10 tips for preparing for an internal interview (and getting that promotion)

  • DeakinCo.
  • 19 July 2017

Why? Because you don’t think you’re ready. Let us remind you what Richard Branson said... “If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!”

The importance of internal promotion

When it comes to business growth, having the ability to create new assignments and expand on current roles is vital. Any good manager knows that succession planning - the practice of educating, mentoring, and promoting current employees so that they can increase productivity and growth for a business - is far more efficient than hiring new staff. That’s why they will be thrilled when you step forward and request an interview.

Each time a new person is hired, it costs a company the equivalent of half a current employee’s yearly wage. With advertising, screening, interviewing, orientating and training, it can be months before adequate productivity levels are reached by a new recruit.

Bringing people up to speed takes time and money, two things your managers consider very important. So do yourself a favour and put your hesitation aside. It’s time to start prepping for an internal interview.

Preparing for an internal interview

While the person interviewing you is keeping their fingers crossed you’ll be the right person for the role, you still need to prepare for an internal interview. The mechanics will be different to an external interview in that they are already familiar with you and you with them, and job promotion interviews can be just as challenging as interviewing with a new firm.

Things to do when applying are:

1. Research the role

Just as you would in any interview, you need to do some research into what the job entails. This will help you answer questions thrown at you, as well as help you determine whether or not it’s the right job for you. Study the criteria and write down a set of clear responses that address each one.

2. Consider the company

As an insider, you have the wonderful advantage of not just knowing what your company does, but why it does it. You know its mission and its values and can recognise its strong suits. You’re already a part of the company culture, therefore you already know how to fit into it and who are the key players. Make sure you touch on this information.

3. Read up on the field

It’s one thing to know about your company, but what about its competitors? Talking about the industry as a whole is a good approach, but it’s even more impressive if you can address other key industry players and how your company should fit in the big industry picture.

4. Mention recent news

If you know of changes within the company, be sure to mention this. If, for example, your company has just received a large grant, talk about how this may affect future goals and programs. If the company has recently been involved in some controversy - such as the stepping down of a director - don’t shy away from it and instead use this information to highlight your knowledge on internal changes.

5. Research the hiring committee

You’re lucky enough to already know the hiring committee, or at the very least, someone who does. Ask questions about their roles and try to understand what their expectations are. You might think approaching HR or the hiring committee prior to the interview process is cheating, but it shows initiative. In fact, not talking to them prior could appear worse.

6. Prepare yourself for criticism

No employee has a perfect employment record, so be prepared for some of your mistakes to come to light during the interview. Perhaps you lost a client or you billed the wrong person. Maybe you missed a deadline or you posted something you shouldn’t have on social media. These things happen, so take ownership of your mistakes and use them to talk about what you’ve learnt since joining the company. Explain what happened, what went wrong, and how you can avoid making the same mistake again. Whatever you do, don’t become defensive and start blaming others.

7. Expect tough questions

The questions asked during an internal interview can sometimes be tougher that those asked in an external one. This is because they get a lot more personal. You might be asked:

  • What don’t you like about your current role?
  • Why do you want to change departments?
  • What is your plan if you don’t get this promotion?
  • What makes you stand out from the other candidates?
  • How would you spend your first 30 days in this new role?

Aim to answer these questions as honestly as you can.

8. Build a brag book

Compiling a list of your achievements and contributions so far will provide the hiring committee with some great insight into your capabilities. For this you’ll need the kudos of your fellow co-workers or excerpts from past performance reviews. Search your work email for words such as “good job” or “thanks so much” coming from your current and previous bosses, as well as your clients. Don’t just presume that they are familiar with your work based on the fact you work in the same building. Bring your resume, work samples, and an internal reference list.

9. Decide whether or not to tell

Going for a new job in your company means you’re likely trying to take the next step on your career ladder, or that you see value in a different department. This can be a confronting piece of information for your current boss and you may be frightened of their reaction or the repercussions, should you not get the job.

Talk to your boss privately so you can gauge how they see your contributions to the team. Ask for their permission rather than their forgiveness at wanting out of your current role. Remember that telling your boss about your plans to apply is up to you, depending on your company’s internal employment policy. If you don’t want to tell them you don’t have to, but there are benefits to getting a recommendation from your current boss. Also, your boss is likely to find out whether you get the job or not, and it’s best that they hear it from you.

10. Don’t pester

Just because you see the hiring manager in the hall most days, doesn’t mean you can continually ask them whether or not you’ve got the job. At your interview, ask when they are likely to make a decision and don’t follow up until that day passes. Do, however thank them for the interview and express your interest in an email. Highlight one of two good points from your discussion.

Maintaining professionalism

The key thing to remember when applying for an internal role is to treat it with the same professionalism you would with an external interview. Dress the part so it doesn’t look like ‘just another day at the office’. Shake hands, make eye contact, and go prepared. Handle it right and whatever the outcome, you’ll earn the respect of those involved in the process. Don’t stress if you don’t get the job - another one is sure to come up soon if it’s a company that’s growing.