Recruitment Blog

Top interview questions to ask an internal candidate

Sarah Linney
Content Marketing Manager at JobAdder

It can be hard to find the right candidate when hiring for an open position, particularly if you’re looking at a mixture of internal and external applicants. 

Hiring an internal candidate is beneficial to businesses for many reasons. For instance, hiring and onboarding an internal candidate takes less time. Promoting an internal candidate costs less than paying taxes and onboarding costs to hire a new employee. It’s also a great way to promote employee retention and improve employee morale. 

That doesn’t mean hiring an internal candidate is a walk in the park. In fact, the interview process is very different from hiring an external candidate. The differences are most notable in the questions you ask during the interview process. Since you already know the person, you can ask more specific and pointed questions.

As a result, it’s essential to prepare differently for internal interviews if you’ve only conducted external interviews. Below, we’ll go over some of the best internal interview questions and which ones you should avoid.

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Top internal interview questions to ask your candidate

When interviewing with a current employee, you’ll need to undergo a very different interview process than with an external candidate. Since you already have an existing relationship, you can skip over the basic questions you’d ask in first-time interviews. 

As a result, it’s crucial to find interview questions for internal candidates that relate to specific experiences. Doing so can give you a good idea of if they’re a good fit for the position.

With that in mind, you’ll find a lot of handy information in the sections below! We’ll provide some simple interview tips for those of you who are new to interviews in general and specific internal interview questions so that you have an excellent place to start. You can then take the questions and apply them to almost any internal interview you need to conduct.

How would you describe your leadership style?

When interviewing an internal candidate for a position, it’s unlikely to be for a low-level job. Instead, you’re probably hiring them for a management position. As a result, it’s essential to gauge their leadership style and how it will translate to the open position. 

This question is crucial if the interviewee is not currently in a leadership position. See if their answer matches up with the position’s requirements.

Furthermore, this question can answer questions you might have about the internal candidate’s future at the company. Depending on their answer, you could view them as someone that could progress to more senior positions down the track.

However, it’s also possible that you don’t see a future for them beyond the position you’re interviewing them for. Either way, asking about their leadership style is essential in any interview for a position involving managing people groups. Here are some more interview questions for managers.

How do you think your current position has prepared you for the new role?

If you’re interviewing an internal candidate for a new job, they have an active role within your company. As a result, they should have a good idea of how the business works and the unique requirements of the new position. 

With that in mind, you should ask them how their current role has helped to prepare them for this new position. Ask the candidate to outline how they’ll use their knowledge and apply it to a leadership position.

This question can also help you gauge whether the interviewee is ready for any new position at your company. After the interview, you might not feel that they’re a good fit for this position, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t think they should get a role with more responsibility. 

Their answer to this question could give you an idea of what role they’re ready for if you feel like they deserve a promotion. 

What makes you the best person for this position?

Here’s a question that can be difficult for many people, so keep that in mind when asking this question. 

Not everyone likes to brag, but their answer to this question could give you some helpful insights. Learning why someone believes they’re the best candidate for a position can help you understand the skills they value and what they’ve learned so far.

Discuss the skillset, experiences, or qualities that an ideal candidate would have and how they meet these requirements, or how they could utilise their existing skills and knowledge to upskill and retrain for this new role. 

What are your ultimate career goals?

Asking about an internal candidate’s career goals is incredibly important during the interview process, as you’ll want to ensure that these goals align with the open position and the career path it’ll set them on.

You need to evaluate your candidate’s goals for themselves as much as you need to evaluate their experience and skillset. After all, you want to hire someone who will fulfil the role long-term and their career goals will be a contributing factor.

How do you think your current co-workers and team members would describe you?

This is one of the most interesting interview questions for internal candidates, as it can be revealing to see how their answer aligns with feedback from their co-workers. 

Self-awareness is essential in a leadership position, and if their answer is vastly different from their co-workers, they might not be a good fit.

Additionally, you can ask the candidate’s co-workers about their teamwork. A good leader works well in a team and fosters a healthy work environment. 

The best thing about interviewing an internal candidate is that you can get insights from their co-workers, something you can’t get when interviewing someone externally.

What would you do to help your replacement should you move on to this position?

If you hire someone internally for an open position, you also need to hire a replacement for the position they’re leaving. While this adds extra work, you can have the newly promoted employee show the new employee the ropes. However, you don’t want them to do this if they’re not open to training their replacement and providing help. 

