I recently received a question from one of my blog followers, Cindi, about how to beat an internal candidate in a job interview.  I've never been asked this before but I think its a great question!

Cindi says: “I have read and will continue to read, your columns and articles on your website and I find them informative and useful (Thanks, Cindi!). I work full-time as an Administrative Assistant and I have been looking to switch to a different employer – into the community college area – still as an Executive Assistant. I have had two interviews, called back for a second interview and even had that third follow-up phone call. I am one of the final two candidates; however, the internal candidate always wins out at the end. The employer’s only reason is “the internal candidate will make the transition easier”. How can I compete with that? It gets discouraging to be so close.”

Internal candidates attractive for numerous reasons. They are less expensive (usually), faster to train and a relationship has already been established. Therefore, a high degree of trust is already in place. Plus, many employers make an effort to promote from within as much as possible in order to strengthen the workforce that they already and improve the company culture.

However, there are benefits to hiring external candidates and perhaps the greatest one is the fresh perspective that they bring. And oftentimes from a competitor! Internal candidates, depending on their tenure, may be rather ingrained in the culture and therefore less competitive and innovative in their mindset over time. You have the opportunity to capitalize on this.

Here are your action steps:

  • Ask in the interview process if they have any internal candidates they are considering for the role. (This is perfectly okay to ask this and you want to know who your competition is!)
  • If they say yes, then you need to emphasize the value of your fresh, outside perspective and what you've learned at other companies that you can bring to this one.
  • Last, suggest one or two specific things that you would intend to accomplish in your first 90 days to show them that you'd quickly acclimate.

Internal candidates are hard to beat, but at the end of the day, it's a sign of a good company culture and there is an amazing job out there waiting for you too!
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