In-house interviews: How to play the game

A lot of people view in-house interviews as something rather different to a usual external interview. They seem to think that it’s somewhat ‘easier’ and the rules are different. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. In-house interviews are very similar to external ones. Here are my rules for playing the game well when it comes to internal interviews.


Improve your CV, and bring internal documents with you

The advantage of an in-house interview is that the interviewers can go on not only the information in your CV but also your current job description, appraisal documents and any other work you think might help. Build up an internal-style portfolio of your achievements at the company. Put some of these into your CV too, and make your CV exceptionally up to date so your company knows that you’re ready to leave and get a job elsewhere at any time. You need to be coming across as still looking for external opportunities rather than putting all your hopes on this one position.

What to wear?

Many offices these days tend to have a business-casual dress code when in the office for day to day activities. If this is the case where you work, don’t fall into the common in-house interview trap of complacency. Dress as you would for an external interview. Yes, you might look a bit odd in the office with everyone else, but if you’re up against external candidates, you don’t want to miss out on an opportunity because you thought you could get away with your usual check shirt. If you’re struggling about what to wear, a good tip is to dress for the position above the current one you’re applying for. Sometimes it helps to bring a change of clothes for when you’re back at your desk to avoid sticking out like a sore thumb in the office. Alternatively, you could take the day off and just come in for the interview. This will give you time away from your daily tasks and focus you more on the interview.

What to know?

Especially if you’re changing departments in your company, you need to study things from a different angle. Here, you can really take advantage of being a current employee. Approach people in your prospective department for tips. Ask them what the biggest challenges they face as a department are and think about how your involvement could help the team achieve their overall goal. Are you looking for a promotion within your existing department? If you get on well with your colleagues, point out in the interview how well respected you are in the team. Ask your colleagues if they can put in a good word for you if possible.

Warning: Don’t get too familiar!

Just because you partake in Friday night drinks with the interviewer doesn’t mean that you’ve already got the job without having to put in any effort. During the interview, avoid throwing in too many personal anecdotes or jokes. All this will do is give the impression that you’re arrogant enough to assume you’ve got the position without merit. As well as this, you’ll alienate anyone else in the interview who isn’t part of the joke. You can however mention your awareness of existing issues and how you and your team overcame them. Some familiarities are good ammo to use, if they’re relevant to the interview.

Why do you want to move?

You may get asked why you want to move within your company. Some answers are simpler than others. For example, if it’s for a promotion in your existing department, you can talk about progression and how you need more challenging work that could benefit the department and how you’re up to the task. Alternatively, if you’re moving because you’re unhappy in your current position, you don’t want to be saying this during the interview. Instead, mention that you need a change of direction or that you feel your skills are better suited elsewhere because of X, Y and Z. Discuss the new opportunities the position would be opening for you and how excited you’d be to pursue them.

All in all, as long as you don’t get too complacent in the interview, you have nothing but subtle advantages to external candidates. Use your achievements at the current company to your benefit where possible, but make sure you don’t get tunnel vision. Ask useful questions in the interview about the position and whether there’s anything regarding your application that may be of concern to the interviewer(s). Discuss training opportunities you could undertake if you’re not quite skilled enough in a certain area. Sell yourself as much as you would in an external interview!

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