Do Current Employees Have An Inside Track on Government Jobs?

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Yes, current government employees have a leg up in competing for jobs within their own organizations. This is true for several reasons.

First, some jobs are posted for internal applicants only. This excludes all external applicants from competing in the hiring process. Even if someone from the outside could do the job as well or better than an internal applicant, that external applicant cannot be hired.

Even if the external applicant submits an application, the organization’s human resources department will likely screen it out of the hiring process because the applicant does not meet the minimum qualifications documented in the posting, particularly the requirement to be an existing employee of the organization.

Why Internal Applicants May Have an Advantage

A hiring manager may post a job just to internal applicants for many reasons. Common reasons include wanting someone with institutional knowledge, having a specific person in mind to hire, saving time in the hiring process and creating promotional opportunities for current staff.

The second reason a current employee has an advantage is being a relatively known commodity. While hiring managers can perform reference checks on external applicants as well as internal applicants, hiring managers can do more exploratory work on internal applicants than they can do on external applicants. A hiring manager can ask around the office about an internal applicant's strengths, weaknesses, work habits and career goals. This is usually impossible for external applicants.

The hiring manager can have more robust information about the internal candidate, and the known is always more comfortable than the unknown. A manager would rather know about potential performance issues up front than discover them a few months into a new hire's tenure.

Third, internal applicants require less training once on the job. Managers do not have to explain the mission of the organization, walk through the organizational chart and discuss the latest happenings in and around the organization. Some internal new hires already know where to park, who their new teammates are, how to make benefits choices and even where the restroom is.

New hires can become productive fairly quickly when they know the basics an employee needs to know just to work in the organization. This is especially important to hiring managers when the due date for a major milestone or deliverable on a project is fast approaching and the person who fills the vacant position is expected to help meet the deadline.

The fourth reason current employees have an advantage is they can find out things to help them tailor their application materials to the hiring manager. Say a hiring manager is big on communication skills. An internal applicant can find this out and frame his related experience in terms of how communication was enhanced. If the candidate has project management experience, the candidate can play up the communication aspect of being a project manager. An external candidate rarely knows anything about the hiring manager.

Fifth, an internal candidate can schmooze with the hiring manager. People want to work with people they like. Even though a government hiring process is designed to be fair, putting your network to use can't hurt. A bug in someone’s ear can be the slight edge that puts one candidate over another in the hiring process.