Acing the Internal Interview

There’s a difference between interviewing at a new location with people who don’t know you or have not worked with you and interviewing in front of your coworkers and people you’ve been working with for years. They know your faults, your strengths and weaknesses. What works in one place doesn’t in the other and strategies you’ve used before can be detrimental. Internal interviews occur when you are interviewing for a promotion or new position at your current job.

Many companies prefer to promote from within, either for the prestige of claiming to do so or because internal candidates are a known quantity and quality. When applying and interviewing for an internal promotion you need to use different strategies to be successful. Whether you are interviewing for a promotion or to transfer departments you can use these strategies and tips to give yourself the advantage.

Episode Breakdown

09:35 Reasons For Internal Interviews

Interviewing for a promotion is the most obvious reason to go through the internal interview process. Money is not likely the primary motivator here. You’re likely to get more of a raise leaving. Many larger companies will have rules and regulations about how much they can offer an internal candidate. You may want to stay where you are because of your coworkers or the environment. It may also be that you want to get the title to make getting an external interview easier.

“Is it worth our money to buy you out of the contract?”

The next most common are transitions from contractor or intern to permanent employee. A lot of times companies will vet potential employees by bringing them on as a contractor. This reduces the HR costs because if they are not a good fit then they can be done after their contract. Contract-to-Hire is a type of consultant that has the option to come on permanent after their contract ends. Another way to get fresh new developers is through an internship. An intern may be offered a junior position if one is available. They will likely know some of their interviewers.

Less common are lateral transitions. This could be to work in or learn a different area of the company. It could also be to gain experience in a new, older, or different technology. You also may want to get away from a situation or person but not leave the company.

“Most of the time it’s people leaving development.”

Least common would be to purposefully take a demotion. You’re probably asking why anyone would ever want to do that. It could be for many reasons including family obligations, going back to school, or to gain more free time.

19:10 Types of Internal Interviews

An internal interview may be as simple as having a conversation with your manager. The manager already knows most of what an interview will provide. Much of the time it’s just a formality. Though they may be concerned about taking a risk on promoting you. Most likely happens if there are no other candidates for the position. Could be they created it for a person. They may have a position open up with a specific person in mind to fill it.

“Some people get promoted and they just fall apart.”

Group interviews are popular especially when interviewing internal applicants. These interviews will take place in a room with several interviewers. Usually the team will consist of people you have and have not worked with directly. They may be from different areas such as QA, dev teams, BAs. The team will interview several candidates which may be internal or external. The format of the group interview is most like what you’ll see as an external candidate.

“For some higher positions you may be interviewing directly with CEO.”

Multi-round interviews are more common at larger organizations. The first round is generally a weed out round to rule out unqualified candidates. It will likely be a survey or coding challenge. External candidates may have a phone interview at this level. This round is usually handled by HR or recruiting agencies if external. The next round or two will be in person. You’ll be interviewing with a group or an individual. This is where they will assess if you are ready for the promotion. Places that like to promote internally will almost always give internal candidates an in person interview. The final round will likely be with management. The higher the promotion or job you are interviewing for the higher the level of management. They will likely be looking for how you relate to the team, especially if this is a leadership position.

24:45 Differences Between Internal and External

When interviewing at a new location (external) you are an unknown. You may be bringing in a skill set they are looking for or need on the team. They will likely test your abilities via whiteboard and/or technical questions. The interview will also assess how well you will work with the team.

“Most people are really really bad at assessing somebody.”

When interviewing for a promotion or internal position the interviewers may already know you. You may be interviewing with current or previous coworkers. Your skills and abilities are a known quantity. They will be familiar with many of your strengths and weaknesses in interpersonal relationships. You have already been working with the team. If you’ve had issues with anyone it is very likely that will be addressed.

“If your skill and abilities are a known quantity that changes the shape of the interview.”

You may be up against internal and external competitors for the same position. It can be difficult when you are competing against coworkers or friends for a promotion. External candidates are a clean slate to the interviewers. They can still make a good first impression. It also means interviewers have to do more to learn about them.

28:55 Preparing for the Internal Interview

Before applying check with your manager or supervisor. If they are planning to promote from within make sure they aren’t thinking of someone specific. Also, you’re boss is going to find out about your application. It would be best to come from you. Also you’re still going to be at that company and likely to interact with the person. This can be tricky if your goal is to escape said boss. You can also talk to HR about it. Many companies will have procedures for internal applicants. They may be able to help you find other open positions if at a larger company.

“It’s even better if the boss is like, yeah that seems like a really good deal.”

Learn about your reputation with your coworkers and others in the office. Even if you made a good first impression before it’s buried under your colleague and manager’s opinion about your work and personality in the office. A good first impression can go a long way. However your actions and attitude since then can help or hurt your ability to get a promotion.

“You have to find someone you can trust to give you a straight answer.”

Ask your manager or coworkers what they think of you. Start with someone you are on good terms with and trust. Ask not only what they think but what others think about you. If you do have a bad reputation start working to improve it immediately. Start by making amends with those who perceived you slighting them. If you have a misunderstanding with a coworker get together and settle it. Prepare to be asked hard questions about anything negative in your time there. This could be failures in your code or lack of ability in an area. It could also be about perceived flaws in your personality.

Find out the responsibilities of the role for which you are interviewing. Ask about the role when you are telling your manager you want to apply. Not only does this answer your question but it also makes you look good for taking it serious. You’ll also know more about if you want the different or extra responsibilities. Prepare to talk about how you will fulfill these new responsibilities. If there’s time before you interview take on some of the responsibilities of the role. This could be training those junior or giving lunch and learn presentations. Offer to lead meetings or do smaller administrative tasks associated with the position.