So, ask them for the process they would use to teach someone how to take on their old position. Their answer should give more insight into their leadership abilities.

The extra insight you get from a question like this can be beneficial. Notably, if they’re helping a new employee with their old job, they’ll need to be good at multitasking.

This question should help you gauge that skill. It’ll also give you crucial information relating to their work mentality and whether they value the success of those under them.

What is your greatest strength and biggest weakness?

We know that these aren’t questions that are exclusive to internal candidates. However, they’re still solid basic interview questions. They dip back into self-awareness, which is very important, as we mentioned above. 

Internal and external applicants should be able to evaluate what makes them good employees and in what areas they need improvement. This question will give insight into what training the candidate will need in their new role. 

Furthermore, answers to this question can give insight into the hard and soft skills that the candidate possesses. Their response to this question could help you learn about non-traditional skills that a candidate might have. 

Remember, not every skill shows up on a resume, and as a result, it’s essential that you ask this question. Furthermore, if the interviewee is honest about their weaknesses, they are more likely to be willing to learn how to improve.

Tell me about a time you worked on a particularly challenging project. How did you handle it?

Since you’re asking internal interview questions, you can ask about challenging projects that they worked on at your company. Specifically, you can ask behavioural interview questions to dig deeper into the candidate’s views of their personal experiences. 

You can frame this question by asking about a specific project, or you can leave it open for them to discuss any project that they thought was challenging. Their answers will give you insight into their problem-solving skills.

Additionally, what they talk about after you ask this question will give you insight into their effectiveness as a communicator. However, the most important thing you will get out of this question is an idea of their attitude towards difficult tasks and how they manage complex scenarios and projects.

Evaluate their soft skills

While this is not a specific question, it’s good to assess internal candidates’ soft skills in their interviews. When you ask internal candidates interview questions, the essential things you evaluate are soft skills. 

Since they already work at the company, you should have a good idea of their hard skills (operational ability in certain software or programming languages, writing abilities, or other certifications).

However, soft skills are harder to evaluate, especially if you’re not in the office with them every day. When discussing soft skills, we are talking about things like problem-solving, decision making, time management and communication. These things are essential in all positions, but more so in others. 

You can evaluate their candidacy based on their competency in these areas and weigh them differently depending on the position.

How does this company differentiate itself from our competitors?

An external candidate is unlikely to have a great understanding of the company culture, they might have done some research but they can’t know what it’s like day-to-day. However, an internal candidate will obviously know exactly what it’s like to work for the company and its ins and outs.

It could be interesting to understand their views on the company’s culture, inner workings and competitors. Ask them how this company is different from similar ones. They should be able to identify differences, assess where the company could improve and provide a strategy for how the company can change for the better in the future.

Questions you may be able to skip during an internal interview

You don’t need to ask some common interview questions with internal candidates. Since they have a current job with the company, you should have some baseline knowledge about them, and as a result, you can skip that section of the interview process. 

Notably, you should know how they manage time, communicate and succeed in their current role.

Some of the questions you might ask external candidates that you don’t need to ask internal candidates include:

  • How would you describe yourself?
  • What relevant experience do you have for this role?
  • Describe your communication skills.
  • What do you know about our company culture?
  • Why are you leaving/why have you left your current job?

These questions are asked to get an idea of who a candidate is personally and professionally. However, since you already have pre-existing knowledge of an internal candidate, they aren’t necessary questions. 

Instead, you should focus on behaviour-based questions. With that in mind, if it’s a large company and the interviewer doesn’t know the interviewee personally, it can still be a good idea to ask these questions. Alternatively, you can ask their supervisor before the interview.

Upgrade your hiring process with JobAdder

When you’re getting ready to conduct an interview, there’s lots of prep to be done, and it can be an overwhelming process! Luckily, when preparing internal interview questions, there are some steps you can skip. 

Notably, you don’t need to ask an internal candidate about their past experiences, and you can avoid basic questions about their hard skills. Instead, you can spend your time discussing their soft skills, viability for the position and overall cultural fit. This can make the interview process more enjoyable and productive in many ways. 

When you’re putting someone through the interview process for open positions, it’s essential to keep in mind that it’s a gruelling process for them so you should optimise the process as much as possible.

You can do this by cutting down on unnecessary questions and eliminating sections of the process that don’t serve a clear purpose.  

Another way to speed up the interview process is by using the JobAdder Applicant Tracking System. Our ATS is designed to help you automate your hiring process and streamline candidate communication. Discover more information on how we add joy to the job of recruitment here.

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