How to Prepare for Internal Interviews

An internal interview is your ticket to an exciting new promotion, but it can also be tricky. If you have an internal interview coming up, there are certain challenges you’ll want to avoid and specific things to prepare for. This guide will help you make sure you’re ready when your big opportunity arises.

Internal Interviews
An internal interview may feel like merely a formality, but the truth is you should take internal interviews as seriously as any other interview in your career. It’s true that already working in the organization gives you some advantages, but it can have some drawbacks too.

When you start thinking through how to prepare for an internal interview, there are some important factors you’re going to want to keep in mind. This guide will walk you through what to do when you’re up for a promotion and ready to take on the internal interview.

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Chapter 1

What to Do When You Don’t Get the Promotion

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Chapter 2

How to Prepare for Internal Interviews at Your Company

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Chapter 3

Internal Interview Questions

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Chapter 4

Internal Interview Challenges

Chapter 1:

What to Do When You Don’t Get the Promotion

If you’re reading this because you’ve already had your internal interview and you didn’t get the promotion you were hoping for, you’ve come to the right place.

While you’re understandably disappointed and possibly frustrated, the first important thing to do is change your mindset from an “I failed” mentality to a “now I have the chance to try again” mindset.

The truth is, it can only go up from here. The worst has already happened, right? So now you can be strategic about what to do when the next opportunity for an internal interview rolls around.

Analyze what went wrong

The first step in preparing well for your next internal interview is analyzing what went wrong in the first place. There are a few common mishaps that happen in internal interviews that can make you lose out on the promotion. Let’s take a look at some of them.

You were too casual

You may have assumed that the interview was merely a formality and already a slam dunk, and therefore you did not approach the interview very seriously.

Maybe you behaved too casually with the interviewers (especially if you knew and worked with them already) or maybe you didn’t prepare for the interview and ended up really mangling an important answer.

Whatever happened, it’s important that you know how to prepare for an internal interview the next time you get the opportunity, and this will mean taking it as seriously as any other interview.

You were too nervous

A very common mishap that happens in external and internal interviews is being too nervous. Nerves can make you painfully self-conscious, inarticulate, and socially awkward, resulting in the interviewer not seeing your best qualities and possibly assuming you don’t have what it takes to do the job.

Getting a promotion often means taking on new responsibilities and leadership roles, so it’s especially important that you can demonstrate your ability to think well under pressure when in a promotion interview.

If you think your nerves got the better of you in your internal interview, read our guide on how to calm interview nerves.

You didn’t prepare

Good preparation is essential to success in any job interview, including internal interviews. Many of the same questions will be asked, even if your interviewers already know you. Some of the internal interview questions you can expect (and should have impressive answers to) include:

Tell me about yourself: this seems odd–they probably already know you and your work, right? But they want to give you the chance to speak for yourself and you should take this as a golden opportunity. You have the ability with this opening question to re-frame all of your experience to meet the needs they have for the open position. Consider this question your audition, your 2 minutes to explain exactly why you’re the right person for the job.

Why do you want to work here? This may also be asked as “why this career path?” “why this industry?” or “why this job?” Clearly, they already know you have some interest in the company. Your challenge here will be making a case for why this role is the perfect next step for you. If you are attempting to change departments, your answer to this question is even more essential.

If you know you don’t have the experience that aligns with the job, you’ll want to demonstrate your enthusiasm for the work and dedication to learning and growing with the company. Make a strong case for why you’re excited about the opportunity.

Ready for Your Next Step?

Internal interviews should not be taken lightly. You’ll still be heavily evaluated just like any other interview. Learn how to practice so you can get that promotion you’ve worked so hard for.
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What is one of your greatest strengths? What would you bring to this role? Why are you a good fit? What sets you apart from other candidates? You can count on getting at least one of these types of questions.

This is a chance to “sell” yourself for the position. In an internal interview, there’s going to be a temptation to rest on your reputation and assume that the interviewer(s) already knows what you’re capable of. This is a big mistake.

