An internal interview can be a trying experience, because your boss will want to make sure you’ve been purified by fire before giving you a job promotion. Many employers promote from within, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to go easy on you. If you want to prove you’ve got the right stuff, you’ll have to bring your A-game. And don’t listen to anyone who tries to put you at ease. If they tell you the interview is only a formality, it isn’t.
Get in character before you have to play the part. If you’ve been picked for an internal interview, chances are the higher-ups have been observing you. Since they’re already looking, give them a show. In the week leading up to and the week after your interview, come to work 15 minutes early and leave 15 minutes late. Bring your lunch so you won’t be tempted to stay away from your desk for too long. Dress like you already have the new job by pretending you’re starring in a play as a better dressed, better functioning, higher paid version of yourself.
Know the job. Don’t assume that just because you already work for the company, you know everything you need to know about the job you want. Do your homework. Ask others in the position you’re seeking what the job entails. If no one holds the job currently, ask the colleagues you’d work closest with should the position become yours. Learn the strengths and weaknesses of the job, and get an idea of how you could make the process more efficient. Go in the interview with a game plan, knowing what your boss needs and how you’re going to bring it about.
Talk about your strengths and weaknesses. Don't shy away from constructive criticism. Talk about some of the mistakes you’ve made during your tenure, and how you’ll apply what you’ve learned to your new position. Ask for honest feedback. Come up with examples of how you’ve already performed certain tasks required in the new job and talk up your successes. Ask your boss why he picked you for the interview and what you can do to improve your chances. Show genuine interest and that you’re not afraid to speak up for yourself. Have a portfolio of your work ready, a list of horn-tooting references and an updated resume.
Prepare fresh answers to the same old interview questions. Don’t assume that because you’re applying for an internal position, they won’t treat you like a stranger. Your interviewers will want to know how well you think on your feet, especially if they know you. They’ll want to make sure you’re the right girl for the job.
Internal interviews are tailor made to get existing employees out of their comfort zone. Be ready for the challenge. Have knock-'em-out answers ready for these questions: Why do you want this job? How do you handle conflict? What is your leadership style? What was a decision you made that you later regretted? Where do you see yourself five years? What will do you differently than the last person who held this position? What would your last boss say about you?
Don’t badmouth anyone. Be gracious about your co-workers and the person who held the job before you. Even though you’re competing for the position, recognize that you’re still colleagues. Win or lose, you'll still have to work together. If you’re asked, “Why should we hire you over Bob?” stick to mentioning your strengths, not Bob’s weaknesses.
Oubria Tronshaw specializes in topics related to parenting and business. She received a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Chicago State University. She currently teaches English at Harper Community College in the Chicago area.