The 30+ Best Questions for an Internal Interview
Hiring is an expensive and risky undertaking—which is why internal recruiting can seem like such an appealing option. Internal recruiting mitigates the risk that comes with external hiring. Not only do you know an internal candidate's strengths and weaknesses, but they also know your business.
Plus, research suggests that internal hires are more likely to succeed. In a recent study of more than 109,000 commissioned salespeople, University of Minnesota researchers found that internal hires tend to be stronger performers who are more likely to stay long-term.
Asking the right internal job interview questions can help current employees understand your focus on employee development and stay engaged—whether you fill the position with an internal or external candidate.
Read on to discover the best questions for internal interviews and top tips for conducting an internal job interview.
Should You Interview Internal Candidates?
Many employers are inclined to skip interviewing internal candidates if they feel their employees aren’t qualified for the job—but this is a serious mistake.
Internal hiring can be an effective way to reap the fruit of your employee development efforts. Not only does this save on the cost of replacing employees, but effective employee development gives you the opportunity to fill more positions with pre-trained internal hires.
Promoting internal mobility, where staff move roles within a business, can bring a wealth of benefits to a business, including:
- Boost job satisfaction
- Retains talent
- Reduce costs
Providing fair consideration for your employees can help you demonstrate your organization’s willingness to invest in employee development and recognize progress—whether or not the internal candidate gets the job.
The key is to narrow your internal interview questions to focus on the most important aspects required of the role and its career path. Remember, honest consideration can fuel engagement among your employees.
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The 30+ Best Questions for an Internal Interview
When it comes to the questions asked in an internal interview, make sure they focus on four important soft skills:
- Time Management
Below, you’ll find a list of internal job interview questions which will cover these four core development areas. Each category will also include questions to help uncover the employee’s motivation for making the change, and if they will remain engaged if they don’t get the new position. Take these considerations into account as you select your internal interview questions.
Remember: When asking any interview questions you want to ensure they’re open questions – questions which require more than one-word answers.
7 Internal Job Interview Questions About Leadership
Just because internal candidates haven’t had managerial titles doesn’t mean they haven’t shown leadership. Providing team members with opportunities to take the lead during projects can demonstrate that they have the trust of their managers and their organization.
It’s also important to encourage employees to be open with their motivation behind applying for leadership positions.
With that in mind, we recommend asking questions such as:
- What traits make someone a good leader?
- How would your teammates describe your leadership style?
- Please describe a project where you took leadership responsibilities.
- Who worked with you?
- How did you distribute responsibilities?
- Did you work within a budget or allocate other resources?
- What went well with this project?
- What would you do differently?
- What are some areas where you can continue to improve your leadership skills?
- Do you enjoy leadership responsibilities?
- Are you excited by the challenges of leadership?
- Are you looking for different titles to climb the ladder and reach a higher salary?
Remember: While it’s important to compensate leaders appropriately for their efforts, compensation shouldn’t be the sole motivation to apply for a leadership position. Is compensation tied to leadership positions in your organization? Or are there several paths for employees to progress?
Cultivating leadership in rank-and-file employees may also be important as workplace collaboration continues to evolve. Recognizing and developing leadership abilities can help your employees keep up.
8 Internal Job Interview Questions About Communication
One of the benefits of hiring an internal candidate is that you will already have some form of idea about the way they communicate. But it’s always good to discover their communication style and skills.
As you assess internal candidates’ communication skills, ask for examples of how your company values have influenced their communication patterns. If you value openness, for example, you could ask a question like “Describe a time when you needed to admit you were wrong. How did you go about it?”
Some questions that are good to ask include:
- How would your teammates describe your communication style?
- What are your preferred methods for cross-department communication?
- Do you prefer written communication, verbal communication, or a combination of the two?
- How do you clarify directions when a task is unclear?
- How have you provided clarification on your specifications when your coworkers have asked for it?
- Can you describe how you’ve solved a communication issue with a team member?
- Tell me about a time when you’ve had to share your opinion in a meeting.
- Describe a time when your communication skills have helped you accomplish a task or project.
5 Internal Job Interview Questions About Collaboration
Collaboration is pivotal in the workplace, so delving deeper into the candidate’s collaboration skills is essential.
