Job Doc

When the inside candidate gets the job

Q: I recently had two interviews for a job I really wanted. I met once with the hiring manager and then again with the full team. I thought everything was going well until I received an automated e-mail alerting me that the position had been filled. I followed up with the recruiter, who told me they had an internal hire in mind all along who got the job. This really bothers me. Why waste people’s time if you know it’s all a front?

A: I’m sorry about your experience. Receiving an automated e-mail alert about a position after you’ve interviewed and met with several people face to face is unacceptable, and, frankly, the human resources department that allows this practice is damaging the company’s brand.

Regarding the internal hire, I’d like to believe that they didn’t know ahead of time what the outcome of the interview process was going to be. Many organizations do have both internal and external candidates for positions. Internal candidates aren’t guaranteed the role, but it does typically represent a competitive situation.


In future interviews, ask straight out: “Are there internal candidates for this role?” An important part of what you can learn from this question is whether promoting from within is part of the organization’s culture. If there aren’t internal candidates, why not? Is there no succession planning? If there are internal candidates, you’ll get a better idea of your competition.

Get Talking Points in your inbox:
An afternoon recap of the day’s most important business news, delivered weekdays.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

When searching job descriptions, you may even see a disclaimer stating that there is a “strong internal candidate for this position.” This tells potential candidates that it is a more competitive situation than normal and that they should consider carefully whether they are aligned with and qualified for the role.

On the bright side, your two interviews probably mean that you were actually quite competitive. You were a strong enough candidate to warrant being asked back to meet the team.

Although you’re disappointed about not getting the job and angered by the automated e-mail, you can turn this into a positive opportunity rather than a waste of time. You were able to meet with many people in the organization and in your industry — take advantage of that. Add anyone you met with to your LinkedIn network and start developing new relationships. They can assist in networking for your next role, and they might even think of you for future opportunities within the organization.

Automated e-mail aside, let’s give this organization the benefit of the doubt: It may have been required to post the job externally, regardless of having strong internal candidates. It’s also likely that it just wants to make sure it gets the best person.


Either way, you can turn this into a positive by using the experience to expand your network and learn what to look for in future interviews.

Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston, and serves on the board of Career Partners International.