Even if your interviewer is familiar with your work, if you can’t speak about your accomplishments and acknowledge your own strengths, you’re not going to appear as a very strong candidate.

It’s essential when preparing for an internal interview that you get comfortable talking about your strengths.

(Big Interview has an Answer Builder Tool specifically designed to walk you through our proven step-by-step method of building air-tight answers to questions about your strengths.)

Ready to land your Dream job?

Chapter 2:

How to Prepare for Internal Interviews at Your Company

An advantage to internal interviews is you already have inside information on the company. When you’re preparing as an outside candidate, there’s only so much you can glean. But already being an employee means you have an advantage in knowing how to prepare for an internal interview.

You also may have access to colleagues who have walked this road before you and can give you some detailed information on what to do, what to avoid, and what to expect.

Use all of this knowledge to your advantage, but don’t allow it to become a substitute for good practice.

The importance of good practice

Time and time again we’ve seen exceptional, well-qualified applicants absolutely bomb their interview and not get promoted.

It’s easy to think you’ve got it under control, especially when you’re interviewing internally with a company you’re already familiar with and people you may know.

But you only have one shot at this–you want to be prepared.

The difference even a little good practice makes on interview day is astronomical and is often the one deciding factor between getting the promotion and going back to your desk with your heart in your shoes knowing you did not perform well.

We designed Big Interview precisely to solve the problem most interviewers have–lack of practice.

It’s an easy step to miss because many applicants think that simply reading up on how to answer interview questions is enough.

They completely underestimate the importance of having a formula for crafting impressive answers and being able to respond on the spot.

Additionally, most people are not aware of vocal tics or nervous habits that they have that could be conveying entirely the wrong message with their body language.

You can detect and correct all of these things to strengthen your chances of interviewing well and getting the promotion.

Practice in front of a mirror or record yourself on your phone or laptop. Pay special attention to your eye contact, body language, rate of speech, and the content of your answers.

If you want to make it easier on yourself, you can grab a Big Interview subscription and use our mock interview practice tool that mimics a real live interview and allows you to give your answers to pre-recorded questions.

After recording and submitting your answers, you will be given instant AI feedback on how you can improve.

Additionally, we have a comprehensive video and written curriculum that trains you on everything from how to answer interview questions to how to negotiate your salary.

Go at your own pace and be armed with knowledge, practice, and confidence when it comes time for your interview.

Speaking about transferrable skills in internal interviews

A transferable skill is a skill you have that can be transferred from one job role to another.

These skills are of particular importance in an internal interview because they help demonstrate why you can do the new job you are interviewing for.

It may not be immediately apparent that you are qualified for the new position. This is why you want to prepare by practicing speaking about your transferable skills and how they will translate to the new job.

This will mean taking the time to learn what is most important to them in the role you are applying for and evaluating which of those skills you are bringing to the table.

Then, you’ll want to practice your answers by weaving those skills into your responses to make the strongest case possible for why they should hire you.

Display executive presence

If you are transitioning from an individual contributor to a leadership role, it’s very important that you convey what is often called “executive presence.”

Executive presence is that sort of “x” factor that inspires confidence. It puts people at ease because they believe that you are capable, reliable, and in control; that you know what to do, you will have a plan, and you’ll know how to manage people to execute that plan.

Ready for Your Next Step?

Internal interviews should not be taken lightly. You’ll still be heavily evaluated just like any other interview. Learn how to practice so you can get that promotion you’ve worked so hard for.
I’m Ready to Land a Job

In short, executive presence boils down to confidence.

How you can display this in your internal interview is with your tone, rate of speech, ready answers, and calm, collected body language.

These external factors go a long way, but so much of confidence is about mindset.

If you are armed with good preparation, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t walk into that interview believing you have every right to be there and that you will succeed.

If you have that inner confidence, the rest will usually take care of itself.

