Hiring 7 min

Internal Job Interview Questions You Should Be Asking

July 9, 2019

What are the limits of your organization’s employee development? This is an important question because according to LinkedIn’s 2018 Workforce Learning Report, 93 percent of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their careers. But one of the trickiest parts of employee development comes when an employee is ready to advance to a new position. Asking the right internal job interview questions can help current employees understand your focus on employee development and stay engaged, whether you fill the position with an internal or external candidate.

Like any other hiring effort, internal hiring should focus on aligning internal candidates with the needs of the job description. But unlike external candidates, your organization has to continue interacting with internal candidates on a daily basis, even if they aren’t selected for the position.

Should You Interview Internal Candidates?

Many employers are inclined to skip interviewing internal candidates if they feel their employees aren’t qualified for the job, but this is a serious mistake. Internal hiring can be an effective way to reap the fruit of your employee development efforts. Not only does this save on the cost of replacing employees, but effective employee development gives you the opportunity to fill more positions with pre-trained internal hires.

Providing fair consideration for your employees can help you demonstrate your organization’s willingness to provide employee development and recognize progress—whether or not the internal candidate gets the job. The key is to narrow your internal interview questions to focus on the most important aspects required of the role and its career path. Remember, honest consideration can fuel engagement among your employees.

What Questions Are Asked in an Internal Interview?

Employee development doesn’t have to be as intensive as earning a new degree. In fact, the LinkedIn report mentioned earlier found that 57 percent of leaders valued the development of soft skills more than the development of hard skills. So when it comes to the questions asked in an internal interview, make sure they focus on four important soft skills:

  • Leadership
  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Time Management

Below you’ll find a list of internal job interview questions that will cover these four core development areas. Each category will also include questions to help uncover the employee’s motivation for making the change, and if they will remain engaged if they don’t get the new position. Take these considerations into account as you select your internal interview questions.

Check out our 13 Recruiting Tips for Small Businesses

Internal Job Interview Questions for Leadership

  • What traits make someone a good leader?
  • How would your teammates describe your leadership style?
  • Please describe a project where you took leadership responsibilities.
    • Who worked with you?
    • How did you distribute responsibilities?
    • Did you work within a budget or allocate other resources?
    • What went well with this project?
    • What would you do differently?
  • What are some areas where you can continue to improve your leadership skills?
  • Do you enjoy leadership responsibilities?

Additional Points to Consider

Just because internal candidates haven’t had managerial titles doesn’t mean they haven’t shown leadership. Providing team members with opportunities to take the lead during projects can demonstrate that they have the trust of their managers and their organization.

What's the difference between a boss and a leader? Find out here.

It’s also important to encourage employees to be open with their motivation behind applying for leadership positions. Are they truly excited by the challenges of leadership? Or are they looking for different titles to climb the ladder and reach a higher salary? While it’s important to compensate leaders appropriately for their efforts, compensation shouldn’t be the sole motivation to apply for a leadership position. Is compensation tied to leadership positions in your organization? Or are there several paths for employees to progress?

Cultivating leadership in rank-and-file employees may also be important as workplace collaboration continues to evolve. Deloitte Insights’ 2019 Global Human Capital Trends report found that 31 percent of organizations have shifted from a rigid hierarchical structure to a more flexible team-based structure. Recognizing and developing leadership abilities can help your employees keep up.

Internal Job Interview Questions for Communication

  • How would your teammates describe your communication style?
  • What are your preferred methods for cross-department communication?
  • Do you prefer written communication, verbal communication, or a combination of the two?
  • How do you clarify directions when a task is unclear?
  • How have you provided clarification on your specifications when your coworkers have asked for it?
  • Can you describe how you’ve solved a communication issue with a team member?
Learn how to let culture and values drive your hiring decisions.

Additional Points to Consider

Internal candidates have direct experience with your organization’s culture and values. You can attract external candidates through explaining your values, but internal candidates can demonstrate how they’ve put them into action.

As you assess internal candidates’ communication skills, ask for examples of how your values have influenced their communication patterns. If you value openness, for example, you could ask a question like “Describe a time when you needed to admit you were wrong. How did you go about it?”

Internal Job Interview Questions for Collaboration

  • What is your ideal team structure?
  • How would you manage collaborative communication on projects?
  • Which members of your department have you worked with directly? In what capacity?
  • Have you worked with other departments in the organization before?
  • What do you do when a project doesn’t go smoothly? How do you collaborate with team members to address issues?
Understand each employee's strengths and weaknesses by meeting regularly with them one-on-one.

Additional Points to Consider

One key part of collaboration is recognizing each team member’s strengths and using them to accomplish specific goals.

These strengths aren’t tied to a single personality type—an introverted writer may be just the person to dive deep into research for an extroverted product marketer to present. An effective collaborator will recognize their own strengths and the strengths of others as they make recommendations for roles and responsibilities.

As you process internal interview questions and answers in your applicant tracking system, make sure that you evaluate the strengths of all your candidates based on the needs of the position rather than an existing employee’s example. Which will benefit the team more: adding new strengths, or doubling up on existing strengths?

Internal Job Interview Questions for Time Management

  • What process do you use to determine time requirements for your projects?
  • How do you handle situations where you know you will miss a deadline?
  • What method do you use to prioritize your projects for the day? Week? Quarter?
  • How would you encourage good time management on your team if you’re in a leadership position?
  • What was the most challenging project that you’ve worked on? What would you change in how it was run to make it less challenging?

Additional Points to Consider

Time management is just another way of framing priority management. Does the team with the opening deal with hard deadlines, soft deadlines, or a mixture of both? Will the successful applicant have to choose what to do first, or will the job require a steady stream of predictable performance? With internal candidates, you have a record of how they manage their time and priorities, making it easier to match their strengths to a position that suits them.

Check out our top time management strategies to help everyone in your organization maximize their time.

How Do You End an Interview?

After going through these four core development areas, you want to end your interview on a high note. No matter the outcome of this hiring process, you’ll continue to see your internal candidates regularly, so it’s crucial to leave a positive, lasting impression. Some key tactics to incorporate as you approach the conclusion of your interview are:

  • Allowing candidates to ask questions. Set aside time for your internal candidates to ask questions. Not only will this be a good opportunity for them to learn more about the role, but this may help you gauge their motives behind pursuing it. For example, if a candidate’s questions focus on salary and raises, this may tell you that they are simply attached to monetary value instead of development. Or, their questions may bring up any potential concerns about the role that can fuel an open and productive discussion.
  • Providing information on the next steps. Let your internal candidate know approximately how long it will take you to get back to them and/or if there will be a follow-up interview. Be transparent. You don’t want to mislead them or leave them hanging. Especially since they’re a current employee, it’s vital that you continuously provide timely updates and communicate with them to demonstrate that you care.
  • Letting them know they can reach out to you. Saying “feel free to reach out to me for any questions or concerns” is always a nice touch at the end. Though it might seem insignificant, it shows that your door is always open and that you’re willing to help them out.

Keeping Internal Candidates Focused on Development

Your best employees are focused on development. Effective internal job interview questions can reinforce how their current position has contributed to their development in these four areas, whether the internal candidates end up in new positions or not. Look out for them by being mindful of these components and the way you conclude your interview. There may be potential opportunities on the horizon that can further enhance their career.

For a look at how HR software can track your internal job interview questions and answers, check out BambooHR’s applicant tracking system.

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Brian Anderson

Brian Anderson expertly decodes all things HR, drawing on a decade of technical writing in the business organization industry to provide editorial support to internal and external learning programs at BambooHR. His writing explores the different motivations that shape the employee experience and the psychology of human resources.