Applying for a job as an internal candidate

My last post was on the topic of performance at interviews.  One response to that post when I originally published it on @staffrm highlighted the issue of how difficult it can be to generate “any other questions” at the end of the formal interview if you are an internal candidate.  In ‘Making the leap – Moving from deputy to head’, I explore some advantages, and disadvantages, of being an internal candidate for headship.  This post is about being an internal applicant at any level.

I had seven jobs in six schools over a thirty-year career, and one of those was an internal promotion.  In some ways it was the most nerve-wracking – not least because, if unsuccessful, you knew you’d have to continue to work in that school, going back into a staffroom which contained some colleagues who had no doubt been running a book on whether you got the job.

As an internal candidate, there are a number of things in your favour as you go through the application and selection process.  However, you may also find yourself facing challenges external applicants do not meet.  Awareness of both, and strategies for making the most of the opportunities, and dealing with the specific demands of being an internal applicant, should play an important part in your preparation.

  1. Be aware that as an internal candidate you should, if you are successful in your current role, have credibility and the respect of senior staff and colleagues (and students and parents).  Show how all you have achieved in that specific context in the past is a secure platform on which to build.
  2. Also be aware, however, that you will be seen in a particular way within that school, and you will tend to see yourself in a particular way too.  Focus on your potential to step up to the next level of responsibility – what you will be capable of doing in the future, rather than just what you have done in the past.  What will you bring to the role, and to the school and the work of your team, which adds value to what you already contribute? How will things be different?
  3. Show how your established relationships and depth of understanding about the school’s ethos and systems will enable you to hit the ground running in this new role – not just from the time you officially take up the position, but from the time of the appointment as you manage the lead-in period and continue to consolidate your learning alongside the current incumbent (whom you must treat with respect and sensitivity).
  4. Don’t assume that in your letter of application, and at interview, you don’t need to elaborate on your successes because “they already know”. Make very clear the link between what you have done and what you COULD do, between what you have to offer and what, you see clearly, the school needs.
  5. And this is the main advantage. You know the school/team/role well enough to see how things could develop even more positively.  Make clear how you will capitalise on current strengths and build on what has been achieved.  Beware of seeming retrospectively critical of what has gone before, but show how, under your leadership, the team you lead will accomplish even more in the future.

Good luck!

Photo credit: John Berry

This post was originally published on @staffrm earlier in the year

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