phase and don’t have to worry about moving if you do get the position.
Internal advancement is a great way to discover new roles and bump up your pay, too. Over 70% of job openings are not even advertised externally, meaning internal searching is the best way to land a role you love.
However, internal interviews come with their own set of challenges. Even if you know the interviewer, you still have to prepare to put forward the best version of yourself.
What Questions Will Be Asked?
Make the interview process easier by preparing answers to common interview questions based on your company’s wider values. Commonly asked questions like, “What excited you about this role?” and “What motivates you?” are designed to help interviewers see the person behind the application to assess whether or not they’d be a good fit.
Prepare for these questions by reacquainting yourself with the company’s values and beliefs. If it’s been a while since your initial interview, search online and dig through the business’ “about” page to better understand the kind of person recruiters are looking for. Create a few answers based on the business mission statement and try to angle your experience to exemplify their perfect candidate.
You can’t prepare for every question that you’ll receive. But, by preparing answers based on the company’s values and culture, you’ll have enough material to improvise when faced with an unexpected question.
Conscious Skill Transfer
When interviewing internally, it’s easy to overlook the skills you’ve used and the experience you’ve gathered. However, your interviewer probably isn’t familiar with your body of work and may not know that your skills in your current role will transfer effectively into future positions.
Reread the required skills listed as part of the job advert. Find as many points of similarity or crossover as possible between the position you are in and the position you want to secure. This is a great way to account for important skills that you may be missing.
Go beyond the job advert when researching for an interview. Connect with peers and managers who are familiar with the position you’re applying for to get the inside scoop. You can reference your preparations during the interview to show that you’ve taken the process seriously.
Get creative if you do come up short in some areas. For example, you may not have experience in management roles, but you have likely been in a leadership position of some kind. If you are up for a leadership role, think about the following questions before your interview:
- How did you relate to the folks you managed?
- How did you champion company values while leading a project?
- Is there a manager within the firm whose leadership style you’d like to emulate?
- Are there any skill gaps you currently have and have a plan to work on?
Answering questions about your skill gaps creatively shows that you are self-aware and able to take the next step in your career. If you have a few weeks before your interview, consider adding some qualifications to your toolbelt. This is particularly important if you are missing the hard skills required for the position. Show that you are eager to learn by starting on a new qualification before the interview and connect with a mentor who can fast-track your progress.
Find a Mentor
A good mentor is vital during the interview process. They know what folks higher on the corporate ladder are looking for and can be your strongest advocate when it comes time for reviews and references.
Ideally, you’ll strike up a relationship with a mentor long before you start applying for internal positions. If you do approach a mentor during the application process, be clear about your intentions. Let them know that you are looking for a mentor who can help you advance your career and offer insights into the way the firm works.
You don’t necessarily have to work with an internal mentor before your job interview. If you’re part of a traditionally underrepresented group, it may be hard to find a mentor who aligns with your values and understands the challenges you face.
If this is the case, consider looking elsewhere for strong mentorship. For example, if you’re a woman in tech, reach out to organizations like Girls Who Code, the League of Women Coders, or Women In Tech. Finding the right mentor for you is more important than matching with a mentor who has sway in your business. The right mentor can support your long-term growth and help you find new opportunities if this one isn’t right for you.
Don’t expect your mentor to do all the hard work for you. When meeting before an interview, prepare questions and make it as easy for them as possible. You can even run your practice answers by them to gain their insights. They’ll help you sidestep potential “red-flag” answers and prepare examples of the value that you’ve added to the company.
Prepare Some Examples
Hiring managers will research your skills, experience, and achievements before you step into the room. However, they still want to hear you talk about your resume highlights and will ask questions as though they do not know about your professional background. Failing to emphasize your experience is one of the most common job search mistakes applicants make.
Prepare some examples that showcase your value and are backed by data. The more specific your examples can be, the more impressive they will sound.
For example, if you work in social media, don’t refer vaguely to “increased follower growth.” Instead, keep the hard data on hand and tell your interviewer how you “increased follower growth by ‘x%’ in ‘y’ months using ‘z’ techniques.”
Getting specific shows the interviewer that your approach is intentional and well-thought-out. This is vital if you’re looking to advance in the company, as folks higher in the corporate ladder want to work with people who know why they’re successful and can routinely replicate success.
When interviewing for an internal job interview, familiarity is both a blessing and a curse. Folks may incorrectly pigeonhole you based on your current position and fail to account for the diverse range of skills and experience you bring to the table.
Overcome assumptions by preparing answers that draw from experiences beyond your current position. Ideally, this should prompt interviewers to ask more about the experience and skills you’ve gathered from other roles. Calling attention to outside skills is a great way to build your personal brand and put forward a strong professional persona.
Building a strong personal brand is particularly important if you are applying to senior management roles.
Standing Out From Other Applicants
As an internal candidate, you can safely assume that your resume stands out from the wider pool of applications. However, you still need to do everything possible to stand out from the crowd after the resume-screening stage has been completed.
Stand out during the interview stage by positioning yourself as a serious, capable candidate. The easiest way to do this is by asking strategic questions at the end of the interview, like:
- Asking about your specific role and any responsibilities that haven’t been clearly explained;
- Asking about the values of the ideal candidate;
- Inquiring about the benefits that your new role is likely to receive.
Asking clear questions shows that you are keen to advance your career. If you’re a talented employee, hiring managers may feel more compelled to take your application seriously if they risk losing you. Couple this drive to advance with a clear appreciation of the company and a desire to progress internally.
Try to avoid vague questions about the company’s values or goals. As an internal applicant, you should have a clear understanding of company culture and should know the answers to broad questions about values or mission statements.
Remember to leverage your internal connections during the interview. If you know that a manager or peer is well-thought-of, try to reference your connection to them and talk about areas of alignment.
You can be bold and use statements like, “I look forward to the opportunity to work more closely with ‘x’” as this shows that you’ve researched the position and have a clear understanding of the company’s hierarchy.
Everyone gets nervous on the day of an interview. Whether your interviewer is a complete stranger or a peer you work with every day of the week, you’re likely to feel jittery in the moments before you enter the interview room.
Preparing for an interview is the best way to alleviate anxiety and regain a sense of control. The week before your interview, select the clothes you want to wear and keep them clean and tidy. Prepare meals that you know will sit well in a nervous stomach and bring plenty of water with you on the day.
If your interview is in the afternoon or evening, consider taking a short walk in the morning. Walking can calm your mind and help you release some of the tension you are carrying.
Make some post-interview plans so you have something to look forward to after the nerves have dissipated. Consider signing up for a calming yoga session or meeting up with friends for some dessert. It’s entirely natural to feel a range of emotions following an internal interview and good friends can help you handle the nerves while you wait for a response.
Internal interviews can be tricky to nail. You can’t rely on your familiarity with the business to carry you through the process, but you should leverage your relationships when possible. Maximize your chances of landing the position by working with a mentor and preparing specific examples that help you stand out from other applicants.