🚀 Introducing Perform! Simplify Performance Management For Your Small Business. Check It Out 👉

December 1, 2023

15 Internal Interview Questions to Make Awesome Hires from Within

red yellow and green meter with the arm pointed to the green

Sometimes the best person for the job is right there next to you.

Amidst a growing number of hiring freezes, businesses are looking within to mitigate their talent challenges. Internal hiring is an increasingly popular route, with 70% of companies increasing their investment in internal mobility, compared to 58% just two years ago.

Finding your next superstar internally is a great way to reduce recruitment costs and improve employee retention. But you still need to ensure you’re putting the right people in the right seats on the bus.

We’ve got you covered with the top 15 interview questions for internal hiring.

Best internal job interview questions

  1. What drew you to this role?
  2. What's one aspect of your current role you would like to change?
  3. What have you learned in your current role that would help you succeed in this position?
  4. If you got this position, ​​what would you do to help your replacement?
  5. Where do you see yourself one year from now?
  6. Tell me about the last project you led. Who was involved and how did you divide tasks?
  7. Have you spoken to your current manager about this interview?
  8. What responsibilities and challenges are you expecting in the new role?
  9. What does your ideal collaboration style look like?
  10. How often do you collaborate across departments?
  11. How do you clarify instructions when a task isn’t clear?
  12. Tell us about a time when you made a misjudgment. How did you correct it?
  13. Have you encountered any communication challenges with your current team? What steps did you take to solve them?
  14. What motivates you to meet your deadlines?
  15. Tell me about the most challenging project you've had here. What did you learn from it?

Prepping for your next interview? Stop shuffling between lists and screens. Breezy’s customizable interview guides stay right on screen where you need ‘em so you never skip a beat.

The benefits of internal vs. external hiring

When you have an open internal position, you typically have two choices: find someone from within or post the open role and hire externally.

Both have their benefits and drawbacks. And because the two processes deal with completely different candidate pools, you need to approach each scenario with care. 

Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of internal vs. external hiring.

Internal Hiring

  • Accelerate ramp time by tapping into existing company knowledge
  • Shorten the hiring process with transparency into past performance history and no background or reference checks
  • Boost employee engagement and retention

External Hiring

  • Take advantage of fresh perspectives and skill sets
  • Expand capabilities by tapping into a larger pool of talent
  • Demonstrate growth

Why hire internally? And what to look for in internal candidates

According to the latest LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report, Gen Zers are 47% more likely to prioritize opportunities for internal advancement, and 45% more likely to value internal skills development compared to Gen X.

Even if internal hiring isn’t an approach you’re familiar with, taking the time to provide advancement opportunities is a good idea that could help you retain talent at a time when finding the right candidates is anything but easy.

Today more than half (55%) of employers say finding qualified candidates is their #1 hiring challenge. And nearly 35% named limited advancement opportunities as a key barrier to retention.

Internal hiring isn’t just about helping employees prepare for a promotion and work their way up the hierarchy. It’s about offering new opportunities for all employees and working toward a culture of learning that will take your business far into the future.

As more companies embrace initiatives like employee upskilling (training someone in the new skills needed to thrive in their current role or department) and reskilling (teaching someone the new skills required to move into a completely new job), internal hiring is becoming more the rule than the exception.

For example, companies like Amazon and others are already helping low-wage hourly workers move into in-demand positions at the company, like data analysis and software engineering, using on-the-job training to help them make a successful transition.

This is becoming even more important as the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation leaves companies with critical skills gaps. Internal hiring also helps empower those in roles at risk of becoming obsolete to future-proof their careers, and prevents managers from unconsciously siloing talent.

So what qualities should you look for when you’re interviewing internal candidates? Here are a few basic strengths and weaknesses to keep an eye out for:

  • Enthusiasm
  • Desire to learn new skills
  • Work ethic
  • Interest in the role
  • Team player

In a perfect world, internal hiring will look more like a garden trellis than a corporate ladder

Employees can move up and across the organization as needed, developing new skills along the way and helping fill business-critical gaps, without the cost of external recruitment.

But as with external candidates, you need to make sure the right people are moving into the right roles. The following interview tips and questions are here to help.

The 15 best questions to ask during an internal interview

Unlike the common interview questions you’d use for an external interview, these sample questions are designed to elicit answers based on your internal applicants’ current role and what they’re already bringing to the company. This gives you the opportunity to go more in-depth and see what they can bring to the new role.

