How To Ace Your Internal Interview

By Matthew Zane
Jun. 21, 2022

Find a Job You Really Want In

Applying for a new position within your company may have you thinking you have an advantage. While that may be true, it’s important not to let your guard down and walk into the interview not prepared.

In this article we’ll go over some additional tips for standing out at your internal interview, as well as provide common internal interview questions and sample answers.

Key Takeaways:

  • When preparing for an internal interview, it is important to re-do your resume, asses yourself beforehand, and tell your boss about your decision.

  • You might think interviewing with managers you already know will be more relaxed, you shouldn’t let your guard down, and prepare with the same level of rigor as you would for any other job interview.

  • If the company is interviewing internal and external candidates it is important to remember to apply the same expectations as you would if you were interviewing for a company you didn’t know.

How to ace your internal interview

What Is an Internal Interview?

When an employee at a company applies for a different position within the same company, he or she is an internal applicant. If that employee is offered an interview, it’s an internal interview. An internal interview can be for a promotion, but it can also be a lateral career move into a different department.

The internal hiring process can be a little different depending on how the company is looking for candidates:

  • If they’re accepting both internal and external applicants, you can expect a more formal process, with the same expectations as if you were applying to a new company. On the bright side, hiring internally saves the company time and money, so you’ve got that advantage straight out of the gate.

  • On the other hand, a company may choose to only consider internal applicants for a certain position. In this case, you’ll be competing for the position with your coworkers.

    In this type of situation, the application process will likely be a little less formal. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t prepare, though. On the contrary, you’ll need even more evidence to support why you’re the best current employee for this newly available position.

How to Prepare for an Internal Interview

There’s some advice that holds true for just about any job interviewdress to impress, review the job description, be ready with questions, etc. Here we’ll be providing tips more specific to an internal interview.

  1. Re-do your resume. You probably haven’t edited your resume since you got your current job. Don’t just add your current position and call it a day, though. You obviously want to include all the extra accolades you’ve earned at your job since being hired, but you should also work to edit or remove information that isn’t relevant for the new job for which you’re applying.

    Additionally, if you’re making a lateral move to a new field or department, it’s a good idea to shift the focus of your resume away from your old skill set and towards your new one (the functional resume format is a good option here).

    For example, if you currently work as a customer service representative but you want to move into data analytics, make sure your resume focuses on your newfound skills and certifications that reflect this desire.

  2. Tell your boss. Depending on who your supervisor is, this might be an awkward conversation. They might not want to lose you or view your application as a way of getting out from under their thumb.

    In almost all cases, honesty is the best policy. For one, your boss is going to find out at some point anyway, so it might as well come from you. For another, they can be an asset in your application process by providing advice and a strong reference.

    If you’re in a really sticky situation where you believe your boss will actively try to block your application or be vindictive afterward if you fail to land your new job, then it might be best to keep things quiet. Reach out to the hiring manager and ask if your application can be kept on the down-low until the appropriate time.

  3. Do your homework. I know, I know, this is always advised for interview preparation. But internal candidates might be tempted to skimp on this important step, believing that they already know all there is to know. Resist this temptation.

    Review the company’s mission statement, online presence, and any recent headlines featuring your company. That’s what every good external candidate is doing. For your internal interview, you should also review your company’s competitors (to show you’re keeping your eye on the big picture).

    Additionally, you should use your insider advantage to learn more about the role. Having a one-on-one discussion with the person you’d be replacing or a chat with the team with whom you’d be working can be invaluable experiences.

    If you already know the person/people you’ll be interviewing with, that’s great, but you should still brush up on what they do. And if you don’t know them, start asking around and look into recent projects they’ve worked on.

  4. Assess yourself beforehand. In some cases, being an insider can count against you. Even if you’ve got a sterling reputation around the office, it might not be for the right things. For example, you might be known as the creative guy, but you’re applying for a more technical position now.

    Be prepared to alter the hiring managers’ perceptions of who you are as an employee. Come with evidence that clearly supports the new image you’re promoting. At the same time, try not to come off as confrontational, blaming your supervisor for a lack of opportunities to show off the skills you’re passionate about.

