The internal interview: Do's and Don'ts

If you're considering applying for a new job within your current organization, it can be easy to let your guard down and approach the interview process with a more relaxed attitude than you would an external interview.

If you're considering applying for a new job within your current organization, it can be easy to let your guard down and approach the interview process with a more relaxed attitude than you would an external interview. After all, there's a good chance that you know members of the interview committee and you're likely confident of your achievements and reputation within the company. While confidence is indeed key, it's important to keep in mind that the internal interview is still a crucial hurdle that need to be taken seriously. Put another way: Don't let yourself be fooled into a false sense of security, as there are ample opportunities to make mistakes that might cost you that coveted promotion.

When preparing for and taking an internal interview, keep these do's and don'ts in mind:

Do: Detailed research

Even though you work at the company, it is still important to conduct as much research as you can about the job opening, even if you already have a strong base knowledge of what the role entails. An executive from global recruitment company Egon Zehnder, Claudio Fernández-Aráoz, told Harvard Business Review that internal candidates go above and beyond basic internet research. He advised candidates to speak with employees who currently serve in the role being advertised, or even reach out to the human resources department for more information about the role and the kinds of interview questions that can be expected. After all, being an internal employee, you have a better opportunity than most to learn about the position you're applying for – be sure to take advantage!

Do: Inform your current boss

It's important to have a discussion with your current boss about your intentions to move to a new position, The Muse explained. This is for the very simple reason that it demonstrates respect for your current role and your manger's authority. After all, if you keep the news from your boss and he or she finds out from another source, it could strain your professional relationship and create distrust.

"Make an effort to dress in business formal attire."

Do: Dress professionally

If you dress professionally on a daily basis than this doesn't apply, but given the trend in American workplaces toward business casual attire, it bears repeating: Even if you work in a casual environment, dress in business formal attire for your internal interview. As The Muse explained, dressing well indicates to the interview committee that you are dedicated to attaining the role and that you treat the opportunity with respect.

Do: Send thank you emails

As you would after an external interview, don't forget to send a thank you email or note within 24 hours of the interview, even if the interviewers are people you work with on a daily basis. Don't assume that your verbal thanks are enough.

Don't: Assume you have the job

Even if trusted colleagues have recommended that you apply, and even if you tick all the boxes in terms of experience and qualifications, don't assume that you have the job in the bag. As U.S. News & World Report noted, making such an assumption can impact your attitude and tone in the interview, which the committee may pick up on - you may come across as arrogant and too self-assured, which of course is a problem The key is to be confident, yet respectful.

Don't: Be too informal

As outlined above, it's important not to lose sight of the fact that you are still partaking in a formal job interview. This can be difficult if you are friends with your interview committee. It can be easy to use more informal language and become distracted on tangents of discussion that are irrelevant. Ensure that you keep in mind at all times that you are in a professional interview, and behave accordingly. Conversely, however, U.S. News & World Report suggested that acting in a way that is too reserved and measured could also be a problem, particularly if you are being interviewed by friends. Ultimately, the key is to strike a balance between cordial and professional - let your guard down a little, but not too much.

Don't: Be resentful if you don't secure the role

As with any job, there is a chance that you won't be successful, even if you feel you are the most qualified. It's important, however, to remain respectful toward your colleagues after they have made their decision, The Balance advised. Don't let the disappointment influence your working relationships and keep in mind that there will always be other opportunities in the future.

Words of wisdom

Looking for more guidance on preparing for internal interviews? Take it from some of our own team members who have made the transition:

Steph Ackerman, Senior Corporate Recruiter – formerly a Staffing Consultant, transitioned to Corporate Recruiting in 2016.

"When you are interviewing for a new role internally, it is important to be confident yet realistic – it is never a guarantee you get the job. I have held three different roles at Beacon Hill and I've learned – you must treat each role like any other: dress professionally, do your research, and be confident in your abilities, but not cocky. But above all, be yourself. As a Senior Corporate Recruiter, my responsibility is to interview for internal hires, so I cannot stress that enough. Interviewers are trained to ask tough questions designed to 'lift the veil' layer by layer, so we can fully understand the person vying for the position. So, if you are not representing who you really are, an interviewer will be able to catch on – especially if they already know you, which could easily be the case in an internal interview! Your interviewers want to know the real you, not 'interview you.' Make them remember who you are."

Paige Charbonneau, Senior HR/Benefits Specialist – formerly a Marketing Specialist, transitioned to HR in 2010.

"Another 'Do', in my opinion, is to take into consideration the timeline of when you start requesting internal role changes. For example, a lateral move might be best considered after you've already received your annual review and pay raise (if applicable) for the year. Also, try to be mindful of your current department's workload – if you can avoid it, do not plan to leave in the middle of your team's busiest season. No matter the nature of the move, also expect to account for the time needed to find, hire and train your replacement, which you'll probably play a considerable part in. When I transitioned, I needed to spend a few weeks training my replacement, and then continued to be a resource for her for a while thereafter. It's best to have reasonable expectations about the continued need of your experience in the previous role."

"My best advice, though, is that you don't get what you don't ask for. If you know you're part of a great company but you're starting to feel burnt-out in an existing role, I believe it's worth inquiring about a new position, or at least starting a conversation with your manager. The position I transitioned into didn't exist before I accepted the role – we started a discussion and realized that we had a business need. Companies like to keep reliable and exceptional employees as a part of their team, even if it means in a different department."

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