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The Dreaded Internal Candidate

Posted October 25, 2009 4:45 PM by KER_Recruiter

Have you ever interviewed for a job that you really wanted where things seemed to be going so well into the final interview, and you had the intuition (or were led to believe) that you'd receive an offer of employment? First one week went by, then two, and then three. You wondered why the process was taking so long and felt more than a little confused.

Finally, you put a call into the company's human resources (HR) department. That's when you learned that another candidate had been selected for the position. You also heard through the grapevine that the successful applicant was the dreaded internal candidate. Of course, you had no idea that the company was looking internally. But that was because you forgot to ask.

From my experience as a recruiter, the internal candidate always receives the job unless the employer has recognized a gap in talent, or the person in line for the job is unprepared for the responsibility. There can be many factors that influence an employer to select an internal applicant or not, but here are a few tips to help prepare you.

Tip 1: The Phone Call

At then end of your first initial phone screen with HR or the hiring manager, simply ask the following: "Do you currently have any internal candidates who are interviewing for this position?" If the answer is "yes", then follow-up by asking why the employer is also considering looking outside the company for talent.

Tip 2: The On-Site Interview

If you get an on-site interview and think that things went extremely well, then save this for the very end of that meeting. Begin by explaining that "I understand that there are internal candidates for this position, too." Then ask, "At this time, are you more likely to hire internally or externally for the position?" The answer you receive should give you a good idea about whether the employer will hire someone (hopefully you) from outside the company.

Tip 3: Remember These Facts

Generally, companies prefer to hire from within because doing so builds employee loyalty and helps to develop talent. Also, the cost of hiring someone from the outside (depending on the position) can be staggering.

Editor's Note: Jake Briggs (KER_Recruiter) is a Technical Direct Hire Recruiter for Kelly Engineering Resources in Amherst, New York. His territory includes the northeastern U.S. as well as the mid-Atlantic states.

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#1

Re: The Dreaded Internal Candidate

10/25/2009 11:15 PM

The company I work for usually posts internally prior to posting a job externally by a few weeks. I believe that has mostly to do with cost:

  1. Cost of advertising for the position
  2. Cost and risk of hiring
  3. If external applicant is from a distant city the cost of the flying them in and putting them up in a hotel for a night.
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#17
In reply to #1

Re: The Dreaded Internal Candidate

10/27/2009 6:01 PM

that's the way we do it too, jobs post internally for two weeks, then if no acceptable candidates apply the job will be posted externally...

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#2

Re: The Dreaded Internal Candidate

10/26/2009 12:05 AM

Many times posting externally is a requirement, to give the illusion of actually wanting to hire the most qualified candidate

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Anonymous Poster
#3

Re: The Dreaded Internal Candidate

10/26/2009 12:51 AM

"Charlie's got the job, but HR says we need to have some outside interviews to make it look competitive."

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#4

Re: The Dreaded Internal Candidate

10/26/2009 3:01 AM

As a former Dept of Defense Officer I would have to agree that even within the governmental agencies & departments, internal candidates would receive the "first look". Although our resume system was supposed to make the "bias" harder to impliment, better qualified candidates sometimes never made the list.

The government spent a lot of money to get a resume program that was designed with some 30 trigger words to help the HRMO tag the most qualified applicant. However, members of the various CPOCs, familiar with the system, found out that the most trigger words that their resumes set off amounted to about 5 to 10. So one can imagine what a normal candidate would set off....

At any rate, even if the candidate made it to the list, after interviewing them you could still turn them down for an internal candidate, by stating various reasons... attitude or any other percieved negative impression obtained during the interview.

So I concur with the assessment that if you ask if there are any internal candidates being considered... more likely then not, the decision was made when the job description was being written. And I know of job descriptions being designed to the internal candidates resume... a custom fit so to speak.

And in the governments case, the interviews are conducted to give the Public & Congress the appearance of a fair and competitive job offer is being done, when in fact it is not. CPOCs know this... but follow the various Commanders wishes.

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#5

Re: The Dreaded Internal Candidate

10/26/2009 7:40 AM

Sure, the world is an unfair place. Being aware of this sort of effect certainly avoids false expectations.

