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Questions to Ask When the Position Involves Management

Why are there no internal candidates for this job?

This is the biggest question that you need answered. If you were interviewing for a management position and the company is obviously hiring outside of the current staff, indeed, be even more careful about what you're walking into.

Regardless of whether people would admit it, companies have a tendency to promote from within, even if the people they're promoting aren't as qualified and competent as external candidates might be. The psychology of this practice centers around two things. First of all, internal candidates "know the system." They know the company and all the people in it. The people doing the hiring are familiar with these people, and there's a tendency to think that the people they know, even with their faults, are better than the people they don't know. If they hire externally, they're fearful of whatever drawbacks they might get in a new person. It's just easier to stick with what they know.

The second reason is that companies are afraid that if they don't promote from within, their employees will be disgruntled with the idea that they can't get promoted and leave the organization. Every company wants to appear to all that it gives its employees the opportunity to be promoted. So, it will promote when it thinks it should, rather than interview external candidates.

So, if you were interviewing for a management position, you better get a very clear, deep, and convincing group of reasons as to why no one has been promoted from within. Having been involved in the hiring process for more than three decades, I'm absolutely convinced that ninety-nine out of a hundred times, a company is confined to a less qualified internal candidate than by going outside the organization. But, the known person is better than the unknown person, so it will promote from within when it can, even though it shouldn't.

Well-run companies know this. So, it is likely that you may even be competing with internal candidates. But if you've made it this far in the interviewing process, it is likely that internal candidates are either not qualified or not available.

If you are interviewing for a management position, throughout the whole interviewing process you will get a sense as to whether you were competing with internal candidates. The answer to the above question can be everything from, "We can't find anybody truly qualified to do the job," to "We can't find anybody who wants the job." Don't let your ego lead you to believe that you are going to be the "savior" the company should hire above all of its internal candidates. There may be some very legitimate, reasonable business reasons as to why there are no internal candidates capable of being promoted. You just need to know what they are. You need to constantly ask yourself, "Does this make sense?" Don't dismiss the whole idea of why there are no internal candidates when you hear, "Well, there is nobody qualified to do the job internally."

Because you want a job and good management jobs are hard to find, you will want to accept the reasons that no internal candidates are going to be hired relatively easily. I have filled many management positions over the years that wound up being "no win" situations. Often, they wound up being disasters to the person that I placed. Looking back, both my candidate and I should have seen the problems that eventually arose. There were very good reasons there was no internal candidate: No one wanted the job! Management positions are hired externally all the time. This is not to say that if you're being considered for a management position, it is a good opportunity. There are very good reasons why companies should hire externally. As you can tell, I'm convinced that they could probably hire better candidates externally then they can from promoting internally. But reality is that internal candidates have an advantage.

Just be sure that you ask a lot of questions about why an external candidate is being considered. Don't simply accept the initial "party line." Even though you may want the job—and it may very well be good for you—you must be absolutely comfortable with the answer to this question.

Now, at the time of the offer, is the time to follow up the above question with, "I know that you have said there are no internal candidates for this job, but can you tell me, in detail, why you aren't promoting from within?"

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