Competing for an executive job with external candidates? Discover why YOU might be at a disadvantage.
It’s well known that while many large organizations might favor hiring from within, most SMEs insist on interviewing both internal and external candidates for new job openings. In fact, many managers see the benefits of hiring from the outside.
So beware. If you’re the internal candidate, given the possibility of promoting from outside, your promotion is far from in the bag.
Face it. If you were competing for a job in a new company as you paved your corporate development career path, you’d be doing your homework day and night. You’d be scouring the company website, talking to people who know the position, and of course, brushing up on your interviewing skills.
The sad fact is that most internal candidates don’t do half of what external candidates do to prepare for their interview - including preparing a resume for internal promotion - simply because they don’t realize that they’re much worse off than being an external one. Surprising? I’ll explain.
Here are the two main reasons why internal candidates lose out to external ones:
1. They fall asleep at the switch.
As an internal candidate, delete...I repeat...delete the thought that somehow you’re preferred over the external candidate. This is valid even when you’ve been explicitly told that you’re #1 on the shortlist. I can’t count the number of times internal candidates have told me they were a shoe-in, but their organization “had” to interview an external candidate for the sake of good order. Yes, that might’ve been the original intention, but what followed always seemed to surprise the internal candidates. You see, the minute you think you’ve got the cat in the bag, you automatically fall asleep at the switch. You continue to concentrate on your present job and forget how important it is to prepare properly for the interview (see my post about preparation for an internal interview ). The sad result is that you end up performing poorly during the interview. And guess what: the external candidate, who prepared diligently, gets the job.
2. The grass is always greener.
Sure, you’ve made some valuable contributions to your organization. Otherwise, why would you be a candidate for an internal promotion, right? So, as an internal candidate, you’ve got the home court advantage, right again?
Well, not completely. As a home team player, your organization certainly knows your strengths...but also your weaknesses. While I’m sure your strengths outweigh your weaknesses, you’ve got one problem when it comes to your competition: no one knows their weaknesses.
After all, who’s going to put their weak points on their resume or provide references who tell it like it is? So here you’re stuck with the very unfair situation in which your company knows all about you - “the good, the bad, and the ugly”...but just the “good” points of your competitor.
To add insult to injury, sprinkle in a generous portion of “the grass is always greener” into the mix. In other words, things we don't have always seem to be more appealing than things we do have. (Remember how your friend’s family always seemed a lot cooler than yours?) So then your competition becomes these shiny, new external candidates who seem to be better just because they’re not part of your company.
My #1 piece of advice: it is imperative you approach an internal promotion as if being an internal candidate were a disadvantage instead of an advantage.
But the story isn’t all doom and gloom. As an internal candidate, you have access to a wealth of “informal” information that an external candidate could only dream of. This information is the key to your overcoming the disadvantage-point you might find yourself in. For example, you already have a network of people who are either decisionmakers themselves or are close enough to them so that you can gather important information about the promotion process. Through this unofficial grapevine, you can find out a lot about the most important qualities needed for the job as well as other skills that might be crucial, yet not listed in the job announcement. For more on this, read my post, 4 things you must know before pursuing your next opportunity.
Finally, complacency has no place when competing with an external candidate for an internal promotion. Don’t be tricked into thinking that the promotion is yours for the taking. Instead, getting the promotion requires that you fight just as hard as an external candidate will, plus strategically utilize information channels within your organization.
And always remember:
Great managers are made. Not born.
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