Internal job interviews - what to do when you don't get hired

where next

This post has been inspired by a client I have been working with lately. She recently interviewed for a promotion at work - a position she had been ‘acting up’ into for the last year. She knew she could do the job as she had been getting great feedback. She has a good relationship with the people she works with, including her line manager. And she worked really hard on all aspects of her job application including the interview and presentation. Given all this, we both thought she stood a realistic chance of being offered the position. But, unfortunately, she wasn’t.

It is always hard when you are unsuccessful at interview, particularly if you have put so much into your application efforts. But it can feel 10 times harder when it is an internal role, and you have to go back to working the next day with everyone knowing that your attempts were unsuccessful, and self-doubt perhaps starting to creep in about your value within the company.

It is very common for people in this situation to start considering resignation or, at least, making plans for a move elsewhere. But, I will argue genuinely, that being in this situation does not mean that you don’t have a bright future with your current employer. Nor does it mean that your efforts and abilities aren’t valued. And how you choose to react in this situation could well make a difference as to how your future with the company pans out. This is all about turning a disappointing situation into a positive one.

If you find yourself in this unenviable situation try and follow these 3 pieces of advice:

  1. Don’t take it personally.

    Easier said than done, I know. It is understandable that you are upset and may even be questioning your abilities. But the recruitment decision may not be so much a reflection on you, as a reflection on the successful applicant. It’s tough times out there and the job market is extremely competitive. Coupled with this is that fact that many companies are currently under huge amounts of pressure to work with less resources and the old assumption that being an internal applicant puts you at an advantage does not necessarily hold true. It is quite possible that your skills and abilities within the organisation really are valued but just that someone else came along with more experience and, perhaps, a new way of looking at things that was attractive to your current company. Alternatively, it may just be that they do not feel you are ready for promotion yet but that is very different from saying you won’t ever be ready.

  2. Seek decent feedback.

    This is a big bug bear to me. So often I hear stories of employers putting candidates through lengthy recruitment processes and not offering them any meaningful feedback following a job rejection. And I know it can happen with internal applicants as well. Arguably, as an internal candidate you have more need than ever of thorough feedback. You need to be able to understand what it was that caused you not to be offered the job and how you can continue to progress within the company so as to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.

  3. Arrange a meeting with your line-manager.

    A good employer will implement this as a ‘standard’ following an unsuccessful internal job application. But if they don’t, then you need to be proactive about it. Regardless of who has initiated the meeting, you need to go into it well prepared so that you can get the best out of it. Go a step further than just seeking feedback. Ask you manager to identify and put steps in place to ensure you are working towards the skills that may have been identified as ‘weak’ during the interview process. Use this as an opportunity to secure the training and development that you deserve. Ask about mentoring opportunities within the company so that they know you are serious about your future there and so that you have another tool to use to help you work towards future job application success.