Career Fitness: Interdict the Internal Candidate

Career Fitness: Interdict the Internal Candidate

Career Fitness: Interdict the Internal Candidate

Recent surveys have found that half or more of all open positions are filled by internal candidates. Employers may advertise those jobs publicly, but they often hire privately. If you’re on the outside looking in, the competition appears to be fair, but in truth, it’s slanted against you or, worse, offers as much chance of success as your odds of winning the lottery. The key to finding a new or better job, therefore, is knowing how to interdict the internal candidate.

The dictionary defines “interdict” as the ability to intercept or prevent the movement of a person or thing. And in a job search today, that’s precisely what you must do. You have to prevent the internal candidate from moving ahead of you in the race for a job opening. It’s challenge enough dealing with the other external candidates for a job, but competing with internal candidates is especially tough because they have three formidable advantages.

Let’s take a look at each of those advantages and how you can overcome them to get the consideration you deserve when competing for a job.


First, internal candidates are a known commodity. By virtue of their work in the organization, they’ve built professional relationships with their peers and supervisors, so their fit with the organization is already established. In addition, the organization’s recruiters and hiring managers probably have a pretty accurate picture of the internal candidate’s strengths and shortcoming and thus are able to measure their ability to contribute with accuracy.

How can you counteract this advantage? Be a known commodity in your field. Expand the circle of people who know of you and of your willingness and ability to contribute. Engage with your peers in the real world by participating regularly in the local and national meetings of your professional society. Also be visible online at the leading blogs and chats for your profession and contribute to the discussion regularly. Make your public persona a person who is willing to share their wisdom and experience for the benefit of others. Then, feature that persona on your resume.

Second, internal candidates can hit the ground running. They may be new to a role, but they know the organization’s culture, its standard operating procedures and their coworkers, so it will take them little or no time “to get up to speed.” In addition, there’s no institutional or personal delay in their getting started. They don’t have to be processed or onboarded into the organization nor do they have to relocate or make arrangements for a new child care schedule.

How can you counteract this advantage? Be someone who can hit it out of the park. No matter how hard you try, you’re unlikely to reach full productivity as quickly as an internal candidate, so provide an alternative benefit they’re unlikely to match. If they’re viewed as the candidate who knows the normal routine – they can contribute in the box – position yourself as the person who can think and contribute outside the box. Use your resume to highlight your ability to bring innovation and creativity to process improvements and step-wise advances in productivity.

Third, internal candidates are seen as the low risk choice. The two advantages I mentioned previously combine to set the internal candidate up as the person least likely to be a hiring mistake. They are already a familiar and trusted coworker, so they are almost always perceived as the safest bet. And since many recruiters are risk averse, that’s a powerful incentive to select them.

How can you counteract this advantage? Trump low risk with high opportunity. While many employers will be tempted to stay with what’s comfortable, they also know there’s danger in standing still and simply repeating past practices in today’s highly competitive markets. Victory belongs to the organizations with the best talent – not the best known talent inside the family – so use your resume to spotlight your ability to make a meaningful and measureable contribution to your employer and your motivation to do so from your first day of employment.

Thanks for Reading,


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