Interviewing Internally: Not Automatic


I don’t know about you, but on occasions, employees may mention that they are applying for another position within their organization. Sometimes, these positions are for internal applicants only. Other times, the positions are advertised to the general public.

What I found interesting in many instances is some of these employees would either be baffled, upset, or discouraged because they were not selected. Furthermore, those that may have secured an interview either did not make it beyond the initial interview or they did not get the position.

I am only speaking from personal observations. A few of these employees spoke with a sense of entitlement. They were baffled because they through that just because they worked in the organization, that was supposed to guarantee them an interview. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I found that if you are within the organization applying for an internal position, you are competing against your own: someone who most likely has many identical qualifications that you do. If you are applying for a position that has been advertised to the general public, then it gets worse because you are competing against internal candidates plus hundreds of qualified outside employees.

So what can you do to possibly stand out? Here are a few tips:

  • If possible, try to speak or email the recruiter before the position closes out. In our organization, the recruiter’s initials and email address are at the very end of the position. The employee can call human resources to get the full name of that analyst/recruiter, or email them.
  • When, or if you are able to make contact, try to ask questions about what the hiring manager is really looking for.
  • Assuming you are able to make contact with the recruiter, ask if they read the cover letters. Some recruiters do, others do not. Some don’t read it but expect for it to be included. Find out.
  • Final tip: Nothing is automatic in the job search/employment process. Every aspect about the process is competitive. You cannot afford to leave one stone unturned.

Joan C. Smith is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Steve Ressler

So true – great read. I’ve seen many employees not get jobs they had an inside track on because they took it for granted. Spend time on your resume to make sure you make it through the process. For any interview, you should always prepare and bring your A game.

Bonnie Boonbe

What I find aggravating is that I wait over 6 months to do an interviewing webinar on ag learn and get advice that we should tell stories because they are more interesting for the interviewers. And then when you interview and don’t get the job you are told that your answers were too long, too detailed, over-prepared or not humble enough! I feel you can’t win and the odds are stacked against you. As a Term you are not considered an insider or outsider–you are in “No man’s land!”

JC Smith

I understand your frustration. I went through something similar last year. In my feedback, I was told that I didn’t refer to their website and my knowledge of events when I did. I chalked it up as an oversight. What is a “Term?” Are you a temporary or contract employee? If so, then I further understand the struggle.

Judith Gamboa

One problem that I’ve come across with internal employees when I’ve been on the interview panel is that they will expect you to know of and be aware of their work record because you already work with them. This is not true – it is important for any applicant to highlight their work record and skills, whether coming from the inside or the outside. Just because I work with you doesn’t mean that I am evaluating your work – I might not even be paying close attention to your work because I am so focused on mine. The interview is your chance to show us the brilliance behind what we have all been taking for granted this whole time.


This is so true. I did an internal interview in same department, with some of the same folks I worked with and I treated it as if I knew no one. Updated my resume what I had been doing for the last 6 months even though they were aware of it. I made sure I was able to answer any question about the job in the interview.

Joan C. Smith

Hi Joyce. You made some very valid points. I have seen or heard of employees being or acting very casual when they are being interviewed by fellow colleagues. To me, that is a fatal mistake. We still have to sell our skills even though some internal employees know our skills (or sometimes, it is assumed that they know). Great insight! Thanks so much.