Further Questions: Any Tips for Internal Candidates?

Here’s another question from a reader:

Do you have any tips for interviewing as a internal candidate?  Can you share any stories about successful or unsuccessful candidacies by internal candidates?  What are the pitfalls to avoid?

Laurie Phillips
Keep in mind that you will probably be going up against a strong national pool because the job market is tight. Sell yourself and your skills for this particular job just as if you were not an internal candidate. Why do you want this job at this time and why do you think you’re the best person for it? Don’t let things get weird with the search committee. It just makes you look bad. Keep things as normal as possible. Don’t ask for extra perks like a hotel room the night before your interview. Use your insider information to put your best foot forward and show yourself to be the best choice. We have had both successful and unsuccessful internal candidates. There are no guarantees.

– Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans

Marge Loch-Wouters

Sometimes internal candidates don’t take the process seriously enough and it results in a less than stellar interview.  Competition is fierce and internal candidates have to show as strong a drive for the job as others. If internals approach an interview as a “fait accompli” situation, trouble can result. I have had internal candidates diss the department or staff in the department they wish to be hired in; come in with little enthusiasm and be unable to articulate their views and strengths.

It’s worth the trouble for the internal candidate to show enthusiasm and think critically about what wonderful things they can bring to the position beyond a warm body. Most managers want their hires to shine!

– Marge Loch-Wouters, Youth Services Coordinator, La Crosse (WI) Public Library


What a well-timed question!  I recently hired an internal candidate for a position that we had posted publicly, and I currently have a second position that is posted only in-house.

It is always impressive to me when a candidate has done her/his research on the position or the organization.  An internal candidate has a leg-up here in that the candidate has access to resources not necessarily available to the public.  Do you know the person who is leaving the position?  Ask about the job and what that person needed the most training in.  Can you talk to other staff inside the department about the general workflow or shared tasks?  Have you heard people from the department previously talk about how the department needs [x] or they wish they knew [skill]?

A big benefit to hiring internally is that the person already knows the ILS, has relationships with patrons and community resources, and understands the staffing hierarchy.  Play those up.

Also, think about what you’ll do if the offer doesn’t come out like you hope.  Do others besides the hiring committee know you are applying?  If you don’t get the new position, how will you feel in your current job?  What if you get the job but it isn’t a good fit—personality-wise, skill-wise, whatever—are you going to be able to step back into your old position?  Is it a possibility?  Would you even want to?

– Sarah Morrison, Adult Services Librarian, Neill Public Library, Pullman, Washington


I have been both a successful and unsuccessful internal candidate and I have been on search committees with internal candidates. This happens in nearly every posting at my institution because we have a library school, so many of our support staff have their MLS already.

I think the major pitfall to avoid as an internal candidate is assuming you have the job. While you do have a leg up on institutional knowledge, you have no way of knowing the skills and experiences the other candidates bring to the table. In every case where I was the unsuccessful internal candidate, the candidate who was hired was more experienced in the area needed. Unfortunately, this can be somewhat demoralizing to a staff member, especially if they assumed they would get the job offer.

One major thing to remember after the dust settles: Don’t be a sore loser or a sore winner!

If you did get the job offer, be gracious to the other candidates and give them the space they need. Be inclusive and work with the other candidate since they probably did have something to offer the position if they were offered an interview.

If you did not get the job offer, it is important to keep a smile on your face, a positive attitude, and a willingness to work with the candidate. You will not be considered for future promotions if you behave poorly. If you need to complain, complain to your cat, your grandmother, your spouse, etc. Just do not complain at work!

If you have the courage, ask the search committee chair how you could improve your chances of being offered the next job. It can hurt, but it can also greatly improve the odds for getting the next position.

– Julie Leuzinger, Department Head, Eagle Commons Library, University of North Texas Libraries


Marleah AugustineOne pitfall is assuming that since everyone knows you, you don’t have to sell yourself as much as you would if you were an external candidate. Yes, we know you, but use that as a springboard to give us additional information about how that experience and the work we’ve seen you do will enhance your capabilities in a higher position. We’ve seen you work in your current position, but we don’t know if that quality of work will be sustained in a new one.

– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library


Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email me at hiringlibrariansATgmail.com.

Thank YOU for reading!  I hear the wind blow, I hear the wind blow, it seems to say, hello, I’m the one who loves you comment.


Filed under Academic, Further Questions

3 responses to “Further Questions: Any Tips for Internal Candidates?

  1. Nancy Bolt

    A major problem I’ve encountered in considering internal candidates is what I call “second-in-command syndrome.” Some managers have this concept of the person as not being in a key leadership position because they may not have seen the person that way. All the advice above is really good. The internal candidate has to be able to demonstrate that, regardless of what job they have had so far, they are capable of taking and succeeding in a job with more responsibility.


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