In this blog post, Clare Plascow from the University of Reading’s Art Collections discusses the all-too-familiar scenario of facing the job application process as an internal candidate.


Applications and interviews are a mental and emotional minefield; so finding a job advertised where you work or volunteer can be a stroke of luck.  A huge advantage over external candidates is the fact that you know the place, people and the collections. With pre-career training and ever increasing numbers of short-term contracts, this is a scenario that you’re likely to come across at some point in your career.

Unfortunately, as I’m sure many people have and will experience (and I’m including myself amongst them), translating application to job offer is not necessarily any easier as an internal candidate.


What’s more, there’s often additional pressure involved in the process, especially if there’s an expectation from colleagues and supervisors that you’ll be applying for the job.  Particularly, when you’re on a short-term contract or volunteering and the role is very similar.

It can be awkward when you’re asked whether you are applying; just remember you have absolutely no duty to tell anyone that you’re applying for an internal position. Although saying that, I’d recommend mentioning it to your line manager or supervisor and definitely if you’re planning on using them as a reference.



It can sometimes feel very odd, particularly when you know who is doing the shortlisting, but treat an internal application like you would any other job. Then it’s the nerve-wracking wait to find out if you have an interview.

A ‘yes’ is just as wonderful as a ‘no’ can be devastating. It can be especially difficult as an internal candidate when you’re rejected for interview and can even feel like a personal slight or even a waste of your time applying at all. I can assure you that this really isn’t true.

Tom’s written a fantastic post about dealing with rejection after interview and a lot of his tips for next steps can apply as an internal candidate. I’d add that often you are able get more detailed feedback from members of the shortlisting panel and can ask to find ways of gaining any experience you are missing in your work or volunteering.


If you get an interview the worrying doesn’t stop there. Next it’s the dreaded interview prep. Here too being an internal candidate comes with pros and cons. The fact that you’ll know at least some of the interview panel can fall into both lists:

Pro: There’ll be less of the ‘oh-god-this-is-someone-I’ve-never-met’ nerves (with a caveat that they’ll have probably brought in an external interviewer to keep the process fair).

Con: There’s the ‘how-much-detail-do-I-go-into’ and ‘how-do-I-refer-to-work-done-here’ questions that are inevitably thrown up.

Unfortunately today’s reality is that the interview (and application) process is essentially a tick-box exercise. If you don’t say something, even if the interview panel know that you have the answer they want, they can’t mark it down.  Although you won’t have to go into the amount of detail explaining a situation or exactly how everyone in your examples are related to the scenario, you still need to be clear and concise. My opinion is that saying a little too much is always preferable to not saying enough.

As I mentioned earlier treating the entire process like any other job interview can be helpful when preparing (difficult but useful). Should you fail to get the job after interview, I’d suggest trying to sit down with someone from the interview panel. They now know that you’re interested in changing how you’re working, whether a step up or a different type of museum work, and will be a great resource to help you get there.

Clare 4

Finally – good luck!

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