You have to believe in your own abilities and qualifications. If you speak with conviction, your interviewers will have no reason to doubt you.

Know the company values

Your company may be very vocal about their values, or they may just be some snappy words on the company webpage that don’t translate to the actual workplace culture.

Either way, you should know what your company’s stated values, vision, and mission are and use them as guides for how you formulate your answers.

For instance, if a stated company value is putting the customer first, don’t leave out the customer completely in your answers. Make sure you roll that value into your responses.

The same goes for integrity, accountability, excellence, communication, or whatever other stated values your company has.

Ready to land your Dream job?

Chapter 3:

Internal Interview Questions

For the most part, you’re going to prepare for your internal interview the way you would any interview, keeping in mind the types of questions you’ll be asked and some of the challenges unique to internal interviews (we’ll cover those in detail in the next chapter.)

In addition to some of the questions we’ve already looked at in chapter one, you’ll also want to prepare answers for questions in the following categories:

Industry-specific internal interview questions

Depending on your industry, it is likely that you will be asked one or two industry-specific questions.

These questions may ask for specifics on how you would approach or solve certain problems in your line of work, such as dealing with a difficult client or creating a particular asset.

Tests are also not uncommon for some roles, including writing and editing tests, programming challenges, or logic puzzles.

Sometimes these tests are a part of the interview process and sometimes they are a part of next steps.

There may not be any need for such an assessment in an internal interview, but if you are transitioning from a previous role that isn’t directly related to the job you’re interviewing for, it’s not impossible you will be asked to demonstrate your skills.

Internal interview behavioral questions

Behavioral questions are the most common questions asked across every kind of interview.

Behavioral questions ask for examples of how you demonstrated certain competencies in your past job performance to use as a predictor for how you may handle a similar situation in the future.

Most of the more common interview questions are behavioral questions, so you’ve almost certainly answered them before.

They are things like, “give me an example of a time you had to handle a deadline” or “tell me about a time you disagreed with a coworker.”

With internal interview questions, you are not as likely to get as many “tell me about a time…” questions, especially if your reputation precedes you or you already know one or more of your interviewers.

However, many larger companies use a structured interview approach, which means they have to ask the same questions to all applicants in an attempt to make the interview process as equal and unbiased as possible.

This means you should still prepare well for behavioral questions. Even if you are not asked to demonstrate your competencies directly, you’ll still want to weave them into your answers to show off what a star candidate you are.

Questions to ask in an internal interview

Now it’s your turn to ask the questions and you’ll want to take advantage of this opportunity.

The worst thing you can say when asked if you have any questions is, “nope, I think you covered everything.”

Interviewers take the questions you ask at the end of an interview as an indication of the worries, hopes, or goals you have about the position.

For instance, if you ask about the top 3 qualities needed to succeed in the role, they can deduce that you care about doing well in the role and are excited to know what it will take.

If you ask about work-from-home options, they’ll know that flexibility is important to you.

So be mindful about what you are communicating with your questions.

Since this is an internal interview, you don’t need to ask about the company culture, policies, and so on. If you do, it will indicate that you’ve not been paying any attention to where you work for the past several years and it will not reflect well on you.

You can however ask about the new team, current projects, dates of transition, and other relevant details.

You can also turn the tables and put them in the hot seat, asking questions like:

  • What do you enjoy most about working in this department?
  • What does integrity mean to you?
  • What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced working in this department?
  • Is the department currently facing any big challenges?
  • Why did the previous person in this role move on?
  • How has your role changed since you started working for this department?
  • What other departments does our team most often interact with?
  • To whom will I be reporting?
  • If you were starting fresh in this department, what advice would you give yourself?

Remember, even though this is an internal interview, you are still vetting them as much as they are vetting you. Use the opportunity to find out more about what your life will be like if you move departments and roles.

How to end an internal interview

Just as you would with any other interview, you can thank the interviewers for their time and ask about next steps once the interview has wrapped up.

Stay professional, look them in the eye, and shake their hand.

