There comes a time in everyone’s career when the opportunity to apply for a promotion comes up.
HR sends out a company-wide email that Frank just retired and they’re looking to replace his critical role. You read through the job description and mentally check each duty as something you’re currently doing, have done or know how to do.
In your mind, you’re the perfect person for the position. And in a perfect world, you’re probably the best candidate as well. It should be a no-brainer for them to give you that promotion. But even if that were the case, you want to avoid a mistake many applicants make by treating the internal interview process as any other application.
You are not applying with a company that has only a superficial idea of who you are as an employee. You’re dealing with people who have intimate knowledge of your qualifications, work ethic, cultural fit and many other critical areas that have appeared during your tenure.
Additionally, this is a great opportunity for you to blow them away with your fit for the position. An outside candidate would never be able to have the inside scoop you do.
You probably already know who the hiring manager is, which team members you’ll be working with, who the exiting person was and maybe even why they left.
You have the opportunity to ask around to find out what they’re looking for in filling that role. You can learn from other departments what traits they enjoyed in the person who was in that position last.
Using the knowledge you gain from asking your colleagues about this role, you will be well prepared to acknowledge the key areas below which should be treated dramatically different for an internal interview. We’ll first cover the basics of polishing your resume, then highlight some specific things that will be different in the interviews you’ll face and, lastly, we’ll discuss how to properly follow up.
As with any position you’re applying to, you need a resume tailored specifically for that position.
Don’t be arrogant and think you can simply update the dates on the last resume you gave them when you were first hired. Your new resume should have a different feel than the one you originally applied with.
Use the information you found out when talking to the hiring manager and other team members. What attributes did they mention were important? Highlight specific projects or successes you’ve had that showcase those skills in your candidacy.
Yes, that applies to past positions as well. Add in projects from the past that have relevancy in this new position that maybe weren’t a consideration when you first applied with the company. Take out items that don’t add value to your ability to handle this new role.
Most importantly, you want to include recent success that showcase your fit for the new position. If you’re applying for a promotion, I expect you’ll have some recent wins under your belt that will help put you top of mind with the hiring manager. Use these to your advantage to showcase your fit.
When interviewing for a promotion, you may find the interview is a little more relaxed and informational than what you experienced as a newcomer trying to break in.
However, do not use that as an excuse to treat the interview like a couple of best friends chatting up the hour. You always want to be professional when interviewing, even for internal interviews. Be on time, dress professionally, be courteous with everyone you meet, give direct and succinct responses to questions and highlight only the best of what you have to offer.
A common interview question you’re likely to come across is “Tell me about yourself” or “Why do you think you’re the best fit for this position?” Believe it or not, this is the same question. (Click here to tweet this thought.) When a hiring manager asks this of you, they want to know what motivates you and that you can keep that motivation over the long haul.
If your response is because you want the bigger paycheck, you aren’t really showing the kind of motivation they’re looking for. Instead, you want to tell them about your passion for what you are doing, how that translates for this new role and how you will use your experience to hit the ground running.
If you can, talk about projects you worked on with the past person in this role and what you learned about filling their shoes. Or discuss a project you worked with their team on, how you felt energized to do so and how you’ll enjoy working on more projects with them.
Keep in mind that any shortfalls while you’ve been with the company may come up. If asked, fess up to them and expand on where you went wrong and what you learned from the experience.
Following up is crucial when applying for a promotion. The problem is that you may come off as overbearing if the hiring manager is someone you see every day.
After the first “follow-ups,” they may start avoiding you in the hallways because there are only so many ways to say “We’re still reviewing applicants.”
This is something to avoid at all costs.
As a general rule, only talk to them about work stuff. Use similar guidelines for following up on the position as you would with any job application.
For example, immediately after your interview, write a handwritten thank you note and mail it out. Additionally, send an email thanking them for their time and highlight one or two points from the interview. These are two things that should be standard operating procedures after every interview.
However, if you run into the interviewer the next day, do not ask about your application. If you need to talk to them about a separate project, only talk about that project. If you run into them at the office gym, do not talk to them about anything having to do with your application — talk about the most recent hockey game from last night or anything else besides your “fit for the position.”
The point is to not bug them by constantly asking where they are in deciding on the position.
Ideally, during your interview, you asked when they expect to make a decision on the position. If they said by the end of next week and it’s been three weeks since you’ve heard anything, then by all means, follow up again. A professional email will suffice. For example:
I hope your week is going well. I’m following up on our conversation around the [New Vacant Position] role. When we spoke, you mentioned the likelihood of having a clearer direction by early this week, so I thought I’d touch base to see where you are in the process.
I came out of that meeting confident that I understand the role you are trying to fill and my fit for the position within your team.
I look forward to hearing of any next steps required of me.
Simple, professional and to the point.
Again, if you see the interviewer constantly, do not bring this up in the hallway on the way to the bathroom. Give them the opportunity to respond to you appropriately.
Besides, the last thing you want is to put them in a position to tell you they went in a different direction unplanned.
When they know, you will know.
Every Interview Is Different
No matter what company or position you are interviewing for, the interview process will always be different. Even within companies, different hiring managers have different processes they go through to select the right candidate for their team.
As long as you keep the above concepts in mind, you will be well on your way to acing that internal interview. Remember the three components of the resume, interview and follow-up when it comes to internal promotions, and you’ll be all set.