Q. What is the etiquette when applying for jobs internally? I want to apply for a position, but I overheard that someone else in my office who is applying. He has more experience than I do, but I think I'm a better fit for the job. Should I still apply?
A. When internal candidates are competing for a position, the best person for the job should get it; however, that may not always be the case. Candidates who want to move forward in their careers should not limit themselves; plenty of that happens by others. Do not let other applicants deter you from applying for an internal job and be prepared for the many issues that can arise.
As an internal candidate, do not take your current role with the organization for granted. Be even more prepared than an external candidate would be. Do your homework. Make sure your resume is current, and accurate. Donít assume the hiring manager knows about your responsibilities and accomplishments; make sure they are highlighted in your resume. Do your homework on the new role. Identify the challenges, the skills most needed and the stakeholders to be served. Know how the role interacts with the entire organization. Prepare interview questions to ask, and those you will need to answer. Donít come dressed for a typical meeting, take it up a notch to show that you do care about the opportunity and know that you are in a competitive situation.
Be prepared for your colleagues to know that you, and others are interviewing for the role. There may be rumors and questions about why you are interviewing if another internal candidate has been at the company longer. Be tactful and say, ďThere are a few people here qualified for the job. Iím interested in learning more about the opportunity. ď Donít get dragged into any discussions about what you think of anyone else or their skillsí- especially in the interview.
If you donít get the job, can you remain positive and professional? Most people think so, but careers have been derailed by bitter applicants who canít support other internal candidates. Know in advance what might happen if you arenít chosen. If you can identify the positives of not being selected, such as the organization sees your ambition. Hiring managers also learn more about your skills so that when other opportunities are available you will be positioned. If you canít see these benefits, consider whether becoming an internal candidate might be unintentionally setting yourself up for an external job search.
Being the selected internal candidate also has its consequences. Being a gracious winner is as important as being a gracious loser. Your relationships with colleagues and co-workers may change based on the level of the position. You may also need to deal with colleagues who may not support your success. You can develop skills to retain relationships and be a professional in development, but it takes time and professional courage.
Advancing your career is a skill that can be developed. How you go about taking each step says as much about you as how you perform on the job.
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Meet the Jobs Docs
Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
Cindy Atoji Keene is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years experience. E-mail her directly here.
Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.
Stu Coleman, a partner and general manager at WinterWyman, manages the firm's Financial Contracting division, and provides strategic staffing services to Boston-area organizations needing Accounting and Finance workforce solutions and contract talent.
Tracy Cashman is a partner and the general manager of the Information Technology search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technology.
Paul Hellman is the founder of Express Potential, which specializes in executive communication skills. He consults and speaks internationally on how to capture attention & influence others. Email him directly here.