What Does “Internal Candidate” Mean on a Job Application?

What Does “Internal Candidate” Mean on a Job Application?

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Job hunting can be a nerve-wracking experience. More often than not, it’s a tough competition where you need to stand out to get noticed. So when you’re applying for a job with internal applicants, does that mean your chances are ruined? 

“Internal candidate” on a job application means an applicant is applying for a different position at a company where they currently work. While an internal candidate may have the edge over external candidates, being one does not guarantee getting hired. What matters is suitability for the role. 

In the rest of this article, we will talk about the advantages that internal candidates have over other applicants and what you can do to stand out when applying for a job (even if you’re an external candidate).

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Advantages of Internal Candidates

Not all companies open job vacancies to internal applicants, which signifies that a company’s work culture is not very good. It means that they don’t value the growth of their own employees, so they would rather look for new people than invest in their own. 

So when you’re applying for a job, and you know they’re considering internal applicants, take it as a positive sign. It means that if you ever get in, you’ll have room to grow in the company, and your skills will be noticed as long as you do your job well.

However, competing with applicants who are already on the inside can be extra challenging. 

Let’s explore the advantages that internal candidates have over external candidates: 

They Know (and Most Likely Fit) the Work Culture

Internal applicants already know the ins and outs of the company’s work culture, ethics, and values. And the fact that they’re considering a different position in the same company means that they enjoy these things about the company and are a good fit.

This poses a huge challenge to an external applicant because, from the hiring manager’s perspective, there’s no need to hire someone new when they already have someone who fits the culture very well (assuming that they also possess the qualifications needed).

They Understand the Job Well

Aside from knowing and fitting in the company’s culture, internal applicants will most likely better understand what the job entails. They already work there; they know how things work. They may even know the things not mentioned in the advertised job description, such as the politics that go with the job. 

They Have a Good Relationship with the Bosses

Internal applicants already have good relationships inside the company – including HR and the bosses. Someone who does not have a positive working relationship with their superiors or colleagues will typically not apply for a job at the same company.

These relationships can be used as leverage and can create a bias when choosing between applicants.

How To Get Noticed When You’re an External Candidate

If your dilemma is how to get noticed when you’re competing with an internal candidate, here’s what you can do: 

Research the Job and the Company Thoroughly

Before applying for the job, do your research. Nothing is more disappointing than an applicant who knows nothing about the company. It tells the hiring manager that you’re not interested in the job or the company; you’re just there hoping to land a random job that you don’t care about.

Therefore, research the company thoroughly, and aim to know the answers to these questions:

  • What does the company do, and why do they do it?
  • How do they do what they do?
  • Why do you want to work there?
  • Why do their mission and vision appeal to you?
  • What are their core values and ethics?
  • What is their culture, and how do you fit in?

You can also add to these questions. At the end of your research, you should be able to know the company so well that internal candidates lose that edge over you. But remember, this is easier if you genuinely care about the company’s vision. If you’re passionate about the company, it will show. 

Show the Value You Can Add to the Company

Next, you should show the hiring manager the value you can bring to the team. On your resume, highlight your relevant qualifications, skills, and experience. And when you are given a chance for an interview, be confident and clear when explaining how you fit the role. In short, don’t be afraid to “sell” yourself.

Remember, don’t just make abstract claims about your capabilities and strengths. Back them up with experience. For example, if you have received awards in the past, make sure to say so. The whole point is to let the hiring manager know exactly what you can do (with a proven track record). 


All applicants (whether internal or external) have their advantages. If you’re an external applicant, you bring a fresh perspective and new ideas. Remember, when applying for a job, communicate your value proposition and use it to allow your application to shine. 

And if you’re an internal candidate, don’t get too confident and take your application and interviews lightly. Prepare for them as if you were an external candidate. 


About The Author

Nathan Brunner
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Nathan Brunner is a mathematician who cares about the job market.

He is the owner of Salarship, a job search engine where less-skilled candidates can find accessible employment opportunities.