Internal Hiring: How to Be the Right Candidate

You’ve been with your company for a little while now. You’re great at your job but you’re thinking you could use a little more challenge. Or change. Or both. You’ve invested some time with this company and you like the culture, the business, and the benefit plan. But there’s still something missing. You don’t want to leave and start again at a new company, so what are your options?

You can settle and just keep doing the same job, hoping for opportunities to pop up to stimulate you or your career, or you can be proactive, and look at other departments and try working with them. This gets you the benefit of starting a new job with the security of staying within a company that you already love. No, this isn’t the same as dating your ex-wife’s sister just because you love the family – that’s a different article altogether. This is more like finding the right fit for you and your development. Maybe a better (or worse) analogy is thinking that any piece of the jigsaw can be made to fit – but it might not look quite right, and it’s usually not that good for the puzzle, especially the puzzle piece. If you know you aren’t fitting in quite right, it’s your responsibility to find where you belong.

So what can you do to find the right fit?

Look Around

Take a look at your company. There are many different departments with different goals and daily responsibilities. If you were to switch to one of these teams, what part of the job would you like the best? Make a list of the pros and cons of each position, and see if one piques your curiosity more than the others. Talk to the people in that department. Find out what they like about their role, their boss, their responsibilities. Ask them what they love about it and what they think the most frustrating aspects of it are.

Don’t Wait For It to Be Official

If you are interested in this new role don’t wait for an official posting to go up. Find out who will be making the hiring decision and book time to talk to them. Learn when they are going to be hiring and what they want to see in future team members. Don’t let the first time they meet you be the courtesy interview that is extended to internal applicants. If you show interest in them before they have a need it won’t look like you are brown nosing insincere. Talk to the hiring manager and learn about the skills and qualifications required for this role, and then go and get them. You might need to take a few night classes or go back and get your degree. You will need to decide if it’s worth it.

Show Interest

Now that you have identified the team you want to be on, demonstrate that you are interested by trying to be a part of the team. Volunteer to job–shadow members of the team. Notice I said volunteer. You don’t want to look like you are trying to get out of your current job; you want to look like you are generally interested in this new department. Assisting the team with their existing projects can demonstrate that you are a team player, it can showcase how your current skills are a good fit for this team, and it can give you an opportunity to find out if you really like working on this team. The grass usually looks greener, but sometimes it’s just a different shade of the same grass.

Prove It

Now that you’ve shown that you are interested in working on the new team, you need to show them that you are outstanding in your current role. If you shirk your current responsibilities in favor of doing the work on the new team, you are showing the decision makers that you only do well on jobs you like doing. This isn’t a great plan. Show them that you are able to do your current job to an outstanding level, and they will see the benefit of having you on their team.

Try, Try Again

Ok, you’re on the radar. They know who you are, they know you’re interested in the position, and now they are hiring. You might not get the job. If you are lacking the official skills on your resume the role might go to an outside candidate that does have them, or to someone with more experience. If you do get it – fantastic! If you don’t, go and talk to the hiring manager to discuss what you need to do for next time. Show them that you are in it for the long haul, and you know that there will be future positions on this team. Listen to what they tell you and then take action on it. Demonstrating that you are able to accept criticism and do something with it to improve yourself speaks volumes to your future new boss. Who doesn’t want an employee that listens to your suggestions and then finds a way to git ‘r done?

Take a Step Backwards to Take a Step Forward

There’s a possibility that you will need to take a step down, either in position or in pay grade – or both, in order to secure your new position. This is often the case in situations where your technical skill has not been demonstrated enough for the new position, but they are willing to take a chance on you. If you are able to, take this opportunity. If you’ve shown this much interest and dedication to get this role you likely won’t stay at the junior level for long. Only you can decide if this is an acceptable option for you.

Make a Deposit Into the Bank of Karma

Yay! You are the successful candidate. You’ve signed the offer letter, and you are on your way to becoming the superstar on the new team. Don’t forget your old team. You never know when you might need their help or support, so it’s best not to burn any bridges. Help train your replacement, speak highly of your old boss and team, and remember to touch base every once in a while. There’s a good chance that you aren’t the only one that wanted to move within the company, so watch for those that could use your advice and assistance.

The nice thing about this structure is there really isn’t a down side. Best case, you get to work on a new team in a new role, in a company that you enjoy being a part of. Worst case, you learn more about the other departments in your company and who the decision makers are within them. In both cases, this is valuable info that you can use as you advance within the company.

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After spending way too long in the corporate world, Jason has switched to full-time freelancing. With any luck you enjoyed this article - and if you need one of your very own, give him a shout! @brandscaping on the twitter, or at


  1. @lacouvee on the 4th December

    As a former employment counsellor and human resources assistant I would like to note that you have covered many good points for internal promotion.

    Great article!

  2. Joe on the 4th December

    Another factor to consider:
    Will your current boss let you transfer to another position in the company?

    Sometimes, if you are a good employee, your current boss would rather keep you instead of letting to go to another department. So convincing him/her is also part of the deal. One possible resolution is is spin the move as a win-win-win for everyone involved. Another thing is to make sure that there are people in your current group skilled to do your current job so your leaving is not a hardship on the team.

  3. jason on the 4th December

    Good points Joe – and good on ya to show a no-lose option.
    That kind of thinking is what leaders are made of.

  4. Bryan Grajales on the 4th December

    I love this article, it gives em so many ideas that will help me in my carrer + Future.

    I can’t wait to get my first to see how it feels and how everything works in the world when you leave school to become “independent”.

    I knw that all this articles will help me and I’m so glad for that. :]

  5. Avery on the 8th December

    If you don’t get the job, would this damage your career path within the department you’re already in? You’ve already shown signs of not wanting to stick around so any further investment in promoting you instead of someone more likely to appreciate it just seems like a waste to me.

    One thing I’ll always remember from college is the lesson that once you’ve decided your unhappy at your job and decide to leave there is very little to change that. Unless it directly addresses the original problem then a boost in pay or promotion isn’t going to satisfy you for long.

    The article is so positive and reassuring in the results with no hint of possible negative feedback from your manager at all. Does it normally go so easily? Nice seeing comments from former a HR Assistant in this section as well.

  6. jason on the 9th December

    Hey Avery – i see your point, but I think it’s all in the way you go about it.

    If you don’t get the job, but you have demonstrated that you are capable of more, I don’t see how this could hurt you in your current department.
    If you are looking for a new challenge, looking within the company that you already like is a more positive method than looking elsewhere.

    I understand your point that no amount of pay or promotion is going to satisfy you for long – if you don’t like the company that you are in. if you do like it, and you want to be a long term member of the team, then exploring the options available within the company is a good strategy – IMHO

    Promoting someone that is more appreciative instead of the more qualified candidate is old school thinking – companies today can’t survive with that mentality. You can’t be worried about burning bridges by doing a good job.


  7. Jason Schwartz on the 10th December

    I totally agree with the “show interest & prove it” points. If you want to grow or expand your role, you need to go for. Don’t wait for someone in the company to bring it up.

    Internal moves usually take a while to get momentum, so if you feel like you want to grow, start “proving it” by doing it today. (Makes it easier when the opportunity arises.)

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