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Why your company doesn’t hire internal job candidates and goes with the external candidates

internal job candidate

Internal job candidates shouldn’t assume it is a walk in the park

Internal job candidates

Internal job candidates woes are something I hear about on a regular basis.  Usually in a roundabout way:  Johnny Unhappy is the currently employed but wants to quit his current gig and find a new gig in greener pastures aka, a completely different company. 

My SOP is to shift into my counselor/therapy “listen and probe” mode which usually concludes with one of the following standard responses:

  • “If you are unhappy with your manager or a co-worker, quitting isn’t going to help because you will run into a manager or a co-worker at the next gig that will piss you off. We need to learn to overcome these obstacles because they are not company specific. “ I realize this sounds like blah, blah, blah HR mumbo-jumbo, but I would personally never quit a gig because I don’t like a co-worker or a manager.  These folks come and go and will probably change out as soon as you leave.       
  • If you like the company but feel like you are in a dead-end position, my advice is to first try to find a position in another department, within the company. It is easier to transfer within a company than it is to find a new position with a different company. Even if you start a new company, you need to re-establish your reputation with a new set of managers and co-workers, learn a new company culture and learn how to operate within new company politics. A lot of downside at the new company.    

At this point, most explain that it is impossible to transfer to their current company, they already tried this approach, there are no openings and the classic:

My company doesn’t hire internal job candidates!

A classic response and one I hear on a very regular basis. They do hire internal job candidates, they just aren’t hiring you.  I get it, your HR department must be filled with little dicks and hussies that don’t recognize your talents. 

I want to explain why I see so many internal job candidates blow it.  I want to open the kimono and provide insight on those little bitches in the HR department. I am a Subject Matter Expert because HRNasty happens to be one of those little bitches standing in front of the door of the nightclub telling you “you aren’t on the list”. 

When I interview an internal job candidate, the number one mistake that I see is that the internal job candidate doesn’t treat the interview seriously enough. Because they have been with the company for a number of years, there is a certain level of comfort and confidence when roaming the building or meeting new co-workers.  It is a subconscious thing.   Internal job candidates rarely treat interviews half as seriously as external job candidates. Just because you worked with Acme Publishing for the last 5 years, doesn’t mean you will be fast-tracked into a new position. The interview expectations are HIGHER for an internal job candidate than they are for an external candidate.  Why shouldn’t they be? The internal job candidate has 10 ways to Sunday to present better and should know more than any external candidate. Unfortunately, based on the interviews I have conducted, 90% of the time, the EXTERNAL candidates treat the interview much more seriously than their internal job candidate counterparts. Ninety percent of the time, the internal job candidate presents 10 times worse than the external candidate. 

I expect so much more during an internal job interview.  Internal job candidates need to perform not just as well or better than the external candidate but MUCH better than the external competition.

Performing only a little better isn’t good enough.  This isn’t baseball where the “tie goes to the runner”.  The expectation is that the internal job candidate with a few years of tenure should know more about the department, culture, company, and challenges of the position.

Here is what an external candidate that gets hired will do when applying to Acme Publishing:

  • From the outside looking in, external candidates will network their way into an introduction and in some cases an informational interview with the hiring manager or someone in the department. 
  • External candidates will research the products and services of the department and the company. Externals will have tried, tasted, smelled and signed up for the product or service.
  • External candidates will dress appropriately for the interview and show the hiring manager some respect. This translates to dress code that is one level ABOVE the hiring company’s dress code. If the dress code is jeans and a polo shirt, the external candidate will wear khaki’s and a button down. If the dress code is a blazer, a pair of slacks with rubber soled dress shoes, the external candidate will probably wear a suit minus the tie with leather-soled shoes. Are you feeling me here????
  • External candidates will come in with a mentality that they are one out of 50 candidates interested in the position and their effort will reflect their long-shot odds. Yes, they are also concerned about internal candidates that work in the department and looking for a promotion!
  • External candidates treat this interview as if it is the only interview they will have in the next 3 months or as a position they wanted as badly as you wanted your current position. This is the position you first applied to Acme Publishing.  

The below is what I see from an internal job candidate

  • The internal job candidate may or may not know anyone in the hiring department, but they probably won’t leverage their network of co-workers to land an introduction to the hiring manager. Seven times out of 10, the first meeting the hiring manager will have with the internal candidate will be the actual interview. One word – “Embarrassing”. 
  • The internal job candidate will bring to the interview the same amount of knowledge that they left their prior department with. The internal candidate may know company history, and a few products or services, but it won’t be because of new research. This knowledge will be the result of existing domain knowledge. The internal candidate will assume their current knowledge is enough and no additional research is required. Pathetic.
  • The internal job candidate will dress the same way they did every day of the week. They won’t go out and buy a new shirt or a new tie. They won’t shine their shoes. This is just another Monday in the office for the internal candidate who may or may not have thought about laundry over the weekend. I’m not kidding.
  • Internal job candidates will come in with the mentality that because they have been working for Acme Publishing in the accounting department for the last 5 years, this new position in marketing is theirs. They are not worried about the 50 external candidates, they are ONLY wondering if there are any other internal candidates. If the word is that there is another internal candidate, the only fear is that the internal candidate competition has more tenure.  Internal candidates feel that tenure is the deciding factor.   
  • The internal job candidate will treat this interview with the attitude that if they don’t get the job, they still have their existing position with Acme Publishing so there often times is a “nothing to lose” attitude.

Whose the little bitch now? Are you feeling me?

As an internal job candidate, you have the home court advantage. You don’t just have the home court advantage; you have a full stadium of 100 to 1,000 fans at your beck and call. In some cases, the company may be 10,000 employees strong and with the advent of LinkedIn, company intranet pages, and in some cases access to photo profiles of employees.  There is no excuse that your first meeting with the hiring manager should be the actual interview. I know I am shameless. Not leveraging the home court advantage is shameful. 

A few pointers to the internal transfer:

  • Give the right reasons for requesting a transfer. Appropriate answers do not include “I don’t like my manager” or “I don’t like Johnny co-worker”. Showing genuine interest in what the new department is trying to do is paramount. For more information on this topic; type “passion in the workplace” in the search box to the left.
  • Show that the new position is a career path that will not only help you the candidate but more importantly how you will add value to the hiring manager and the department. As a candidate, you need to prove you will add value.  This isn’t about you. 
  • Expect to wait for an opening. Just because you are ready for a transfer right NOW, doesn’t mean the hiring department is ready for you. Be prepared to wait for the opportunity and this could take months. 

Internal transfers should be the easiest way to land a new job.  Too many internal job candidates treat these interviews as if they are owed, and not earned.  If you don’t believe me, think of how much an external candidate would love to be an internal job candidate so they could leverage all that domain knowledge. 

See you at the after party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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