Insider'sguide to success;Career Development

22nd May 1998 at 01:00
Want to move jobs without changing your employer? John Caunt offers some tips.

Few experiences in the interview arena compare with that of being an internal candidate. You are treated with suspicion by the other candidates, while your colleagues, anxious about showing any favouritism, treat you with an odd formality.

Over-riding the whole experience is the knowledge that lack of success will make rejection more difficult than if you had been applying elsewhere.

The choice between internal and external candidates is often seen as new blood versus continuity. External appointees offer a fresh angle and encourage new thinking among others. They come without the baggage that might encumber internal appointees.

Internal candidates offer awareness of local conditions and personalities. They have proved their worth and can offer the continuity organisations need for unruffled development.

In reality, the picture is more complex. External appointments are always something of a gamble. As with used cars, glossy presentation may disguise faults that emerge only over time. Equally, some internal candidates view promotion as a reward for services rendered and will rest on their laurels once the objective has been achieved.

Your task is to incorporate the strengths of all candidates and convince the interviewers you have the best all-round balance. Prepare as for any other job interview and aim to keep your dealings with the panel and existing colleagues relaxed but professional.

Internal candidates are sometimes too chummy, appearing smug - or, more often, over-anxious and formal. Remember, the world will not end if you are unsuccessful. It's just another job.


* Freshness of ideas

Show you have something new to contribute and that you respond to change. Even if you have been in the same place for a long time, you can demonstrate that you have kept pace with developments through reading, conferences and contacts. You don't have to go to the point of junking previous practice, but make sure you don't come over as a "we've always done it this way" candidate.

* Breadth of experience

Emphasise the variety of experience in previous jobs and responsibilities at your existing school or college. Show how you have learned from your experience and applied it.

* Lack of baggage

No candidate, external or internal, is completely free of baggage, but the panel will be more aware of yours. Make sure it is no weightier than necessary. Do not harp on about one or two well-worn achievements. Acknowledge any difficulties in the past, but show you have learned from them and moved on.

* Local knowledge

Do not overplay local knowledge. It is at best a temporary advantage over external candidates. You are likely to be most successful if you can show, through real examples, how your local knowledge would help you to tackle some of the issues that will be important in the job.

* Continuity

If colleagues are relatively new and inexperienced, an appointment that represents experience and continuity may be important. Describe how you will build on previous work, but take care not to imply you will simply continue with what you are doing now.

* Track record

Do not assume everything about your track record will be taken into account. It is difficult for selectors to retain all the relevant facts about all the candidates throughout a set of interviews. Seize opportunities to reinforce your achievements, but remember that, unlike the external candidate, you won't get away with exaggeration.

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