An internal job posting peaked your interest, and you're going for it. Good for you! But, if you think your tenure, relationships, and past performance are going to weigh heavily in your favor when you're up against external candidates, think again. It's that assumption that can sabotage your chance of landing that coveted internal position. With a change in your perspective and some preparation, you will become a much stronger candidate. To that end, here are Your Office Mom's tips to help you compete against external candidates. In fact, this advice will give you the edge over the internal ones too.
1. Start acting like an external candidate
If you want to compete with external candidates, you need to start acting like one. You're trying to get ahead, get a new role, a new manager, or make more money. External candidates are trying to get the hell out of a bad situation, or they're unemployed. They're highly motivated. From their resume to the way they dress to how they interview, external candidates are bringing their "A" game to your workplace. External candidates often work with a recruiter who preps them to talk about specific skills, experience, and how they can add value. External candidates know the answers to the tough questions. They talk about their weaknesses so they don’t sound like weaknesses at all. Hiring managers know the exact nature of your weaknesses. External candidates have references that say they walk on water. Yours see you every day, so they know your feet get wet.
A word of caution: You may need to temper talk about applying for internal jobs. If a peer finds out he's competing for the same job you can bet he will be prepared to demonstrate he's a better candidate during the interview process. He won't mention you by name, but he will make his point. I say keep it under wraps.
2. Focus on more than core skills
You may be kicking some serious ass with your core skill set, but more value is being placed on soft skills these days. External candidates know this because they're reading about it during their job search and hearing about it in interviews. They have recruiters who coach and prep them. So check out the Top 10 Skills You Need at Work That Have Nothing to Do with Your Job so you can speak to your communication skills, talk about teamwork, and other soft skills. And take some training or watch some TED talks or read some articles so you can discuss your emotional intelligence.
3. Have a professional resume
If you can't compete on paper it's going to be hard to compete at all. Make sure your resume looks good and is substantive. Hire a pro if necessary. Your resume needs to show actual accomplishments in terms of impact - dollars, percentages or any other metrics that show your value to the company. And avoid the cardinal sin of resumes - make sure it doesn't read like a job description. That being said, get your hands on the job description or the job posting for which you're applying. Then, make sure to correlate your experience on the job, or any volunteer work to show you're a solid fit to the posting.
4. Practice interviewing
No one, internal or external is going to be an exact fit. But you need to know what you know/don’t know. What you can do/can’t do. Identify your gaps and then research, read, watch videos or talk to friends to fill in the gaps. That way you at least have a rudimentary understanding of all the key job requirements. You may not have the experience or skill, but at least you know what the hell something is, why it's important and can speak to why you're excited about developing the skill and expertise if given the opportunity.
Just because you know these people and they like you, don't assume you will automatically ace the interview. You need to practice. And when I say practice, I mean out loud and sh*t, not just in your head. Have a list of questions and write up concise answers. You can't wing this if you want any chance to win this. After you practice get two people to help you with separate mock interviews. If it's a panel interview, practice a panel interview format. You need to be prepared for different interview styles and get feedback. Before you get started read up on interview skills and questions to expect. How to Ace the 50 Most Common Interview Questions is a great place to start.
5. Clean up your act
External candidates never come to the office having a bad day. They don’t look disheveled. They never have a hangover. They don’t oversleep. External candidates always have a great attitude. They don't have problems with co-workers. They have their act together. So clean up yours. Whatever your dress code step it up a little. You don't need to go in for a whole makeover so no one recognizes you, but think about perception and start bringing your "A" game to work. Organize and clean up your workspace. Be more participative in meetings. Be more solution oriented. Volunteer for a project. You get the idea. But be subtle. You don't want to look like a total suck up. This behavior is important whether you're applying for a job now or in the future. If you are serious about career advancement, this becomes your norm.
6. Own your past mistakes
It's better if you can clear the air long before you apply, but if there are any issues in your recent past, you need to own them. Whether it's how you handled a situation with a co-worker, a performance review rating, or you got pissed that you didn't get the last job you applied for, own it. Trust me, the hiring manager might not bring it up, but it could still be a strike against you. Remember, external candidates don't have any strikes. So, be prepared to talk about it and what you learned from the situation. It was a learning experience wasn't it? Of course it was.
By focusing on perception and preparation you will be a serious contender for any career opportunities. Have you beat out the external competition for a job? Share what gave you the edge over the competition. And sign up to 'Keep in Touch' so you don't miss out on new blog posts.
Photo by Well Cultivated