Below are some questions to raise in an internal interview:
- What is your ideal team structure?
- How would you manage collaborative communication on projects?
- Which members of your department have you worked with directly? In what capacity?
- Have you worked with other departments in the organization before?
- What do you do when a project doesn’t go smoothly? How do you collaborate with team members to address issues?
Remember: One key part of collaboration is recognizing each team member’s strengths and using them to accomplish specific goals.
These strengths aren’t tied to a single personality type—an introverted writer may be just the person to dive deep into research for an extroverted product marketer to present. An effective collaborator will recognize their own strengths and the strengths of others as they make recommendations for roles and responsibilities.
As you process internal interview questions and answers in your applicant tracking system, make sure that you evaluate the strengths of all your candidates based on the needs of the position rather than an existing employee’s example. Which will benefit the team more: adding new strengths, or doubling up on existing strengths?
5 Internal Interview Questions About Time Management
Effective time management can bring a wealth of benefits, not only for a business but also for an employee’s work-life balance. Because of the benefits that effective time management has, it’s good to ask some questions to potential clients which address this essential skill.
Some questions we think are good to ask include:
- What process do you use to determine time requirements for your projects?
- How do you handle situations where you know you will miss a deadline?
- What method do you use to prioritize your projects for the day? Week? Quarter?
- How would you encourage good time management on your team if you were in a leadership position?
- What was the most challenging project that you’ve worked on? What would you change in how it was run to make it less challenging?
Remember: Time management is just another way of framing priority management. Does the team with the opening deal with hard deadlines, soft deadlines, or a mixture of both? Will the successful applicant have to choose what to do first, or will the job require a steady stream of predictable performance?
With internal candidates, you'll already have a record of how they manage their time and priorities—so it's easier to match their strengths to a position that suits them.
7 Questions To Ask At The End Of An Internal Interview
At the end of an internal interview, the interviewer will likely ask a candidate if they have any questions. This is a great opportunity to show how interested you are in the company and the role.
As this is an internal interview, it’s likely you, as the candidate, will know the ins and outs of the business. So use these questions as an opportunity to learn more about the department (if it’s a new one!) and your potential for growth.
Some questions you could ask include:
- What would you like to see me achieve within the first six months in the role?
- What is the opportunity for career growth?
- What do you like about this department?
- How will my performance be measured?
- Can you tell me about the team I will be working with?
- Will the team be expanding further this year?
- Are they any aspects of the job you feel I haven’t had experience in yet?
Remember: It’s not a good idea to ask about salary and benefits at this point in the interview. It could appear as though you’re only interested in the position to get a salary increase. If you are asked about your salary expectations by the interviewer, you can answer honestly—but you shouldn’t broach the subject first.
Pro Tip: How to Conclude an Internal Interview
After going through these four core development areas, you want to end your interview on a high note. No matter the outcome of this hiring process, you’ll continue to see your internal candidates regularly, so it’s crucial to leave a positive, lasting impression.
Some best practices to incorporate as you approach the conclusion of your interview are:
- Allowing candidates to ask questions. Set aside time for your internal candidates to ask questions. Not only will this be a good opportunity for them to learn more about the role, but this may help you gauge their motives behind pursuing it. For example, if a candidate’s questions focus on salary and pay rises, this may tell you that they are simply attached to monetary value instead of development. Or, their questions may bring up any potential concerns about the role that can fuel an open and productive discussion.
- Providing information on the next steps. Let your internal candidate know approximately how long it will take you to get back to them and/or if there will be a follow-up interview. Be transparent. You don’t want to mislead them or leave them hanging. Especially since they’re a current employee, it’s vital that you continuously provide timely updates and communicate with them to demonstrate that you care.
- Letting them know they can reach out to you. Saying, “Feel free to reach out to me for any questions or concerns” is always a nice touch at the end. Though it might seem insignificant, it shows that your door is always open and that you’re willing to help them out.
Final Thoughts: Keep Internal Candidates Focused on Development
Your best employees are focused on development. Effective internal job interview questions can reinforce how their current position has contributed to their development in these four areas, whether the internal candidates end up in new positions or not.
Look out for them by being mindful of these components and the way you conclude your interview. There may be potential opportunities on the horizon that can further enhance their career.
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