Nothing is more discouraging/humiliating/aggravating than applying for a job you really want and finding out later –and you will – it went to an internal candidate. You were part of a “good faith search” never a serious candidate. Companies continue to interview outsiders when the job is wired for an insider. What should your strategy be?
1. Go to the interview upbeat. Every interview, however perfunctory, is a learning opportunity if you make it so. If the interviewer is in neutral – signaled by boredom and drooping eyelids — take over the interview! Don’t be used, use! Find out as much as you can about what success looks like in that organization. You’re already there, get all the information you can. For example, hone in on why they want to promote from within? What is special/formidable about the organization’s culture.
2. Sell yourself as if you were the top candidate. You want/need the practice. Knowing you’re selling against an internal candidate gives you a chance to position your experience as broader, deeper, more interesting. You don’t know that the interviewer is sold on the internal candidate. He or she may be following orders. Light a fire under the interviewer! This can’t be the organization’s only opening you might be qualified for unless you’re applying for CEO. Impress the interviewer regardless.
3. Keep the interview going even when you know the interviewer wants to get rid of you. Ask questions. Make comments. Talk about products and services the company makes that you like and use. Waste as much of his or her time as you like. As long as you’re learning it’s fine. The minute you’re not, cut your losses.
4. Write a hand-written note to the interviewer pointing out how interested you are in the job and how impressed you were with the organization (sic). Consider that at least one-third of internal candidates who are promoted fail or leave. If you played it by the book who’s to say you may not get another chance at the job? In the meantime you’ve established a beachhead on the interviewer’s frontal lobe.
Why not just buckle when you sense the job is wired and you won’t be considered? Pure cussedness. If you think you’re a victim you are. I advocate a show of courage and class when it’s least expected. You are not looking for ten jobs, just one this time. If the interviewer remembers you it may result in leads elsewhere.
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