1. What drew you to this role?

This question gets to the heart of why a candidate is looking to switch roles. 

Are they unsatisfied with their current position? Do they want more responsibility? This question offers valuable insight into their key motivations.

2. What's one aspect of your current role you would like to change?

This question is a great way to gain insight into a candidate’s current job. What’s working? What isn’t? And what are their expectations for their next role?

This information is especially useful if a candidate doesn’t get the open position. The management team can follow up by looking back at the candidate’s response and pinpointing ways to improve their experience, even if it means staying in their existing role for the time being.

3. What have you learned in your current role that would help you succeed in this position?

If the new position is a step up from their old one, this question gives the candidate an opportunity to show what they know and highlight the top skills or competencies they’ll bring to the table. If it’s more of a lateral shift, the candidate can highlight their transferable skills.

4. If you got this position, ​​what would you do to help your replacement?

One of the biggest challenges with internal hiring is dealing with the gap left by a promoted employee. This question helps set a basis for a conversation around how the candidate can provide support to the individual filling their old job, making the transition easier for everyone.

5. Where do you see yourself one year from now? And in five years?

Get a glimpse into the candidate’s plans for the future. How do they want to learn, progress, and grow at the company? Use this information to assess potential management fit and set clear performance management milestones for further growth.

6. Tell me about the last project you led. Who was involved and how did you divide tasks?

Problem-solving interview questions can help you understand how a candidate manages and collaborates on projects. Find out how they learn from past experiences and whether they’re open to improving in the future. This is also a great way to assess leadership skills and style.

Need more questions? Swing by the Breezy resource center and choose from over 400 free interview guides.

7. Have you spoken to your current manager about this interview?

In case there’s any doubt, be sure to ask this question. Internal mobility is great for company culture, but only if it’s approached with clear guidelines and full transparency. This one can also help you gauge the candidate's ability to communicate effectively with team members and stakeholders, ensuring a positive working relationship in the future.

8. What responsibilities and challenges are you anticipating in the new role?

This question helps the hiring manager understand what the candidate is expecting from the new position, including any fears or doubts. It also ensures the candidate knows what's expected of them, and gives them the chance to ask any lingering questions about the responsibilities listed in the job description.

9. What does your ideal collaboration style look like?

Cultural norms can vary, even within specific teams and departments. This question will help you understand where your candidate is coming from and how their former team culture aligns with their potential future role. 

10. How often do you collaborate across departments?

Which other teams and departments has the candidate worked with? How do they describe their communication and collaboration skills? These types of questions are important because they can offer you a look into the candidate's ability to be a team player, even when working with new teams or departments.

11. How do you clarify instructions when a task isn’t clear?

Even if the candidate already knows how things are done in a particular role or team, clear directions are crucial for ensuring a smooth onboarding experience and accelerating your ramp time.

12. Tell us about a time you made a misjudgment. How did you correct it?

Everybody makes mistakes. It’s how you deal with them that can make the difference between success and failure. This question assesses the candidate's level of ownership and accountability. Do they admit mistakes openly and seek to solve them?

13. Have you encountered any communication challenges with your current team? What steps did you take to solve them?

Similarly, this question assesses the candidate's communication skills and offers insight into how they resolve conflicts. Beyond hard skills and qualifications, the strength of a candidate’s emotional intelligence and soft skills can be a critical factor when reshuffling roles internally.

14. What motivates you to meet your deadlines?

No matter what position you’re looking to fill, it likely involves some level of time management. This question will help you understand how the candidate prioritizes their time for various projects and ensures that tasks are completed on schedule.

15. Tell me about the most challenging project you've had here. What did you learn from it?

We all have a moment we’re particularly proud of. This question gives the candidate an opportunity to champion the tough-but-rewarding work they’ve been a part of so far, while  providing insight into their problem-solving abilities and capacity to learn from past challenges.

Sniff out the superstars in your team

Even if you think you’ve got the right person for the job, internal interviews are an important part of the hiring process. Take an intentional approach with an intentional interview process that helps you give the right opportunities to the right employees.

When you’re ready to streamline your internal hires, Breezy is here to help. Use Breezy’s complete suite of interview tools to sync up team schedules, make sure everyone’s asking the right questions, and spend less time emailing and more time getting to know your best candidates.

Try it yourself with a free 14-day trial and start making better internal hires today.