How to Prepare for an Internal Job Interview

A new position within your company has opened up and you know you’d be perfect for the job. You have the experience, company knowledge, and connections to give you a professional edge. You’ve got this in the bag, right?


You should never approach an internal job interview with the expectation that the job is yours. While you likely have a leg up on your competition, internal interviews require just as much prep as external interviews do.

How do you make sure you nail it? Let’s start with the basics.


Understand the Process
Internal recruitment is the process of promoting or laterally cross-hiring employees from within a company. This can include being hired for a position in your own department or moving from one department to another within the same organization. In some cases, job postings may only be open to internal applicants, while others may be posted both internally and externally.

External recruitment, likely more familiar to you, is the process of hiring from an applicant pool of candidates that do not work for the company. Recruitment may be done by the company’s own human resources department or hiring manager, but also via employment agencies, job search websites, job fairs, external recruiters, advertisements, and referrals.

Know the Advantages and Disadvantages
Hiring internally is generally faster because it involves a smaller pool of potential applicants. It also tends to be cheaper as it does not require purchasing of ads, memberships to job search websites, or hiring of external recruiters or employment agencies. It is faster and cheaper to train an internal employee as they will enter the position with at least some background knowledge of the organization. The employer also has the benefit of knowing the internal candidate’s professional reputation, current job performance, and how they fit into the company’s culture.

On the other hand, hiring internally can really limit the choice of candidates compared to an external search. While hiring internally may motivate staff with hopes of future promotion, it may also negatively impact relationships between employees who competed for the same job. As well, employers may wish to hire externally to ‘breathe new life’ into the team with someone who has new ideas and a fresh perspective.

It is important to know these advantages and disadvantages that your employer faces when deciding whether or not to give you the position, since it gives you the opportunity to address them and show how you exude all of the advantages in addition to bringing new ideas, energy, and perspectives to the table.

Approach As You Would Externally
Even though you know a lot about the company, you may not know everything about the job you’re gunning for. Make sure you do your research about the position, beyond just reading the job description. Talk to the person who currently has the role, or a similar one, to gain more insight. Ask questions and be sure you understand exactly what the position entails and why you are the best fit for the role. 

When you are in the interview, answer the questions as though the interviewers know nothing about your current role and accomplishments. “People typically neglect to offer good evidence of achievement because they believe it’s already known to interviewers,” agrees John Lees, author of Just the Job!: Smart and Fast Strategies to Get the Perfect Job. So be sure to offer as much detail and explanation as you would in an external interview.

Even though the interviewer likely knows all that you have accomplished, they need to actually hear it in the interview to give you points and justify why you are the best candidate.

Set Up For Success
Even though it may be uncomfortable, you should always be upfront with your current manager and tell them about your interview with another department. They will probably find out anyway and it is best if it comes from you. They can be an ally for you by putting in a good reference and maybe even helping you prepare for the interview. 

If your current manager is also the hiring manager, you should address the elephant in the room as soon as possible. Let them know that you intend on applying for the position prior to submitting your application. Before your interview, pop in their office and tell them that you will be approaching the interview questions as though you were external. It will help ease any awkwardness in the air when your interview begins.

Since you are internal, you have the disadvantage of being known to your interviewers. You can’t exaggerate your role in a project or fluff up your resume, because they already know your history. Your reputation, successes, and failures will have given them preconceived notions about you. Address your failures and show how you learned and grew from them.

Don’t Take It For Granted
The candidate and even the interviewer may view an internal interview as a formality; a given that the candidate will get the job no matter what. Even if the employer originally intends on hiring the internal candidate, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will be successful in the end. An over-confident candidate may not perform as well as others in the interview.

You will have no idea who the other candidates are so don’t assume you are the top runner. There could be other internal applicants with more experience or more seniority. There could also be external applicants that are actually former employees of your company, referred by employees, or well-respected in their field.

On top of that, the interview may consist of a panel of interviewers – and they may not all see you as the prime contender. It’s great to know you have someone in your corner, but don’t automatically assume everyone is.

Be gracious, yet confident. Be knowledgeable and well-prepared. It is your job to show everyone in the room that you are the absolute best person for the role.