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. Don’t 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. Don’t 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, “There are a few people here qualified for the job. I’m interested in learning more about the opportunity. “ Don’t get dragged into any discussions about what you think of anyone else or their skills’- especially in the interview.
If you don’t get the job, can you remain positive and professional? Most people think so, but careers have been derailed by bitter applicants who can’t support other internal candidates. Know in advance what might happen if you aren’t 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 can’t 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.