As an employer I also need to fill positions where the job-holder needs to be pretty savvy. If the candidate doesn't ask about internal candidates she/he is clearly not qualified for the job (regardless of whether I actually have a suitable internal candidate* and however well he/she performed in the remainder of the selection process). Note that this is not the only "required" question for such posts.

*In my business I wouldn't waste money with pointless interviewing - but other similar businesses do (more fool they), so I wouldn't expect a candidate to know this (and if they did I would expect them either to ask or declare they didn't need to ask - to show that they understand about required questions).

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#7
In reply to #5

The Dreaded Guest Drive by

10/26/2009 8:20 AM

Sure, you can justify any byzantine process.

When the day is done, this is yet another way for HR to suck up resources & justify their existence

How many interviews have all of us been to where HR is the gatekeeper, but hasn't the slightest clue as to the actual requirements of the position & isn't able to answer even the most basic questions about the position or company?

I agree it is of utmost importance to assess the candidate's tolerance for bullshit.

Go ahead waste my time & money so you can make your numbers.

After all isn't being able to blow smoke up some bureaucrats butt much more important than actually adding value to a company....

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#6

Re: The Dreaded Internal Candidate

10/26/2009 8:18 AM

I have worked at a high volume manufacturing facility where they never hired from within. Over a 13 year period, they constantly replaced managers (most of the managers last approx. 1 year). Some of the engineers and supervisors had been there since the facility opened. Although the engineers and supervisors applied for the positions, it was always determined that outsiders were better qualified to do the job. Over time, several of the engineers eventually left for management positions at other companies.

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#8

Re: The Dreaded Internal Candidate

10/26/2009 9:03 AM

Just add a comment into this:

There are some employers that fake a full time position when actually it is slavery hours on a salary until the project is finished. This kind of outfit has a few managing positions that push out the projects. This is the group that rents new horses every time they have a new load to tote. When or if the drivers (managers or VP's) get more expensive than each other they replace them too. No one sticks around to make top pay except the President's office. HR departments are horse traders. There are no ethics when it comes to employees there is only how much do they cost and could they cost less. Every penny scraped away from the employees is profit for the owners. As an employee you must be profitable for the owners and if you become irreplaceable or hard to replace they will fire you because your job must be readily fillable by someone else.

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#9

Re: The Dreaded Internal Candidate

10/26/2009 9:44 AM

Tip 4) If the company reveals that their was an internal candidate upfront, and then still approaches you through a recruiter, you can bet your a** that there are a boat load of angry alligators and the internal candidate lacks the testosterone to kill the right alligators, one of which is likely him or his buddy.

It goes without saying that they look internally first, its a mattter of cost.

WHen you get through the process to the point described, you better have your alligator huntin boots and knife, cuz they didn't invite you to a picnic in the park...

Failure to exhibit critical thinking insight in the interview that you can read the tea leaves and tease out the companies real problems are another reason why external candidates don't make the cut. They fail to exhibit a valid read of what they are being hired for... It ain't a fashion show. Get down to the real issues and you'll get the job, or they'll give you the clues that they are too afraid of the draconian alligator rasslin and you'll know right away.

Interview effectively, not like its a tea party with your little girls.

milo

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#10

Re: The Dreaded Internal Candidate

10/26/2009 9:57 AM

I was in the same boat as KY Engineer, more than once, and I think it is atrocious. The previous bloggers made it sound as though it was wrong to promote from within, but it seems to me that you are doing your current employees a dis-service by passing over them just because you feel that they are "just the CAD Guy", "just the designer", "just the engineer", etc. If you are interviewing for a job, you need to avoid assuming you are the #1 candidate, and put your effort into showing your best side, selling yourself to the manager, thinking about why you are on the job market currently, as opposed to taking a position offer for granted.

Interviewing is like hunting - if it was a sure thing they would call it your first day of work - not interviewing.