  5. Maintain professionalism. Maybe you’re best buds with someone on the hiring committee or you think you’re a shoo-in for the job. That doesn’t mean you should rest on your laurels and treat the whole process as a pesky formality.

    If you know your interviewer(s), it’s okay to be friendly and a little less formal than you would be at an external interview. You can even ask the hiring manager(s) how they want to handle this conversation.

    Look at how your interviewers dress and then match or slightly exceed that level of formality. Answer questions just as you would at any interview and come with your own questions (more on that later).

  6. Be ready to brag. To stand out from your external competitors, emphasize your company-specific knowledge, experience, and skills. You can even use that insider advantage to get a better sense of what your employer is looking for in the ideal candidate and then highlight those qualities.

    Don’t assume that your interviewer(s) already know everything about you – in fact, you should assume they know nothing about you. Tell them about all the valuable contributions you’ve already made to the company. Even if they don’t know much about you, they might know more about projects you’ve worked on and achievements your team has made.

    As with all interviews, be prepared with loads of stories to back up your claims. Format your stories using the STAR (situation, task, action, result) method so that listeners can easily see how you’ve positively contributed to the company’s goals.

  7. Don’t shy away from past mistakes. No one has a perfect employment record, so be ready for your mistakes to come up during the interview. Whatever you did, be accountable and don’t try to pass the blame onto a supervisor or co-workers.

    Turn the negative into a positive by highlighting how you’ve grown from your mistakes and how you continue to seek constructive feedback. You’re applying for this job to develop as a professional, so showing an upward trajectory of your skills can certainly be to your benefit.

  8. Don’t critique your current job. You’re probably going to get a question about why you want to leave your current job for this new one. Under no circumstances should you criticize your present role, supervisor, or team members. Remember, the hiring committee wants an employee who is passionate about this new position, not using it as a way to escape their current, negative situation.

    Keep your focus on what you enjoy about your current position and how it has helped you grow as a professional. Then, emphasize how skills developed in your current role have prepared you to add even greater value to the company in this new role

  9. Follow up after. Especially if you see your interviewer(s) around the office every day, you might be tempted to just thank them in person. That’s fine, but don’t stop there.

    You’d better believe that every serious external candidate will be sending a thank-you email to anyone they interviewed with, and you’d be well-advised to do the same. In this note, remind them about key moments from the interview, highlight why you’re the perfect person for the job, and express gratitude for being considered.

    One last point – after the interview, don’t pester anyone involved in the hiring process about when you’ll hear more. If they gave you a date to expect a response, wait for that to pass before you start asking around.

Internal Interview Question and Sample Answer

Some of these are your typical interview questions, while some might be specific to internal candidates. Think of ways to answer that incorporate your internal candidate status and highlight it as a positive.

  1. Why are you the best person for this job?

    I have demonstrated strong interpersonal skills that are essential to excel in a management position. I am skilled at figuring out what motivates people to do their best work and allocating resources appropriately. Ultimately, with me in a management position, you’ll see increased efficiency of the department I’ll oversee.

  2. How would your coworkers describe you?

    My coworkers would describe me as a relaxed team member who’s able to see everyone’s point of view. I’m often the person team members come to with issues because I come up with fair and equitable solutions. They would also say that I’m helpful because I always give my time to help team members succeed when I have the time to spare.

  3. What do you like most about your current role?

    I love that I get to travel and do presentations for clients. It’s the highlight of my job. For me, public speaking is a big thrill, and it’s extremely satisfying getting a client to see that we offer the best service. This is why I’m so excited to be applying for this new position, where travel and presentations are a much bigger part of the role.

  4. What don’t you like about your current role?

    It’s a real pleasure working with such an awesome team to create our company’s social media image. However, I’ve found that creating content isn’t something I’m nearly as passionate about as data analysis. So helping the social media team do a better job with data-backed solutions, rather than creating the content itself, would be much more satisfying for me.

  5. What has been your greatest success story at your current job?

    About three months ago, we had a spate of new hires who were not adhering to proper sales tracking protocol. I was tasked with creating a guide to streamline the onboarding process. I made the guide and developed a presentation on my own, which I presented to the new hires. Afterward, we saw sales numbers for new hires increase 27% and there was also a lot less confusion and wasted time around tracking.

