The Truth About Internal Job Openings

Job seekers, take note: Before updating your resume and hitting the job boards, consider employment opportunities that might be right under your nose. Many companies looking to fill vacancies give preference to internal candidates and make an effort to encourage these individuals to apply for other positions within the company. After all, existing employees have a proven track record of success with the firm, already fit within the organization's corporate culture, and require less time and fewer resources to hire and train.

For IT professionals, internal opportunities may represent an effective way to climb the corporate ladder or try a new specialty. Those individuals with impressive soft skills may even find that they are well suited for nontechnical positions in sales, marketing and other departments that are looking for professionals with strong project management, strategic thinking and team-building skills.

If you're interested in pursuing an internal position, first consider the following tips:

Don't take it lightly. Many internal candidates sabotage their chances of success by assuming (incorrectly) that they are a shoo-in for a particular job. As a result, they invest little effort in positioning themselves as ideal candidates for the job, submitting outdated resumes and sometimes even failing to show up for interviews at all. By not taking the process seriously, you send the wrong message to the hiring manager and risk your reputation within the company. Take an internal job search as seriously as an external one. In fact, you may find the process to be more difficult, since managers often expect more of internal candidates, who already have knowledge of the firm's business, strategies and systems.

Make sure you're qualified. Another common mistake internal job candidates make is applying for positions at random because of the ease of locating and submitting applications for jobs within the company. If you apply for every available position, your efforts won't be taken seriously. So make sure you meet all of the requirements of the position before tossing your hat into the ring.

Let your manager know. Though you may be reluctant to let your manager know you are pursuing another position with the company, rest assured that he will find out eventually -- and won't be pleased if the news comes as a surprise. So involve your supervisor in the process from the beginning. He may be able to highlight upcoming opportunities within your current department that better match your skills or provide you with guidance and resources to help with your job search.

Make sure you want the job. Before applying for another position within your company, make sure the job is right for you. It may sound good on paper, but will you get along with your new colleagues and boss? Are expectations the same as in your current department? How is performance measured? Tap your internal contacts to see what they may know about the position or department. You could find out, for example, that three people have held the job in the past two years and all have left because of high stress levels. You may even consider arranging an informational interview or brief lunch with someone from the other department to gain additional insight.

Make yourself known. Don't assume you can rely on your reputation to secure the position you seek. While you may fly high in your department, you could be a relative unknown throughout the rest of the company. Gain visibility by volunteering for high-profile projects and tough assignments. You will be at an advantage if the managers already know your name when your resume crosses their desks.

Refresh your knowledge. If you've been with your employer for a while, your resume-writing or interviewing skills may be rusty. So practice, practice, practice. Consult reference manuals, friends, family and members of your professional network for advice on painting yourself in the best possible light.

Remember that, as with any job search, you may not be offered the position despite your qualifications and ability to perform well in the role. It can be particularly hard to be passed over for an internal opening. At the very least, you can turn the situation into a learning opportunity. By speaking to the hiring manager about why someone else was given the job and what you could have done to better position yourself, you're more likely to be the top candidate the next time an internal opening arises.

Keep in mind that you also will need to reset expectations with your current manager, because he will need extra reassurance now that you have openly applied for another position. By explaining that you are looking for additional challenges or responsibility, you may be able to agree on a mutually beneficial extension of your existing role in the department.

Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis. Robert Half Technology has more than 100 locations in North America and Europe and offers online job search services at www.rht.com.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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