by Julie Preston

Julie Square

Preparing for an internal interview should be easy, right? You know the selection panel; you understand the organsation; your track record speaks for itself. What could go wrong?

Confidence is important, but a false sense of security can lead to a poor interview performance. No matter how well you know the organisation, or how much they know of your work performance, the panel will still need to justify their recruitment choice on evidence presented in your application and interview.

Begin by preparing as you would for any interview – Carole has prepared a handy reference list  to get you started. Add to this these additional things to help you prepare for an internal interview:

Don’t assume the interview panel already knows you and about your work

One of the most common mistakes of internal candidates is to assume that the interview panel already know them and their great work. They may have forgotten, or could be far enough removed along your management line that they aren’t aware of all the details. The interview is your chance to demonstrate what you have achieved for the organisation, how you made a difference in your current role, and what you can bring to the new position. The best approach is to assume the interviewers are not aware of any of your achievements. Better to repeat a success they already know than to miss a chance to shine in a whole new way.

Make the most of your ‘insider info’

Use your unique position as an insider to your advantage. Learn all that you can about the strategic direction of the team/project/organisation, and weave that through your answers to demonstrate your understanding. The panel will likely be looking for evidence of your understanding of the internal structure and overall goal of the organisation, so present your vision for the role and how this aligns with the broader organisational framework. This can be a useful means of differentiating yourself from external candidates.


Image Source: Laura Pasquini on Flickr

Find the right tone

Interviews should remain professional. However, there’s no need to be overly formal or pretend you don’t know the panel. Find a comfortable balance between office chat and formal presentation, which will allow you to present as a genuine, professional candidate while demonstrating that you already have a comfortable working relationship.

Blow your own trumpet (really!)

While it is true that presenting your best self is key to any interview, it is worth emphasising  in the context of an internal interview. It can be challenging, perhaps confronting, to speak openly and purposefully about achievements and strengths with colleagues, particularly for those who shy away from the spotlight. An interview, particularly an internal one, is not the time to by shy. This is your chance to shine, to demonstrate your unique benefits to the team/project/organisation.

After the interview, follow up with a thank you note to the panel, just as you would for an external interview. Aim for the same tone as you used in the interview, and remember to include an extra example or expanded response to one of the interview questions to reinforce your suitability and enthusiasm for the role.

If you’re successful, congratulations! If you’re unsuccessful, ask for feedback and consider the benefits of the process. The interview panel are now aware of exactly what you can do. The selection process will show them evidence of your skills, knowledge, experience and potential in a more focused way than the everyday office environment. By applying for a new position or a promotion you’re signalling your interest in new challenges, and this shouldn’t go unnoticed in the future.