Career Clinic

Q: I am thinking about applying for a job that I´ve seen advertised locally but a friend says an internal applicant has already been lined up. Is it worth me applying?

A: I’m afraid the answer depends largely on the organisation. The rules about equal opportunities and access to job opportunities are laid out in various employment legislation, but the reality is that some organisations are less risk averse than others and only apply the rules when it suits.

Generally, public sector and larger private sector organisations tend to have robust equality and diversity procedures and incorporate the principles in their recruitment practices. They also have human resources departments to police situations and maintain the integrity of their ­recruitment.

Some smaller organisations are less well equipped, often without any human resources support at all and it’s a bit of a lottery as to whether your application is taken seriously. The only way to find out is by giving it a go!

It is tempting to think that an internal candidate will automatically have a big advantage over an external applicant. Nothing could be further from the truth. Time after time, I have seen lacklustre interviews from employees who assume that the recruiting manager already knows all they need to know and treat the exercise as a cosy chat rather than a chance to show that they can do the job.

In a robust process, all applicants have to be measured and scored against consistent questions, which are intended to find out what skills and experience candidates have that match the person specification for the job. Some of that evidence may come from performance in the current job, and it may be easier to judge people you know and have seen working. The flip side is that you also know their foibles!

In a good process, all applicants are treated as unknown and it is down to them to prove on the day that they would be able to do the new job. My advice is to study the requirements for the post that is, unpick the job description, person specification and any other relevant information, and shape your application so you comment on everything that is deemed to be essential (and sometimes desirable).

Similarly, prepare yourself for the inevitable interview and think of examples that you can use. It is easy to talk the talk and tell the interviewer how good you are, but less easy to prove it unless you have put some thought and effort into your preparation.

Lastly, if you are unsuccessful, ask for feedback. You may not get it, but if you do it could be invaluable for your next application.

Alison Sanger is a social care HR consultant

A: Yes it is worth applying as you may have additional qualifications or experience they would like. They may want someone from outside the organisation or they may offer the internal applicant the job and then be in a position to offer you something too – it will also be excellent interview experience and the organisation will know that you are interested in them should you be unsuccessful but interested in a position with them in the future. Also if the successful applicant changes their mind about the post then they may come back to you as the second choice. Often it can be hard to decide who to offer a post to as all the applicants are of a high calibre.

Alexandra Manning, care manager, older people’s assessment team

28 June Question

Q: Sometimes I’m written to by the human resources department, and at other times it’s the personnel department. They all seem to talk to me about the same things, so why are we wasting money and resources (which I, for one, could put to better use in my social work team) having two support departments? We will answer this question in the 28 June issue of Community Care. Please send your advice for publication to by Wednesday 20 June.

Do you have your own career dilemma? Send your comments or questions for consideration by our HR expert and your peers to


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