“The worst thing in the world is to get promoted and find out WOW this is awful.”

Update your resume for the new position. Do more than just adding new dates to the one you used to get hired in the first place. Just like you did the first time around, tailor this resume for the position. The position will have different responsibilities that take different skills to accomplish. Use your resume to show that you are capable of handling the new responsibilities. Include recent successes in your new resume.

37:35 Internal Interview Strategies

Treat it with just as much attention you would at a new company. Be professional in the way you present yourself via what you wear to the interview. Dress up for the interview like you would somewhere new. If you wear jeans and a polo every day try a button down and slacks or a suit. Bring copies of you resume and/or application. Come prepared with questions to ask about the position. Even if you have been working there for a while you will not know all that is involved with the new position. Just like with external interviews it makes you a stronger candidate.

“If you’re taking fashion advice from two dudes that look like us there’s a lot of places you can step up your game.”

Be ready to compete with both internal and external candidates. As an internal candidate you’ll likely know someone on the interview committee. If you are transferring to another department ask a co-worker in that department for feedback. Ask about how you can impress the interviewers. Also if you can get some help with practice interview questions.

Be friendly and respectful of other internal candidates. No matter who gets the position you will have to work with them. Don’t be a sore winner or loser. This may mean taking a walk or a day off.

“I’ve bitten some people’s heads off this week and I don’t normally do that at work.”

Address previous mistakes or poor attitudes directly. No one is perfect, we’ve all made mistakes. You may have crashed a server or lost your temper in a meeting. This will be on the interviewers minds. Explain what happened openly and honestly. Talk about what you did wrong and what you learned from it. This is going to be the most difficult part of the interview. Tell the interviewers what you will do differently if in a similar situation. The temporal proximity of the faux pas will affect the interviewers’ perception of you. The more recent the incident the more damage it can have and the more you’ll have to work to overcome it. Mistakes made further out will still need to be addressed. The interviewers may be concerned that your behavior is not isolated. A pattern of poor behavior will be much more difficult to overcome. A single or few incidents are easier to explain.

45:30 Strategies to Avoid

Unlike with interviewing somewhere new this is not the place for vainglory. The interviewers are likely to already know your best accomplishments. They may have worked on the team with you. Some of them may have been in your initial interview. Instead talk about how you can fill the role and responsibilities. Now is the time to talk about your lesser known accomplishments. Just because you work with someone doesn’t mean they know all of your accomplishments. The QA you work with may know about your great unit tests and logging but not how you introduced pair programming to the development team. Also discuss the ways you can improve the organization in the new role.

“You’ve got to be really careful straddling the line between bragging and informing.”

Avoid talking too much about the changes you want to implement. As a current employee you will know the areas that need improvement. It’s ok to talk about what you are currently doing to improve the codebase. You can talk about new things that your company isn’t currently doing such as pair programming or code reviews. You don’t want to step on toes of those before you when talking about improvements. Don’t talk about how bad a certain area you want to change may be. Instead focus on the positive of what you can bring. Some of the interviewers may have built something you want to change.

“This is not the time to talk about disrupting an industry.”

Trying to shortcut the application and interview process can lead to not getting an interview at all. The process is generally set out and clear. This is especially true of larger companies. If you don’t know the process you can find out when you talk to your manager about applying. Trying to bypass part of the process shows a lack of willingness to follow the rules.

Don’t trash talk other applicants, especially other internal applicants. You shouldn’t do this even when interviewing somewhere new. It makes you look petty, even if you are correct. Trashing your coworkers can and will get around. Nobody wants to work with someone that will stab them in the back.

50:45 Post Internal Interview

Just like an external interview send a thank you to your interviewers. This is more than just polite, it shows you are considerate. It doesn’t have to be a written note, it can be as simple as an email.

Your negotiation ability may be hindered as an internal applicant. Some companies have a cap on how much they can increase salary that doesn’t exist for someone coming from the outside. Also they know what you are already making when coming up with an offer. The trick is to turn this into an advantage. If your company has a cap for raises with promotion you should already know it. Seek to obtain the highest they are able to offer as it’s less likely.

“This is also a leverage point to try to get other things like extra vacation or remote work.”

Receiving an offer is very exciting, but you need to keep it to yourself until it is announced. There may be other internal candidates that management wants to inform individually. This doesn’t mean you can’t tell your family, just avoid posting it on social media. Updating LinkedIn will bring out the recruiters.

Not getting an offer for promotion can seem devastating. Don’t over react or express overt aggression. Ask your manager for ways to improve yourself for the next opening that comes available. Don’t resent the person who gets the job, there will be more opportunities.

IoTease: Article

Best IoT Interview Questions


Interviews can be hard to prepare for, especially if the position is for one around the Internet of Things. Many people prepare by reviewing interview questions or having friends or family give them mock interviews. This article that lists out several interview questions along with the correct answers when looking for a job in IoT. The article covers questions that will be asked a for junior and advanced positions working with IoT technologies. If you’re looking for a job in IoT it may be good to check it out.

Tricks of the Trade

Don’t be flippant about the damage that your code can do if it isn’t tested. Even if you can fix a problem in ten minutes and redeploy, you can make somebody’s day pretty awful. We talk about engineering mistakes that can kill people and that’s obvious; consider that an accounting system can screw up and cause Really Bad Things(TM) to happen. Plan accordingly.

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