Before you leave for the day, send all interviewers a thank-you email that briefly covers the highlights from the interview and your enthusiasm for the position.

Thank them once more for the interview and wrap-up.

The thank-you email should be brief, but succinct. Send it out right before you leave for the day so they will see it in their inbox first thing the next morning.

Ready to land your Dream job?

Chapter 4:

Internal Interview Challenges

We’ve talked about some of the challenges that can keep you from doing well in an internal interview in Chapter One, but now let’s take a look at some of the challenges that arise beyond your ability to control.

You can do everything within your power to prepare to answer questions well and be professional, but the perspective of others can be harder to overcome. Here are some things to expect.

Your interviewers

It’s very possible that you may know one or several of your interviewers in an internal interview. This can be an advantage if you are on good terms with this interviewer, as they can be an advocate for you in the hiring process and it may help you feel more at ease during the interview.

However, it can also be a challenge. If you have good rapport with your interviewer, it may be harder to focus on being professional and you can make the mistake of being too informal or not answering well.

Additionally, you may know someone on the interview team, but they are not a very big fan of yours and it has you worried. Or perhaps you know they already have a favored candidate and you will therefore have a lot more to overcome when it comes to convincing them that you’re the person for the job.

Ready for Your Next Step?

Internal interviews should not be taken lightly. You’ll still be heavily evaluated just like any other interview. Learn how to practice so you can get that promotion you’ve worked so hard for.
I’m Ready to Land a Job

It’s true that you can’t always please everybody–sometimes people hold stubborn opinions and nothing will change their mind.

But you should be able to overcome most obstacles by interviewing well and proactively addressing any issues that may exist between you and an interviewer.

For instance, you can particularly focus on your ability to be flexible and get along with others, or demonstrate how you deal with conflicts head-on.

Your reputation

Your reputation inside a company is largely determined by your productivity and demeanor. If your interviewers don’t know you personally, they may know you by reputation.

Once again, this can be an advantage and a disadvantage.

You may be well-known for being great at your job, but now that you are looking for a promotion, they may still see you as your current role and have a really hard time envisioning you doing something else.

Additionally, you may still be seen as “the new guy” even if you’ve been there for years.

It’s good to know what your reputation in the company is before you go into your internal interview. Having this knowledge will help you know how to build your answers (especially about your strengths) and counter any misconceptions the interviewers may have of you based on your reputation.

Your role

Sometimes the next step you want to take in your career isn’t an obvious next step. This can result in your interviewers wondering about your qualifications and interest in the new position you’re interviewing for.

If the role you’re aiming for is a bit of a stretch, you’ll need to be prepared to make a strong case for why you’re qualified.

The good news is internal interviewers are more likely to take a chance on an applicant who shows great potential, even with some gaps in their work experience, than they would be if you were an external applicant.

Still, even with that grace being extended towards you, you’ll want to do your due diligence in convincing them you have what it takes

This will mean selling the heck out of your transferable skills and speaking convincingly about how your current role has prepared you for the promotion.

Ready to land your Dream job?


There are some unique challenges and advantages to internal interviews. You already know the company and possibly even your interviewer. This is great for “inside” information that will be important to your interview.

However, sometimes this same familiarity can work against you. Your reputation may proceed you, and be hard to overcome, or you may not prepare as well as you would for an interview outside your organization because you feel too comfortable and bomb the interview unexpectedly.

Perhaps your interviewer does know you and therefore may be harder on you in an attempt to not have a biased response to your interview. Many different things can happen that you may not have control over.

But what you do have control over is your preparation and whether or not you practice. Glean as much information as you can, prepare your answers with your company’s values in mind, and practice, practice, practice! That promotion will be yours in no time.

Ready for Your Next Step?

Internal interviews should not be taken lightly. You’ll still be heavily evaluated just like any other interview. Learn how to practice so you can get that promotion you’ve worked so hard for.
I’m Ready to Land a Job

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