Internal Candidates - The Real Competition

A recent survey of top U.S. corporations indicates that more than fifty percent of all job openings are filled by internal candidates before they're ever introduced to the public job market. While that figure may vary, the fact remains that companies like to promote from within. In most cases, employees already working for a company are going to be favored to fill new positions over job seekers from outside the company. As a job seeker, your biggest competitor for job openings isn't another job seeker, it's an employee already working with an employer's company.

Given the unstable economy and volatile political environment, employers are doing everything they can to minimize risk for their companies. They need to fill jobs, but hiring a new employee – especially one they're unfamiliar with – for a critical position is a huge risk these days. For that reason alone, promoting from within – when it comes to filling top positions – is becoming much more common place. It makes perfect senses, doesn't it? An employer already knows an employee's personality, skill set and fit within the organization's culture. Hiring a job seeker who's never worked with the company – even a skilled one – is really a shot in the dark. For most employers, hiring a current employee to fill a new position is the safest bet.

Given this alarming trend, as a job seeker, how do you stay competitive? Well, the first step is to recognize who your real competition is. If you want to get a leg up on other job seekers, then focus your efforts on beating out the real competition – the competition from within. You must find ways of getting in front of potential employers and convincing them you're a better candidate for the job than there current employees.

So how exactly do you convince an employer you're the best man (or woman) for the job? The following are our recommendations:

  • Be proactive, network, and get noticed.
    Over half of new job positions are filled internally. These positions never make it to the open job market, and consequently you never hear about them. So if you don't work for the company hiring, how do you find out about highly sought after positions before they're filled internally? The answer is networking. The only way to find out about these positions is by having a contact who works for the company and maintaining a good repoire with your contact – so that when these positions arrise they'll recommend you for the job or let you know about it. To compete effectively with employees who have established a good track record, it helps when your contact will recommend you as a better candidate for the position, or that they at least let you know about the vacant position.

    If your contact feels comfortable informing you of a position, but won't take the initiative to recommend you personally, then you need to be proactive and get yourself noticed on your own. Contact the employer or hiring agent directly and introduce yourself. Let him or her know that John (your contact) mentioned there was an open position at their company and that you're confident you're have the perfect skill set for the job. Don't be pushy, but be bold and persistence and you'll at minimum get an interview.

  • Make sure you're an exact match for the job.
    No only do you need to be a good match for the job, your resume and application must be an exact match for the job. Most employers and hiring agents these days screen potential applicants by running their application through a computer-based system that matches a candidates skills to the those required of the position. Since the computer only recognizes specific keyword matches for the skills being sought, it's imperative that all your paperwork is perfect. Even though you have capabilities that other applicants lack, if your application doesn't make it through the "computer test" then you're not even going to get an interview.

  • Get to know your competition.
    Once you've positioned yourself as a viable candidate for the job, it's time to get to know your competition. While you don't know exactly who inside the company is being considered for the position, with a little detective work you can get a good idea. More than likely the employer is looking for someone within the same department to fill the position. Start by identifying current employees that work for that department. Your detective work should lead you to professional networking sites such as LinkedIn, Ziggs and Plaxo, and social networking sites, including Facebook and Twitter. You can also tap your contact for a list of potential internal candidates for the job. Once you have a list of potential candidates, develop a profile for each and learn what skills, experience and capabilities they have that are relevant to the position.

  • Play to your strengths.
    Now that you know what you're up against, it's time to position yourself as the candidate for the job. Analyze the strengths and weeknesses of your competitors and identify areas where you're the superior candidate. Find something unique that you bring to the table, such as experience. Even though internal employees are the first choice to fill open positions, they may be at a disadvantage precisely because they're employees. Their experience is limited to the company where they work – especially if they've been with the company a long time. Be ready to show how your outside experience can bring new skills or a fresh perspective to the company and to the positions that internal employees won't have.

In today's competitive job market, not only do you have to outshine other job seekers, you have to beat out internal employees ‐ the cadidates of choice for most positions and your strongest competitors. To do this you must be proactive, network and get yourself noticed, make sure you're skills are an exact match, analyze your competition, and position yourself as the best candidate for the job.

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