What did I do when faced with the above dilemma of not getting promoted from within? The first time was when I was drafting for $9/hr and was told that I was not qualified to be a Mechanical Designer at $10/hr - even though I was not only doing the work, but I was training the designers off the street how to do things the owner's way. To fix that problem, I took a job with another firm for $12.50 as a Designer (yes, I probably would have stayed for the $10). Then, when it was obvious that I was against the glass ceiling at the new firm (after one promotion), I took a Project Engineer's job at a different firm. When that place became obvious as a dead-end, guess what I did... I opened my own business, became the boss, and when necessary, I lean toward hiring and promoting from within whenever possible.

Do I interview outsiders? Absolutely - when I don't think we have the talent within, or more likely when that talent within is not yet ready for the advancement. If I call you in for an interview, I am seriously considering you for the position, and I feel that on paper you appear to have the skills I require. However, are you arrogant, a blow-hard, a plain liar, not the person I want in the field as a spokesman for my company, or socially dysfunctional? I don't know that until you are in my office across the desk from me. That is what the interview is for. If you are interviewed, and you don't get the job, then you likely were not the best candidate for the position - whether or not there was someone running for the position from within. Furthermore, if you are interviewed for a position from within and you don't get it - start looking for another job, buddy, because you are doing something VERY wrong in the eyes of management, unless they explicitly tell you otherwise, and have a good excuse for the outside hire.

And of course someone from within should have a better chance to get the job. The boss already knows if they fit in with the company culture, what their attendance record is, and who they can get along with to get the job done. Of course, if politics enter the workplace due to more than one person wanting the position, and people can't get along after the promotion, then management needs to be swift and stern toward the offenders - and just maybe there will be another opening within the organization for that last very close interviewee.

Remember - never burn those bridges - even if you get that "Dear John" letter or phone conversation from a prospective employer.

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#11

Re: The Dreaded Internal Candidate

10/26/2009 10:15 AM

Companies should always promote from within if possible in my opinion. That is how my last company lost me by wanting to hire someone local in California rather than pay for a transfer. Not promoting from within is a great way to lose your talented and ambitious employees. In my case (and I bet others), I don't want to change jobs, it is difficult and costly for me. I would rather stay with the current company but if there is no growth there...

I also agree that the person they are looking for is already chosen before the posting is written and the interview process is really more window-dressing than anything else. Sometimes this is not the case, but I've found that is because the person they thought would take the job is not available for some unknown reason. After this period, they usually will start to look outside.

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#12

Re: The Dreaded Internal Candidate

10/26/2009 10:19 AM

FYI - I wrote this blog in view of a job seeker looking from the outside wanting a way into the company. Obviously it is different if your the internal candidate (Promotions are GREAT!)

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#13
In reply to #12

Re: The Dreaded Internal Candidate

10/26/2009 11:53 AM

Gee Jake can't figure out how to log in?

Recruiters right up there with hr

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#14
In reply to #13

Re: The Dreaded Internal Candidate

10/26/2009 12:05 PM

Usually when I go to CR4, it logs me in automatically. Unfortunately it did not when I wrote that reply!

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#15

Re: The Dreaded Internal Candidate

10/26/2009 1:59 PM

I've been down that road before, I was a "contractor" Tool Designer and a opening came available for direct position, Only later did I find out that the position was going to a internal candidate anyway, they are just required to post the job. Talk about wasting time & money, Turns out the company was sold ant closed most of the plant within a year

Jim C

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#16

Re: The Dreaded Internal Candidate

10/27/2009 4:00 PM

I think the problem would at least be halved if the firm hiring had the consideration to contact the unsuccessful job candidates as soon as the position was filled. To leave people stewing over something as important as a job is extremely bad manners, to say the least.

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#18

Re: The Dreaded Internal Candidate

10/28/2009 12:50 PM

I was once in a position where I was running a crew of production test techs. A job came open in engineering which I wanted. The director of engineering wanted me... but the powers that be did not want me to leave the test group. I announced that I was taking a position with a competitor, and things changed very fast. I got the engineering position, and the outside hire they got found himself transferred to my old position.

The director of engineering and I worked well together for a good 10 years after that, with various companies. I eventually found I needed to leave Silicon Valley though, and we parted as good friends.

Bill

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#19
In reply to #18

Re: The Dreaded Internal Candidate

10/28/2009 1:12 PM

Well played!

milo

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