Internal Interviewing: 8 Considerations for Growing Your Career

(U.S. Army/Jessica Ryan)

Question: I really like where I work but want to interview for a position in a different department. Are there things I should be sure to do … and what should I avoid when interviewing inside my current company?

Answer: Unlike your time in the military, where promotions and job changes may have been clearer and more predictable, in the civilian sector, it really is up to the employee to pursue opportunities as they arise. You mention that you like your current employer -- a plus -- and want to stay with them but feel that a different department and role might be a better fit.

From your employer’s standpoint, this could be a real win-win. If they also appreciate and like you, then keeping you on staff and finding a different role for you where you’re happier and add more value is in their best interest.

Before you pursue a job change, consider these tips:

Mistakes to Avoid

  • Pursuing a new role in the same company takes finesse and timing. Be sure you are clear about the new position and why it’s attractive to you. If you show your interest prematurely and must retract your application, it might send a negative signal to company leadership about your commitment to your job.
  • Avoid making too many moves inside the company too quickly. If you’ve only been in your current job for a short time, you’ll need to be clear on why the new opportunity is a better fit. Then be prepared to stay in that new role for a while to confirm your plan. Otherwise, your company could see you as a “serial job hopper,” even inside the organization.
  • Be careful about complacency. As a current employee, you may feel entitled to a new position or a change because you already know the company. This attitude can cause you to overlook the formality and professionalism of the job application process.
  • Just because you currently work for the company doesn’t mean you have an advantage over an external candidate. Some companies like to hire from the outside, because they believe they’ll garner new ideas and perspectives.
  • Repair any damaged relationships that might impact your candidacy. If you’ve developed an adversarial work relationship with someone who could be on the deciding team or who may work with the new department, this person could hurt your chances of being considered for the new role.

Best Practices for Internal Moves

  • Before you apply for a new position inside the company, take inventory of your reputation and career so far. Do people at your employer respect you, like you or regard your talents and skills highly? Are your values aligned with your actions such that co-workers and managers trust you? Be sure you know how others see you before you compete for another opportunity.
  • Build allies in the company. Do you have supporters and sponsors who’ll advocate for you and speak highly of you when asked? If not, build those before you begin applying for another position. You’ll need references who can vouch for you.
  • While you have an advantage as a current employee because you know the company and understand the company mission and business, you’ll need to align clearly and confidently that understanding with the goals of the new job. Take the time to articulate how the new job supports your ability to serve the company’s goals in more meaningful ways.

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