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Guide to Preparing for an Internal Job Interview

written by: Sylvia Cochran•edited by: Ginny Edwards•updated: 5/8/2011

Internal job interview questions help managers vet already employed workers for new positions and possible promotions. Unlike initial job interviews, the question and answer sessions are somewhat different. What can interviewees do to prepare in advance?

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    The Gravity of an Internal Interview: Don't Take it Lightly

    “Employee performance It is tempting to reason that the employee already got the job; therefore, an internal job interview is little more than a formality for a company that seeks to fill positions from within.

    This mindset is a big mistake. In fact, Maureen Moriarty -- a workplace coach writing for the Puget Sound Business Journal -- explains that companies under reorganization may be attempting to “get rid of deadwood," which may mean the end of employment for some but the opportunity of advancement for others. Not surprisingly, the internal interview has a potentially huge impact on a worker’s career opportunities.

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    Interview Prep for an Insider

    Answering internal job interview questions when sitting across the desk from a potential lunch buddy or hiring manager, who might have a tough reputation in the company, feels odd. As such, the interview preparation begins with the candidate’s attitude.

    • Gain confidence from a skills inventory. Be sure to include the most important or essential skills the job requires. Create an internal job resume that highlights the accomplishments while at the current job. This instills confidence in the interviewee, especially if the hiring manager has a bad reputation within the company.
    • Know why you want the job. Sure, you might have applied for the promotion because the hours are better and the pay is great, but the hiring manager wants to know what you will bring to the table. Identify skills that make you a well-placed candidate for the position and also highlight how the new job would fall in line with your personal and professional interests.
    • Anticipate curveballs. When the candidate initially interviewed with the company, the resume’s mission or goal statement probably varied from the career ambitions the internal job interviewee now has. Be prepared to field questions about a shift in objectives, especially if the change is dramatic.
    • Beware of bad-mouthing the boss or co-workers. An innocent question -- such as “What is the most difficult aspect of your current position?" or “What would you change about your current job?" -- opens the door to a potentially negative response. It would be easy to blame a non-responsive supervisor, idle co-workers or antiquated processes within the company while answering this type of question. Avoid this pitfall at all costs. Instead, always focus on the things you -- as the worker and candidate -- could do differently to heighten productivity within the confines of your current position.
    • Dress for success. Even if the business environment is usually casual, be sure to dress for the job interview. This step signals to the hiring manager that you take the time spent seriously and understand the implications.
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    The Salary Trap

    In a field with copious mergers and buy-outs, there is the very real danger that the long-time employee candidate makes more money than the hiring manager. There are occasions when a posted position, such as a lateral move, may not actually meet the salary requirements of the candidate. Be aware of the fact that an interview in this setting may lead to some hard feelings from management -- and also to heightened scrutiny of your work performance and overall productivity. While this check-up may be well worth it if there is a promotion at stake, it may prove to be a tactical error for a lateral move.

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    Prepare for internal job interview questions with meticulous care. The candidate must not assume that the company owes this promotion to anyone. Instead, express gratitude for the opportunity to interview -- even if you do not get the job or promotion.

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    • Puget Sound Business Journal. “Treat an ‘internal’ job interview like the real thing" (accessed May 4, 2011)
    • Photo Source: “Employee performance" by Employeeperformance/Wikimedia Commons (accessed May 4, 2011)