When you need to fill an open position, current employees often make excellent candidates. They’re already well-versed in the company’s mission, values, and workflows, making it easier to onboard them and help them get up to speed efficiently in a new role.
However, interviewing internal candidates is a little different from interviewing someone from outside the company. Adjusting your questions and how you approach the interview is key for finding the best fit.
This guide will equip you with a few best practices, sample questions, and templates so that you can interview internal candidates with ease and effectiveness.
Keep these things in mind when you’re ready to interview internal candidates:
Talk to an internal candidate’s current manager for a brief history of their work, projects, or responsibilities that are relevant to the open position. With this info, you can tailor your interview to shorten the “getting to know you” questions usually reserved for external candidates.
Everyone likes to think they know their coworkers well, but experts argue that’s not often the case. For example, you might perceive an internal candidate to be too introverted for a role that requires plenty of communication and collaboration, when in reality certain projects can ignite their passion and make collaboration effortless. Keeping an open mind when interviewing candidates you already know will help you recognize their untapped strengths.
Does the internal candidate arrive to the interview with the same level of professionalism and enthusiasm as their external counterparts? This shows that even though they’re already at home in the company, they don’t take for granted the opportunity to advance their career.
Internal candidates should already be familiar with company culture and work expectations. As a rule of thumb, their answers to related questions should surpass that of their external counterparts. For example, when asked “What do you think is key for successfully collaborating with colleagues?”, an internal candidate’s response should more closely reflect the company’s values than an outside candidate who is new to the culture.
While this may go without saying, resist the temptation to offer an interview to an internal candidate that’s obviously not a great fit for the position. Instead, let them know as early as possible that you’re going in a different direction, and perhaps offer a few suggestions for how they could improve ahead of another job opportunity.
These questions will help you understand the employee’s motivations for wanting to switch positions, if their experience in their current role applies to the new role, and if they have a solid grounding in the company’s culture.
What interests you about this role?
How does this role align with your career goals?
Why are you the best fit for this role?
What experience in your current role will you bring to this role?
What do you need to work on to be successful in this role?
Does your current manager recommend you for this role?
How would you spend your first 30 days in this role?
What do you like most about your current role?
What do you like least about your current role?
What’s your proudest achievement in your current role?
Describe a challenging project you’ve tackled, how you handled it, and what the outcome was.
Describe an instance when you didn’t achieve an objective and what you would have done differently.
How have you grown in your current role?
In what ways could you improve in your current role?
How would you describe your relationship with your manager?
How would your colleagues describe you?
Tell me about the last time you disagreed with a colleague. How did you handle it?
What do you think is key for successfully collaborating with colleagues?
Have you ever worked in a cross-functional team? If so, how did you make cross team collaboration successful?
Tell me about a project you managed or led. How would your team describe your leadership style?
What do you like best about working for the company?
What suggestions do you have for improving company culture?
What makes this company distinct from its competitors?
What changes would you make within the company to better help it pursue its mission?
When it comes time to sit down with an internal candidate, consider using this brief interview template. It’s condensed yet comprehensive—helpful for when you have several interviews to conduct and need to see results at a glance.
If you want something more in-depth, take a look at this internal interview template. It has more space for note-taking and is ideal for longer interviews with fewer candidates.