You’ve been at your company for a while, and a prime position has opened up in another area or a new position has been created that you’re absolutely perfect for. You express your interest and, voila! They’re interested in you for the role too and would like you to take part in an internal interview process.

This is where many employees get tripped up. They think of the internal interview process as a formality, especially if managers they already know will interview them. Don’t fall into this trap. Not only do internal interviews need to be treated with the same level of professionalism as any other job interview, internal interview questions can be especially tricky.

As an executive recruiter, I’ve helped many candidates navigate this situation and here are some of the internal job interview tips I give them.

Internal Interview Tips

  • Be honest with your boss
    If your boss recommended you for the position then you’re ahead of the game. The support of your boss can be a huge help with internal positions. However, many candidates are afraid to upset their boss and try to interview in secret. This is a recipe for disaster, as news tends to get around. Sit down with your boss, thank them for your experience, explain why you are interested in the new position and ask for his or her support.
  • Do your research
    You’ve surely been given a job description but it’s important to delve deeper. Unlike external candidates, you have access to a wealth of information. Ask around. Get a sense for the dynamics of the team and even ask the person who used to hold the position to chat with you. Try to go into the interview with a solid understanding of the job’s requirements, challenges and performance expectations.
  • Be aware of your reputation
    External candidates generally walk into an interview with no preconceived notions. However, internal candidates have reputations and a transparent track record. Come in ready to address any performance issues that might be raised and put a positive spin on them, highlighting what you learned as opposed to what you may have done wrong.
  • Look out for tricky questions
    Internal job interview questions and answers can have a different dynamic than a typical interview so here are a few questions you should think about in advance.

Internal Questions and Answers

  • What do you know about this job? – This is where you should be leveraging your research and showing that you’ve used your insider status to be extra prepared.
  • Why do you want to leave your current position or what do you dislike about your current role? – Here you have to be very careful not to say anything negative about your job. Focus on your desire to apply your experience to a new challenge.
  • How will you handle it if you don’t get the job? – Show that, no matter what, you’re a team player. Note that you’ll be disappointed but would look forward to other growth opportunities within the company.
  • Does you manager know you’ve applied for this position? – Hopefully, the conversation you had with your boss went well and you can share that, not only does your manager know, but you have his or her full support and maybe even a letter of reference.

Don’t take for granted that you’re a shoo in for the job just because you’re an internal candidate. In fact, you should knock their socks off by being the most professional, most prepared candidate in the bunch.

What have your experiences been with internal job interview? Tell us about it in the comments.