  6. Why do you want to leave your current position?

    I started at this position three years ago and I’ve grown as a professional so much at that time. I can complete my tasks quickly and am often left with nothing to do but develop better strategies that will increase efficiency down the road. I’ve found that developing these strategies has become more satisfying than my initial workload, which is why I believe it’s the right time for me to move into a management position.

  7. Why are you interested in this position? What do you know about the responsibilities of this position?

    When I heard you were hiring for this position, I was thrilled. I know that it would give me the chance to develop our market in the South, which is something I’ve wanted for a long time. I also know that I’d be working with X and Y on a new project to market directly to middle schools, which is really exciting. I am very interested in applying my marketing skills to a bigger market and expand our company’s influence to new areas.

  8. How would you spend your first month in the new job?

    My first priority would be to review the workflows of my team and look for places to increase efficiency. I would also talk to other managers to make sure that our goals and methods were aligned to avoid any confusion among the staff.

  9. Why should we hire you instead of an external applicant?

    I’ve been working in the marketing department for the last four years and there is no other applicant with as intimate a knowledge of our marketing philosophy as me. I have a track record of successful marketing campaigns, my relationships with the marketing department are all positive, and clients trust me. All of this means that the transition to head of marketing will be much smoother than it would be with an outside hire.

  10. Tell me about a time when you faced an unforeseen challenge and how you handled it.

    Last summer, we had a client who abruptly informed us that he was terminating our relationship because of a bad experience he had with a member of our sales team. Besides that salesperson, I was the only one who had a relationship with this client. I was able to reach out to him and offer him exclusive deals by way of apology, and he remains a client to this day, with a larger account than ever.

  11. How have you seen the company change in the time you’ve worked here?

    When I started here three years ago, I was inspired by the company’s priority of becoming energy neutral in just five years. I’ve seen this company nearly achieve that goal already, which has been one of the reasons I love working here so much. This company sets goals with a mind to achieve them as soon as possible, not just when it’s convenient.

  12. Do you have any suggestions for helping the company grow and achieve its mission?

    I know that we’re starting to expand our marketing operations with a new website, and I feel that adding a blog could be great for driving traffic. I have some experience in SEO techniques that could improve our company’s presence on Google. Not only will this drive more client interest, but it will also increase brand awareness in markets that we’re moving into soon.

  13. If you’re not chosen for this position, how would it affect your current job?

    While I’d be disappointed that I couldn’t make as big a contribution to the company as possible, I know that the company will hire whoever they think is best for the position. I would continue to develop my skills and learn new things that could help me be better positioned for this role or a similar one in the future.

Other sample internal interview questions that might be asked:

  • What are your salary requirements?

  • How do you motivate others?

  • What is your greatest strength?

  • What is your greatest weakness?

  • What training or resources will you need for this new position?

  • What makes our company different from its competitors?

  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

  • Do you prefer working with a team or alone?
  • Would your supervisor recommend you for this position?

  • Why do you want to get promoted?

  • Does your supervisor know you applied for this position?

What Should You Ask During an Internal Interview?

A good interview should be a conversation with a healthy amount of back-and-forth, so be sure to come prepared with questions. It will show that you’ve thought deeply about the responsibilities of the job and that you’re interested in learning as much about it as possible.

As an insider, it’s also a chance to show off how closely you pay attention to what’s going on in your prospective department, meaning you’ll be ready to start being productive on day one if hired.

The questions below are by no means comprehensive, but they’re a good place to start when you’re trying to come up with questions to ask during your internal interview.

  • What are the biggest challenges that a person in this position will likely encounter?

  • What are the most important things I can do to succeed in my first month on the job?

  • What are some problems facing this department at the moment and what solutions are being offered?

  • How is performance evaluated for this position?

  • What departments will I be collaborating with most often?

  • What kind of opportunities do you offer for professional development?

  • Why is this position available now?

  • What did my successor do right to succeed in this position?

  • When can I expect to hear back from you?

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Matthew Zane

Matthew Zane is the lead editor of Zippia's How To Get A Job Guides. He is a teacher, writer, and world-traveler that wants to help people at every stage of the career life cycle. He completed his masters in American Literature from Trinity College Dublin and BA in English from the University of Connecticut.

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