As an individual working in the profession, perhaps you have been looking for a change, or have a desire to take on a different set of professional responsibilities. If the time is right, you might find this opportunity for change and advancement right within your current institution, as an internal candidate for an open position within your department.
This article will have three focus areas to consider if you decide to take the step and become an internal candidate within your department:
• What to expect as an internal candidate
• Attitudes and responsibilities of an internal candidate
• How to make the most out of your experience in the search process
What To Expect As An Internal Candidate
First, find out if your department or institution supports your internal candidacy as part of an ongoing commitment to encourage career development at all staffing levels. The term “internal applicant” refers to anyone currently employed by an institution who has made themselves known as someone interested in a vacant staff position and has submitted their credentials to the hiring supervisor.
Hiring supervisors understand that there are many advantages to hiring and promoting from within the department. (1) You are a candidate that has demonstrated a commitment to the institution. Your internal application shows that you want to further that commitment. (2) You have an extensive familiarity with campus resources and policies and specifically with residence life facilities, procedures, and staff. This would ease the transition between outgoing and incoming staff members and thereby retaining your relevant experience and saving time in training (3) Greater employee retention: if you have the opportunity for career growth and development within your department, you are more likely to want to stay at the institution, providing more continuity.
You can get a better understanding of your institution’s philosophy related to internal candidacy by exploring policies within the Human Resources Department.
Attitudes and Responsibilities of an Internal Candidate
The person coordinating the search process will be aware of your intent and candidacy; however, you will need to think if you want to communicate your intent to your colleagues in the department. Be sure to discuss your decision with the search supervisor. Some internal candidates may decide not to share this information with their peers – until an interview has been scheduled to solidify their experience and validate that they are moving forward in the process. Other candidates may share their intent with peers in seeking out support and professional assistance throughout the process.
While interviewing, it is your responsibility to answer questions as clearly and in detail as is possible, even though you may be tempted to assume that your interviewer knows about your job performance and skills. It is wise to go into each interview with the attitude that you are meeting staff for the first time. While you do work for the staff conducting the interview, you need to express and articulate what you have gained in the experience. You should provide examples that speak to your understanding of your current position. Your interviewers will also want to see that you have considered all aspects of the position you are applying for and how these potential changes affect you, your colleagues, the department, and your career. As with any interview, anticipate questions on your weaknesses. Remember that as an internal candidate your supervisors and co-workers have a good understanding of your weaknesses. Articulating how the position you are seeking will strengthen these areas is vital.
Ask questions. Should you want to know more about the search process or if your resume has advanced in the process – be sure to ask the coordinator of the search. Remember that you may not be successful in obtaining the position, and you have a career search to move forward with. While you are waiting for consideration, be sure to look into other positions that interest you – you will get a good sense of what other institutions are looking for in qualified candidates and may become serious in your pursuit of a position at another school, as well.
How to Make the Most of Your Experiences in the Search Process
By throwing your hat into the ring, you will gain experiences in resume/cover letter writing, professional communication etiquette, interviewing, and ultimately transitioning and managing the change process into a new role. As an internal candidate, be sure to learn from others and be open to feedback, for there is a sense of humility in the process. In general, if you do not get the job, you should ask the search director for advice and specific recommendations as to why you were not a viable candidate. This will help guide your own job selections and career choices in the future. For example, the supervisor could provide you with feedback as to how you could improve your candidacy for similar job openings in the future (i.e. by obtaining certain skills or experience), and/or the supervisor could give you career advice from their knowledge of the field and the steps needed to achieve certain professional goals.
Remember, whether you are offered the position or not – you can gain knowledge and skill while learning about yourself along the way.
Submitted by Melissa Ingwersen, Director of Judicial Affairs, Ramapo College of New Jersey