Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Being Interviewed For Your Own Job

Many of my clients view being interviewed for an internal post as more stressful than going for a job elsewhere.  Here are 7 tips on how to handle this potentially tricky scenario.

1.  Play the game
The game is evidence-based interviewing, and it's used by most large public sector organisations.  When you are being interviewed for your own job, it means that you have to give concrete evidence of your skills and achievements when answering the interviewers' questions.  This can feel slightly bizarre - your manager is sitting on the panel, and surely s/he knows what you've been up to?   Yes, s/he does, but many organisations regard it as best practice to base their decision purely on evidence that emerges during the interview, not on any prior knowledge of the candidate or their reputation.  Don't put your manager in the awkward position where s/he has to say to the other panel members: "I know that this person can do a good job, even though she didn't give us the evidence during the interview.  Can't we just offer it to her anyway?"

2.  Blow that trumpet!
It's relatively easy to tell a stranger across an interview table how wonderful we are, and how we've been a key player in delivering some significant results over the past year.  In interviews most of us tend to present ourselves in the best possible light and put a positive spin on our performance.  But for some candidates the pendulum swings the other way when they are facing a panel that includes their manager: they start to feel like a fraud when they talk about their strengths and achievements.

Although your boss has a pretty good idea what your contribution has been to the team's successes, is aware of your weaknesses and knows how you react under pressure, don't let that prevent you from talking about your successes.  

3. Particular pitfalls

Pitfall 1: You want to draw on specific examples to illustrate your achievements and strengths but end up getting in a pickle over how much background information the panel need - each of the interviewers has a different level of knowledge about your job.

Pitfall 2: You inadvertently sound critical of your colleagues, or another department, when describing some of the obstacles that you've successfully overcome when taking a project forward.

These two potential pitfalls can make an internal interview trickier than one outside your own organisation.  So, when choosing examples of your work that you want to talk about during the interview, write out your account, play around with it until you're happy, then rehearse what you want to say. 

4.  Wow them with a new idea
Enthusiasm, creativity and a willingness to think beyond the job description are often what separate the successful candidate from the, sometimes more experienced, runner-up.  I remember one NHS medical director recounting how he had appointed a newly qualified consultant in preference to other, better qualified, candidates because she was full of ideas and passion for the role. So, have a think about a new suggestion or idea that you could introduce during the interview - it will show that you still have enthusiasm for the job and that you're not jaded.
5.  Tell them what was on your mind
One way in which you can bring something fresh to an internal interview is to describe the 'head work' that you you undertook when you were tackling a particular task or leading on a project.  By that I mean, talk through the factors that you were mentally taking into account, and the rationale for the judgements you made.  It's akin to good exam technique when you 'show your working' - you get credit for your insights and the quality of your thinking.

6. Have a look at your organisation's strategic documents 
At least one public sector body is currently asking internal candidates - at all levels - about their ideas on how the organisation's business objectives can be achieved.  So take the time to read:
  • the organisation's business plan
  • your department's service development plan
Look for ways of demonstrating during the interview that you've made the link between your role and the organisation's strategic objectives.

7.  Show some respect
Finally, if you are applying for your own job, and you are the only candidate, it can be tempting to regard the outcome as a formality.  My advice is to treat the interview as you would any other: for example, wear your normal interview suit and avoid being over-familiar or flippant.  In short, show that you are taking the process seriously.

For more tips on how to perform confidently and effectively in interviews, see my book Succeeding At Interviews, available from Amazon.co.uk. 

Coming Soon ......
- How to Refresh a Tired CV