Preparing for an Internal Interview

Here are some important tips about how best to prepare for an internal job interview, courtesy of the following blog by Alison Green, a contributor to U.S. News & World Reports.

INTERVIEWING FOR A JOB at your current company might sound easier than interviewing at a strange organization where you don’t know anyone. But internal interviews can be just as hard as external ones, and they come with some additional pitfalls of their own.

Here’s what to expect if you’re interviewing for an internal position and how you can best position yourself to move into the new role.

1. Don’t assume the job is in the bag. This might sound obvious to you, but loads of internal candidates have missed out on promotions, because they acted as if the jobs were already theirs. It’s easy to fall into this trap, given that you’re a known quantity, people like you, and you may have already been doing some of the work of the new role.

However, even when the interview is just a formality for a job that you’re very likely to get, acting as if you think the job is already yours can be a real turn off to your interviewers. It can also lead you to not take the process as seriously or prepare as rigorously as you would otherwise. Speaking of which …

2. Prepare just the same as you would for any other interview. Don’t assume the interview will be lower stakes or have easier questions just because you’re already working at the company. While the feel of the interview might be less formal, assume the questions and overall substance will be just as rigorous as if you were a stranger. That means you should spend significant time preparing to talk about your skills and experience and thinking of evidence you can point to in your professional past to show why you’d excel in the new position.

You might also be asked for your thoughts about internal matters you know about firsthand, such as the company’s operations and the department's current challenges, so be prepared for that as well.

3. Don’t assume people know what your contributions have been. This is the biggest mistake internal candidates make: They figure that because they’ve already been working for the company, the interviewers must know what their contributions have been. But interviewers won’t always know this sort of information; they might have forgotten or never known the details of your work. And some companies even have such rigid interviewing procedures that interviewers are barred from considering anything not specifically presented in the interview!

Always assume your interviewers don’t know anything about you or what you do, and explain it in the same way you would to an interviewer at another company. Otherwise, you risk getting passed over simply because you assumed too much knowledge on the part of your interviewers.

4. Strike the right tone. The first three tips addressed how you should treat internal interviews the same as you would for any other interview. But there’s one area you should approach differently: tone. The people interviewing you are your co-workers, after all, and it’s reasonable to use the same sort of collaborative, conversational tone you’d use if working with them on any other project. This is a work project, after all – it’s just about hiring.

Don’t be overly formal or stiff; it’s OK to treat your colleagues like colleagues, because they are. (And actually, that’s the ideal tone to strive for, even when you don’t know your interviewers. It tends to make for a much more relaxed and engaging interview.)

5. Keep in mind that some hiring norms are different with internal interviews. While you’re never obligated to accept any job offer, often when you apply for an internal position, people will assume you want the job and will take it if offered, as long as long as you can come to terms on salary and other details. The assumption is that as an insider, you already know enough about the job and the culture and wouldn’t be going after the job if you weren’t sure you wanted it.

Because of this assumption, before applying for an internal role, you should do enough due diligence that you’re reasonably sure you’d accept the position if it’s offered to you. Otherwise, it may impact what opportunities you’re offered in the future and how seriously you’re considered for other internal roles.

(Source: Alison Green, Contributor, U.S. News & World Report)

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