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  • Shelley Maxey, Talent Acquisition Manager

The Internal Interview: Employee Guide on How to Prepare for a Promotion Interview

When the time comes that you’re ready to apply for an internal promotion and advance your career, an internal interview will take place with your leaders, and often include a recruiter or senior peer. Many organizations prefer to hire internally. Especially in situations when training current employees is relied heavily on with the purpose of focusing on a long-term goal to execute missions and values. That said, even though you may have been working with your current company for years, this does not necessarily elevate your chances. Your manager or leader is actively interviewing external candidates for the same open position that you’re applying for. People who, often times, demonstrate equivalent experience or an additional skill set directly related to the role. Although this may seem a bit intimidating or stressful, taking the first step towards a promotion goes back to the simple basics!

Things to Consider Before You Apply for a Promotion

Rather than viewing an internal position of a higher status as something for you to simply ease into, see it for the opportunity that it is – career development. It’s important to evaluate what the job entails, how you might operate in the role, and the steps towards applying. Your leaders are already familiar with your abilities and strengths, so there may be a high expectation for you to interview well. In turn, involving a more challenging conversation. Making a plan on how to demonstrate your experience and the practice of addressing common questions will help you prepare.

Research the position

Although you may already know quite a bit about your company’s culture and the position you’re applying for, new responsibilities and challenges will be present. You may want to reach out to the person leaving the role, or others in your organization who are in a similar position, to gain a better understanding of what they’ve faced. As an internal applicant, you have access to more in-depth information through your existing teams as well as leadership and your HR department. Don’t hesitate to open up new conversations to inquire about your interest.

Talk with your supervisor

Most, if not all, organizations encourage internal applicants to reach out to their immediate supervisor first. Prior to applying, discuss your potential for advanced opportunities. It can also be required to have an internal letter of recommendation. Whether or not you end up being chosen for the new role, making your immediate supervisor aware of your goal to progress will ultimately work in your favor. At the very least, it will demonstrate your desire for growth. If this is not the time for your advancement, you have expressed that you are ready to consider the idea. Perhaps your manager isn’t even aware. Talking with your supervisor further suggests that you’re invested and open to learning more.

Revisit your resume

Before applying for your next dream job, you’ll want to take another look at your resume. Especially since your current company might not even be listed, and, depending on how much time has passed since it was last revised, the structure of your resume could be out of date. Remember, you want to stand out among the crowd of other internal or external applicants. There are Three Fundamental Resume Format Types to assist with outlining your resume to highlight your work history and skills to fit the needs of the position. Also, there are a variety of creative, modern resumes out there that demonstrate a more visually appealing layout. Including customizable colors, blocks of separated information you may want to draw attention to, and can even feature a recent professional headshot.

Consider how you’ve grown

Part of an internal interview is being prepared to have difficult discussion. Addressing mistakes that you’ve made or challenges you’ve had in your current role will demonstrate your self-awareness and your willingness to conquer the road-blocks you encounter. This is the ultimate demonstration of growth. The internal interview is a good time to discuss any situation where you took initiative to demonstrate that growth. Give the hiring manager specific examples of what you’ve overcome and the ways in which you’ve proved to yourself, your team, or your leaders, that you’ve improved in any given area.

Understand why you want to change roles

Are you ready to apply for another position simply because you feel that it is the “right”, next move from where you are? Or, are you truly ready and prepared for furtherance? Having a real heart-to-heart with yourself about your career decisions – what you want and where you see yourself going – is a conversation that should take place before even considering the next step in applying for an internal promotion.

Interview Questions Unique to the Internal Interview

Many of the same interview questions that are being asked to external candidates will be asked to you as well. Questions like “Why are you interested in this role?”, “What is your leadership style”, and “Where do you see yourself professionally in 3-5 years?”. With that will also be questions directly relating to your decision to internally switch roles. These are more in-depth questions that will give your interviewer an opportunity to assess and understand you in a different light. The one as it applies to you in a new position with new responsibilities. Some of those common questions might be:

  • Why do you think you’re ready for a promotion?

  • What experience with our company has prepared you for this new role?

  • Tell me about a time you encountered employee conflict? How did you resolve the issue?

  • Have you told your coworkers that you’ve applied for this position? What was their reaction?

  • Why should we hire you for this position instead of an outside applicant?

  • Should you not be selected for this role, how would it affect your current job?

Inevitably, the hiring manager will ask you to distinguish yourself from other candidates. This is an opportunity for you to not only address what’s been discussed above – your growth and preparedness for the position – but also to talk about your appreciation for the job you do have. If you are dedicated enough to your organization to apply for a promotion within, let your employer know why. Is it the people that you work with? Is it the company culture that stands out? Additionally, your internal interview is a great time to paint a mental picture for the hiring manager of what it would look like to have you in this role. Reiterate that you understand the job by giving examples of what you might plan to accomplish in your first month, should you be promoted. Consider talking about your goals and that initiatives that will be used to measure your success.

At the end of your interview, be sure to thank your hiring manager for taking time to include you in the interview process and having the discussion of growing your career. You should also send a thank you email to show your gratitude. Following up on the opportunity keeps you on the mind of the hiring manager, and, if anything, shows that you are grateful for the opportunity.

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