You might think that being an internal applicant for a job has its advantages. You’ve got inside knowledge, you know the business, the culture and you know the people on the interview panel. Surely that puts you a step ahead of the rest of the competition.

If you are an internal job applicant you don’t want to be hedging your bets that you have this job in the bag. That kind of thinking is the first mistake you can make in applying for an internal position. Regardless of being an internal applicant, if you really want to put your best foot forward you need to treat the recruitment process as if you were an external candidate. Mind set can be everything when putting yourself out there for a new job. Lacking confidence – it shows at interview. Thinking you’ve got the job in the bag – it shows through your application and interview; you either haven’t made enough of an effort and your poor preparation shows or you come across as cocky and over confident and it’s off putting.

Too many times I have met with a candidate who is now looking to leave a business because they were unsuccessful for an internal position. There can be many mixed emotions when you are an internal candidate and you miss out on the job and for many unsuccessful internal candidates it can be the driving factor in motivating them to look outside of the business for a new opportunity. Often when we unpack the recruitment process and what they did or didn’t do to prepare, it comes back to a lack of preparation.

The question to ask yourself over and over again at each step of the process when going through a recruitment process as an internal candidate is:

If I was an external candidate would I………

Call and enquire about the position to find out more before I applied?

As an internal candidate it’s a big mistake to assume you know all there is to know about the position. You might have known the previous incumbent, you might know the direct manager and think you know what their expectations are, you might have had an informal chat weeks ago before the position was advertised and you might think you know what success in the role looks like. However, picking up the phone or making a proper appointment to discuss the role with the manager (or whoever is handling the enquires) is going to make sure you start the process off on the right foot. Assumption is the mother of all mistakes in this case.

Invest the time to make sure my application was a standout?

I sometimes find that internal applicants don’t put as much time and effort in to their application because they might be guaranteed an interview simply because they are an internal applicant. Or they don’t put in the effort because they think their track record, work history and/or work relationships will get them over the line. Even though you might know the person doing the shortlisting or the people on the interview panel you still want to wow them and stand out from the crowd with your application. You might think they know about your work on a particular project or that they know the details of your key achievement last quarter or that you have a qualification relevant to this new job. Again, it’s dangerous to assume.

Make an effort and suit up for the job interview?

This is one of the most common questions I am asked. Should I make an effort and “dress up” for the job interview. By dress up I mean, make an extra effort, not just showing up in the same clothes you wear every other day to work, or your work uniform. You never get a second chance at making a first impression. You might not be making a real first impression as an internal applicant but you are making a first impression for the recruitment process. It’s always better to dress up and impress than dress the same or down and disappoint.

Prepare and practice for the interview?

Chances are if you were an external candidate you’d research the company, check out LinkedIn to see who works there and you’d go through the types of questions you might get asked based on the key selection criteria. You’d probably have a think about examples of past experiences to help demonstrate your skills and you’d make a list of questions you want to ask at the interview. Just because you’re an internal applicant don’t fall in to the trap of thinking the interview will be a casual chat with the interviewer because you have Friday night work drinks together, or because you see each other at the kids footy on the weekend or because you chat at lunch time in the tea room. As an internal candidate you want to show you have prepared just as well as the external candidates; if not better. This is where you do have the competitive edge. Use that insider info that you have, leverage your knowledge of the business and let your preparation show through at the interview. Always have questions to ask the interview panel even if you are an internal candidate – there is always something you can ask.

Hedging your bets and thinking you are a step ahead of external candidates is the mindset that will lead to your undoing. Let your actions speak louder than your words; show the hiring manager or the interview panel that you really want this opportunity and prove to them why you really are the best person for the job.

About The Author
Ange Connor

Ange is the Founder and Director of Inspire HQ, one of regional Victoria’s leading recruitment, human resource (HR) and careers agencies. Ange is an ‘ideas’ person and a ‘big picture’ thinker. She loves to challenge the status quo – in fact, that’s how Inspire HQ began.

Ange has supported hundreds of businesses across Ballarat and regional Victoria to attract, engage, motivate, develop and retain their greatest assets; their people. Ange’s unyielding passion and invaluable knowledge of the recruitment and HR industry ensures she delivers the best solutions for her clients.

Ange has held various board positions and regularly volunteers her time to share her industry and market knowledge. She was recently a Councillor for the Victoria and Tasmania region of the Recruitment Consulting and Staffing Association (RCSA) of Australia and New Zealand, and she is a current Board Director of the Committee for Ballarat.

For more useful information, follow Ange on LinkedIn.

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