You’ve been thinking about making a lateral jump within your company, and you’ve had your eye out for marketing positions for months. Or, your boss knows you’ve been looking to switch into a more creative role, and she’s recommended you for an editorial position in another department. And now, you’ve found yourself with a new job interview—with your own company.
This type of interview might initially seem like it should be less stressful than one you’ve scheduled with an outside organization—but a lot of times, it’s actually more difficult. While the surroundings might be familiar and your interviewer might even be a friendly face, you can’t lose sight of the fact that this is a new position, and you’re likely being evaluated against a slew of other candidates.
That said, being an internal candidate can be a big advantage if you take the right approach. Here are some ways to prepare for an internal interview that can give you a surefire leg up on the competition.
Ask Permission, Not Forgiveness
First things first: Before you even consider applying for a different role within your current place of work, make sure you talk the decision over with your current manager. Why? Well, because word is bound to get out, and you want your boss to hear it from you, not from someone else. Plus, remember that whether you get the job or not, you’re still going to be at the company. And the last thing you want to do is ruffle feathers of any leaders who can impact your future.
Now, if part of your rationale in seeking a new job is to escape a less-than-perfect boss, this can be a little tricky to navigate, but it’s still the appropriate (and safest) way to proceed. And hey, you don’t have to give him or her all the reasons you’re looking for a new role. If you aren’t sure how to go about this, set up a meeting with your HR department to discuss the new position. Many companies even have their own internal processes for employees who want to change roles, and you want to be sure to cover your bases.
Do Your Homework
One benefit of interviewing within your current place of work is that you have easy access to insider info on things like the people sitting on the interview panel, the team you’d be working on, and the parameters of the open position.
Use this to your advantage. Once you’re confirmed as a candidate, start reaching out to any colleagues you feel might be able to help you or give you insight. Try to get a clear picture of what the role will involve and what the hiring managers and your prospective new boss are really looking for. If you have a trusted co-worker in the department you’d be moving to, ask for her honest feedback about how you might impress the interviewers, and see if she’d mind helping you run through some potential interview questions or nail down talking points. This is where you can really gain a leg up on any external candidates.
Sure, you’ll be showing up at the same building you work in every day, but when it comes to your interview, bring the same poise and professionalism you would if you were interviewing with an outside company. This means: Be 100% prepared to answer tough questions and show why you’re the right fit for the position (aside from the fact that you know the ins and outs of the company).
Also, don’t assume that anyone is familiar with your work and accomplishments, even if you’ve been there for a while. Bring your resume, work samples, and an internal reference list—it’s a great way to demonstrate your credibility within the organization.
You should also be ready to talk about your prior experience outside of the company. Sure, they know you, but they may not know (or remember) much about what you've done before.
Dress the Part
It should go without saying that interview dress code is important—but it’s especially true when you’re within your current organization. Dressing the part of interviewee shows everyone that you’re taking the process seriously and that you understand the importance of the new role. The last thing you want to do is give the impression that this is “just another day” or that you deserve to get the position without really trying. So whether your typical work ensemble is casual or business formal, pull out that suit on interview day.
You may have just interviewed with someone who you see in the cafeteria everyday, but it’s still a good idea to follow up your interview with a thank-you note. This is a great opportunity to reiterate your interest in the position and thank your interviewers for their time. Personally, I’m a stickler for sending a quality, hand-written note. It may take a bit more time, but it adds a personal touch and level of professionalism that’s somewhat lacking in an email. (Plus, you can drop it in the internal company mailbox—no need to wait for tomorrow’s mail pick-up!)
Above all, when preparing for an internal interview, it’s best to approach the opportunity with the same professionalism you would an external one, while using the fact that you already work there to your advantage. Take the time to prepare carefully, learn about the position, and anticipate what the interviewers will want to know, and you’ll be sure to knock ’em dead.
Jessica Taylor is the annoying friend who responds "seen it" to every link you send her. After graduating with a BA in public relations from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, Jessica went on to earn her MBA and is a corporate communications professional in Phoenix, Ariz. She’s reportedly allergic to cold weather and anything sci-fi related, and known to travel great distances to see the Red Sox play. Read more of her writing on her blog or follow her on Twitter @JesDoit.More from this Author