Applying to Internal Position

Dear, Anita,

I heard through the grapevine that a coworker in another department is leaving. I’d like to apply for his position that will open up soon because it would be a step up for me in my company. The interview would be in the same building, but on a different floor. Should I tell my current manager or not?

Dear, Covert App,

Many companies like to promote from within. But the process of applying internally can come with its own set of quandaries.

Before applying, think through what will happen if you don’t get the position. You may create an awkward situation by telling your manager, or even co-workers, about your plans to desert them. Then if it doesn’t come to pass, you may be the subject of others’ emotions, ranging from hurt or anger to pity. Unless your current supervisor is well aware of your long-term career goals, it may be best to keep any job search – internal or external – under wraps.

Another advantage – or detriment – can be the built-in reference. In the best case scenario, you’re doing a bang-up job and your current boss may have even chatted about your stellar performance with your would-be supervisor in meetings or day-to-day interactions. Unsolicited praise can often be more informational than the standard reference checks. But if your current manager-employee relationship is rocky… well, your boss is easy for the hiring colleague to find for questioning.

First things first, though. Are you certain that your colleague has tendered his resignation? You don’t want to accidentally give his notice for him by sending your résumé to his manager with a “So, I heard Joe was leaving” cover letter.

Climbing_Ladder_iStock_000009112146_LargeOnce you are certain that the job opening does in fact exist, don’t take shortcuts. Go through the channels requested in the ad or job board listing. Yes, even if that means filling out an online application. However, an email to the coworker’s manager would not be out of place, letting him know that as a current employee of the company, you are excited to apply for this move up the ladder. If you have opted not to share your plans with your current boss, give a big hint that his discretion would be appreciated.
Because you already have a (hopefully) thorough knowledge of the company and understand its culture, you may not have to do as much research. Nevertheless, carry out as much due diligence on the position itself. You may even want to take the departing coworker to coffee on the QT to get his perspective.

You’ll probably want to schedule your interview during your (and your boss’s) lunch hour. While this would be hard to do when applying to an external company considering travel time, traffic, and interview time, the good news is that it’s probably doable at your current company. Remember: Dress for the position you want, not the position you have. You may want to throw on a blazer before heading to “lunch.”

Follow up after the interview, just as you would with an unfamiliar business. Send the thank you note. Without being a pest (please don’t accost the hiring manager in the hallways), send a follow-up email later to reiterate your strengths and indicate your continued interest. See my post Thank You for the Interview for a template.

If you do get the new job, your learning curve may be reduced – along with the stress of starting someplace brand new. It’s definitely worth a shot!

Readers: Have you applied for a job at the same company? What was the outcome?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

Changing Jobs
Becoming the Boss: Advice for New Managers
Discussing a Job Offer


Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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