Over the years I've interviewed hundreds of candidates—both internal and external candidates. Surprisingly, internal candidates generally didn’t perform well. It’s been really disappointing.

Conventional wisdom would assume that the internal candidate is more likely to be appointed a new role than an external one. After all, they have access to information and people that external candidates don’t.

Underperforming

I know I'm making a generalization. But more often than not, internal candidates don't perform to the best of their ability. Why?

I think there are three main reasons:

  1. They believe the job is theirs because they're already in the organization. They are the easy option.
  2. They already have a reputation within the business. They are reliant on what they've done in the past to help them get the job in the future.
  3. They think they know it all.

I’m afraid to say that none of these is acceptable. Over-confidence and complacency will not get you the job. You cannot just rely on being the internal candidate with a reputation—and be the easy option—to get you the job.

Managers are looking for excellent talent to add to their team. They need individuals who will go the extra mile.

Not only that, but you're up against well-prepared external candidates who don’t have access to the people or the information that you (the internal candidate) do. It’s a competitive marketplace. It’s not one to rest on your laurels and hope for the best.

How to go about improving your chances of success as the internal candidate?

Standing out

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Here are five steps internal candidates can take to stand out in a competitive job marketplace.

1. Research the role to understand what is required. Review the job description. Use it as a guide, and highlight:

  • key requirements of the role
  • qualifications, skills, and experience required
  • key success criteria.

2. Ask the manager for an informal chat. This is a great opportunity to start building a relationship with them. Also it’s your opportunity to impress them in advance of any formal interview. 

Prepare questions in advance. You can learn more about what the manager is looking, beyond what is on the job description. You’ll also get a better understanding of whether you really are right for the role. If you’re not right for the role, it’s better to say that ahead of any interview so as not to waste anyone’s time. It’ll enhance your reputation.

3. Ask for an informal chat with a member of the team. You’ll get an honest picture of what it’s like in that team, and a different view on the manager and how they operate. It demonstrates that you are taking the role seriously by doing your research.

4. When preparing your resume or application, ensure you match the requirements of the role with your skills. It’s important to highlight what you bring to the role and how you’ll deliver value.

5. Ahead of an interview ensure that you have all the information that you’re possibly going need at your fingertips. Prepare answers to likely questions in advance. Most interviewers ask the same questions. Be prepared with clear and concise answers. If you don't have a particular skill let the interviewer know. Tell them what you’re doing about it. It shows them how you’re developing yourself.

Putting these five steps into practice will help you improve your chances of success.

One final tip is to continually build your network—regardless of whether you’re looking for a new role. It’ll enhance your profile and your reputation. You’ll build relationships with the people, who one day, may have an influence over whether you get a role.