Interviewing Internally? Avoid These Mistakes

Sometime during your private- or public-sector career, chances are you will interview for an internal position at your current organization. Maybe you’re looking to get promoted to that next level or take on a new challenge as a supervisor.

But is interviewing internally easier — or more difficult? What if you know your interviewer or people on your interview panel? Are you more nervous or do you feel more calm?

Regardless, avoid these mistakes to ensure that your interview gets you noticed.

Using all the acronyms

Government organizations love acronyms. But they can be a huge hindrance depending on your level of experience or exposure to an organization. This is no different for the people who are interviewing you. You may be familiar with what these acronyms mean, but they may not. Regardless of their knowledge, it never hurts to spell out these acronyms, especially if they are vital to the explanations you provide during your interview questions. You don’t need to spell these out every time; just the first time will show that you are sensitive to the interviewer’s knowledge (and that you actually know what it means).

Saying, ‘You know…’

Similar to the acronym problem, it can be tempting to assume that your interviewer knows about certain projects that you’ve worked on. This is especially tempting if you are interviewing with someone that you’ve worked with on said project. That doesn’t mean they know every approach you took, or even about your part in the project. Clarifying the project overview and your role within it not only shows the importance of that project to the interview question, but also helps anyone on the interview panel that is not as familiar with the project. A good rule of thumb is to pretend that you don’t know anyone on your interview panel. Explain the project as if they’ve never met you or worked with you before.

Not writing down your talking points

When you’re hiring internally, you might feel that you can be more casual with your interviewer(s). This might lead you to believe that you don’t need to prepare as much and that you can just wing it. Remember, this is still an interview, and it never hurts to come more prepared than not. Write down some of your biggest projects, tasks and roadblocks and bring that list with you. If you get stuck, you can refer to your notes and explain one of those items. It doesn’t hurt to write down a few specifics as well to some of the more common questions, like:

  • Where you had to deal with a difficult coworker or customer
  • When you initiated and/or executed a team project
  • When you experienced a stressful situation in your job and how you handled it

Haven’t done one of these things? Don’t just resort to saying, “Gee, that’s never happened before.” Even though you haven’t experienced that particular scenario, explain how you would handle it given your current experience.

Not doing your homework

It never hurts to find out more about a position or a team that you are interviewing for. While this tends to be more common when you are interviewing externally, internal research can help you cater your answers more to the job that you are applying for. It can be tempting to explain situations and how they’ve helped your current position. Instead, describe how those situations apply to the competencies needed for the new position. If you’re not sure where to start, check our your organization’s website or intranet. This can help give you perspective on what the team does and their mission for the organization. Oh, and use the job description!

Not asking questions

It’s always a good idea to ask questions in any interview, internal or not. Asking questions shows that you’ve thought about the position and are genuinely curious about it. Doing research can only get you so far. Asking questions like, “What are some of the biggest challenges this team is facing?” can help you better understand what you might be in for. These questions can also help you to address accomplishments and competencies that the interviewers did not ask you about, or that you forgot to mention earlier in the interview. Not sure what else to ask? Check out this post on 11 Questions to Ask When Interviewing for a New Position.

Myranda Whitesides is a Performance Support Specialist for the Interior Business Center at the Interior Department’s Shared Services Center. She conducts personnel and payroll systems training for over 50 federal agencies, as well as providing training in diversity and inclusion for her peers. Myranda also serves as the Education Co-Director for the Mile High Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), coordinating educational content for human resources professionals in the Denver metro area. Myranda also enjoys singing, camping and exploring local breweries and restaurants with her husband, Daniel.

Image by Tima Miroshnichenko on pexels.com

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