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How to Beat an Internal Candidate in a Job Interview

by Ellie Williams

If you’re competing against an internal applicant for a job, you’ll need a strategy that will compensate for your lack of an insider advantage. During the interview, show the employer that you understand the company as well as the other candidate and that you have what it takes to succeed there.

Research Exhaustively

Internal candidates have a significant advantage over outside applicants simply because of their extensive insider knowledge of the company. When answering the interviewer’s questions, they know how to frame their replies in a way that directly addresses the organization’s goals, values, culture and challenges. You can minimize this knowledge gap by researching the company prior to the interview. Talk to current and former employees, read the corporate website and search the Internet for news articles. Tailor your responses to the company so it’s clear you understand what is unique about the company, its goals and strategies.

Establish Rapport

An internal candidate already knows the corporate culture and may have established strong working relationships with the rest of the team. Employers consider not only talent but also personality, and may favor a current employee because it makes the transition easier. Show the interviewer you’ll make a natural addition to the staff. Be respectful and friendly to everyone you meet, regardless of their role in the hiring process. During the interview, relax, smile and make plenty of eye contact. Maintain a professional demeanor, but interact with the interviewer as though the two of you are already colleagues.

Demonstrate Your Skills

With an internal applicant, employers have already seen the quality of the person’s work and how he performs on the job. This familiarity reduces the risk involved in hiring, which you’ll need to replicate if you want to earn the employer’s trust. Bring a portfolio of your work, copies of positive performance reviews or testimonials from satisfied customers. Or, prepare a sample project. If you’re applying for a marketing position, for example, create a mockup of an advertising campaign. This will show the employer that you are ready to step right in and do the job.

Describe Results

Show employers how they’ll benefit from hiring you by offering solutions or outlining what results you can produce. For example, create a 90-day plan that discusses exactly how you’ll get up to speed, what steps you’ll take first and how you’ll implement changes or encourage other employees to join your efforts. Build your plan around the job duties listed in the posting or around the organization’s current projects or challenges. If the company plans to launch a major initiative to attract new customers, describe how you’d attract the attention of prospective clients and persuade them to do business with the company.

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