You just walked out of an interview at a company where you really want to work. After feeling like you nailed it, you’re stunned – and not just a little upset – to learn you didn’t get the job. In fact, you heard that the person who did get the job was an internal candidate. Why did the company put you through an intensive interview process if they were always going to give the job to somebody who already works there?
Both parties involved in a job interview operate with a blind spot. A company can use every traditional tried and true method of recruiting, interviewing, and hiring staff, but still only learn a fraction of a person’s actual skills and fit before making him or her a co-worker. The outside candidate for a job knows even less; he or she has little to no visibility into the decision process that goes into corporate hiring decisions.
In most cases, there aren’t really any federal regulations stipulating any requirements in granting preference toward internal or external candidates during the employment process. Unless it’s mandated in some sort of labor agreement or government contract, companies have a lot of latitude in who they hire.
That said companies tend to have a hiring philosophy. That philosophy is most likely in a written corporate policy governing staff recruitment. There is no single approach, but many companies explicitly state that internal candidates will get preferential consideration during the hiring process, while many others state that the best candidate wins.
This can frustrate both internal and external job seekers, who aren’t playing by a single set of rules. Candidates wonder, “Why did you bother to interview me?” Here are several factors to keep in mind as to why the process can play out the way it does.
The process of recruiting and interviewing candidates costs both time and money. A company is not going to spend resources and dollars for practice. Even when company’s hiring philosophy favors internal candidates, the fact that the company interviewed external candidates signals that you had a legitimate chance at getting the position. Otherwise, only internal candidates would have been interviewed.
Many employers give internal candidates preference in the form of internally-posted job openings on the company intranet or similar platforms. Depending on the company’s guidelines, generally speaking a public job announcement shows that the company is looking to identify the best possible candidate, which sometimes means an internal candidate and sometimes and external one.
Recruitment policy at some companies can be governed by union contracts, which may specify internal and/or union members receive preferential treatment during the hiring process.
Even in cases in which preference is not given to internal candidates by default, you are still competing with employees that possess the advantage of already being a known quantity.
The hiring process is fluid and the candidate pool may change day to day due to unforeseen circumstances. Internal or external candidates can – and frequently do – accept offers then back out. A perceived lock for a position may have a rocky interview process that reveals they are not the best person for the job. A dark horse candidate, either internal or external, may emerge and end up with the offer.
In the end, you shouldn’t allow the phantoms of internal candidates deter you from pursuing the job you want. How can you compete more effectively? In addition to polishing your interview skills, you can tip the scales in your favor via strategic networking. This way, you can increase your profile with hiring managers who still may have a need for you in the future.
And as frustrating as you may find the process, try to remember that companies that selected internal candidates for jobs are trying to provide additional opportunities for development and promotion to their employees. As an external candidate, take heart that this could potentially be a sign of an employee-centered culture.
Philip Roufail contributed to this article.
Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, career coaching services, and outplacement services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at email@example.com, or via the website, www.insidercareerstrategies.com.