Ask an Honest HR Professional: Why Do I Keep Losing Jobs to Internal Candidates?

Ask an Honest HR Professional: Why Do I Keep Losing Jobs to Internal Candidates? was originally published on The Muse, a great place to research companies and careers. Click here to search for great jobs and companies near you.

Dear HR Professional,

I’ve lost out on two jobs because the company went with internal candidates. Is this common practice? If so, how can I compete?

So Close, Yet So Far


Dear So Close, Yet So Far,

It’s true—more and more companies are embracing internal mobility to keep top talent engaged at their organization.

Internal transfers are usually a win-win for both employers and candidates—candidates get to take on a new challenge and employers don’t need to spend a ton of time on onboarding and getting that person integrated into the culture.

However, most companies do have an official internal transfer policy to make sure that the candidate really is the best fit for the job versus all other applicants. So, you can rest assured that you’ve likely been beaten out by a top performer and that you’re not a victim of nepotism (hopefully!).

Luckily, while internal transfers can be attractive to an organization, there are plenty of ways to show how you can add even more value as an outside hire.

1. Do Your Homework

Since hiring managers know they won’t need to spend time getting an internal candidate familiar with the organization, get on that same level by becoming an expert on your potential new employer.

Study all of their external channels. Absorb what they’re posting on social media, listen to the employee interviews on their Muse profile (I know, a shameless plug), look up recent news and announcements, read up on their careers site, and talk to current employees if possible.

In today’s world, you don’t need to work at a company to know what it’s like to work there—it’s all out there for you to discover!

2. Prove Your Alignment

If your potential new employer has a cohesive employer brand, researching them should give you a sense of the kind of person who would thrive there.

If you honestly see yourself as a good fit for the organization, highlight that in your cover letter and subsequent interviews. Use specific examples of how you’re aligned with what you’ve learned about their values and culture, as well as how you will be able to personally contribute to their company mission.

This shows you’ll be able to hit the ground running and won’t require too much instruction during onboarding, since you’re already invested in their mission and are familiar with how they operate.

3. Offer a Fresh Perspective

Often, employers post an opportunity because they’re looking for someone to tackle a new challenge that hasn’t been addressed at the company before. As an external candidate, you can offer your relevant experience and a fresh perspective on how you’ll be able to help the organization succeed.

During your interview, you should ask the hiring manager questions about what the biggest challenges someone in this role would face. Then, highlight how you’ve conquered those same or similar challenges in your current and previous roles. Being an outside applicant doesn’t have to work against you—it can actually work in your favor.

Finally, don’t forget to show off your awesome self by letting your personality shine through during the interview process.

In today’s competitive hiring landscape, companies are looking for individuals who will be culture adds to the organization rather than culture fits, so make sure they know what a great addition you would be to their team. Good luck!

This article is part of our Ask an Expert series—a column dedicated to helping you tackle your biggest career concerns. Our experts are excited to answer all of your burning questions, and you can submit one by emailing us at editor(at)themuse(dot)com and using Ask an Honest HR Professional in the subject line.

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By The Muse
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