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Internal Interview

vikinganna87vikinganna87 Live Free or Die member
Fifth Anniversary 250 Love Its 100 Comments First Answer
Seeking general and specific advice for an internal job interview.

Some background:

I'm in sales and work in a start-up office of an established company.  Overall our office has underperformed and there's been extremely high turnover. Some of it is due to our challenging industry and the amount of competition but as for what's within our control a lot has to do with our product/services as well as either questionable hires or hires not set up for success.

I've been here longer than most and have done well, especially in the past several months. Our sales director started about 6 months after I did and has done a good job slowly turning things around, though not as much as the Management Team would like.  

The open position is for a sales manager under the director role.  I put together a proposal for three key areas to work on as well as action steps for each area that needs improvement.  I'm using this as the basis for my interview, treading a delicate line of making the sales director feel good while recognizing that I can help out because he has limited bandwidth.  The people I'm interviewing with have seen the proposal.

I've also been proactive in doing sales manager-y type things with the team in the past several weeks, including moderating a brainstorm session - with the sales director's approval, of course.  I've also pulled people aside for one-on-ones during employee to employee conflicts and done my best to understand the situation and help mediate and keep people positive and respecting each other.

I've never had experience with direct reports at work though I have a masters in business and do management and leadership coaching through a formal program with undergraduates a couple of times per year.

I suspect the director for this office as well as head of sales want an outside candidate -- these are the two people I'm interviewing with outside of HR -- but I figured I'd interview for the position anyway.  To my knowledge, no other sales reps from my office are being considered or have applied at this time.  

Any tips or advice or things to focus on?!  I've considered gathering "letters" of reference from various people at the company including people in my office as well as other departments I work with, but I think it may be premature until I see how the interview goes.

Re: Internal Interview

  • Congrats on the new prospect! It sounds like you're well prepared and have a good grasp on what would be easy for you and what would be challenging for you in this new position. (And I'm reading this correctly that it's a new/created position, right?)

    In my experience, when there's a director, manager, and reports, the manager job is very much focused on taking the employee management piece off the director so s/he can do work and make decisions without approving PTO, mitigating issues, developing goals, talking about career paths, etc. If the current director is strapped for time, this is probably the area where he wants relief. It's paperwork, it's time consuming, and it gets in the way of real work.

    That said, I would expect to talk about how you are professional/all business, respected by your colleagues, good at managing work plans, good at managing your own work while monitoring the work of others (this will be a challenge since you've never managed, so talk about multi-project handling in project leadership roles), and a quick learner (you'll have to learn new employee management systems and processes).

    Your edge over external candidates is that you understand the strengths and weaknesses of your prospective team, you have solid understanding of the company, they know you're loyal and plan to build your career with this company (evidenced by your relatively long tenure). 

    If you have "friends" that would report to you, stop going out to lunch with them and chatting at the water cooler now. You need to be seen as objective, managerial, and not playing favorites. 

  • vikinganna87vikinganna87 Live Free or Die member
    Fifth Anniversary 250 Love Its 100 Comments First Answer

    Thank you very much --- these are all great points and your advice is very helpful.  And you're right; it is a new position.  I've printed this out so I can take a closer look and make sure I incorporate everything you mention.  :)

  • I have limited experience with internal interviews; one I've seen go really well, and one really poorly. The one that went really well the woman had an impressive work history with the organization, was universally liked by everyone, and had a good reputation. The only thing she was "lacking" (for really lack of a better term) was a degree in the field, but her work experience made up for it. 

    The one that went poorly was because the hiring committee knew his work, and while it was really good, they felt they could get someone "better" with more credentials/publications/etc. and felt he would continue to stay in the position and keep doing great work, and they could get someone new. In that case I think it would have helped for him to really highlight all he brings to the table, that he really wanted to grow with the department and how strong of a candidate he was against outside candidates. 

    I'd just make sure you highlight why you'd be competitive for the position, outside of you experience with the company, as well as stressing how much you know about the company. 
  • Good luck!!! I completely agree with what @southernbelle0915 and @charlotte989875 have said. I think it would be great to also focus on your ability to hit the ground running since you know so much about the company already, as PPs have said. That's always a plus - a start-up type atmosphere within an established company already has an uphill battle vs. the competition (my company is quite established in most of our markets, but there are a few markets in other parts of the country where we have to overcome being the "rookie") If you have national accounts, it will be harder for a sales manager coming in from the outside to deliver those established clients with a consistent message/level of service as your more established offices than someone who already knows the company like yourself. 

    I hope this makes sense. I may need more coffee. 
  • @southernbelle0915

    Thank you very much --- these are all great points and your advice is very helpful.  And you're right; it is a new position.  I've printed this out so I can take a closer look and make sure I incorporate everything you mention.  :)

    You're welcome! I think the reason they're probably thinking someone external is because they want a new face (with no prior relationships with the staff) to manage everyone. The more you can show them that you are objective, respected, and that people can report to you, the more likely you'll be to get the job. That's what I would focus on, personally. Obviously they know you are good at the sales work. You don't have to sell your skills on that. 

  • thisismynickname2thisismynickname2 City By The Lake member
    5000 Comments Sixth Anniversary 500 Love Its First Answer
    Agree with advice above. I will say by observation it's really hard to break into a manager job without ever having direct reports. The Catch-22 of not having the right experience and thus not getting the opportunity to get the right experience. Have you ever been a mentor, either internally here, or at another job, or even just something like mentor to a high school student? Do you have other leadership experience, like at a volunteer job? 
    Think about "tough conversations" you may have successfully had before. Think about how you'd manage the transition from team member to team manager (relationships change!). 
    Good luck!! 

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