You hear about a job and get invited to an interview, but you've been to a couple where they ended up hiring internally and you don't want to waste your time. What can you do, is it acceptable to ask a recruiter if the job is going to be filled internally?
Asking is fine, however...
- A corporate recruiter (company employee) may or may not know and anyway is under no obligation to tell you. Facts are that most companies try to promote from within. Then sometimes, even if there is a good internal candidate, a management directive can tell HR to look outside as a matter of CYA.
- A third party (retained) recruiter may or may not know and will be paid either way; so whether this type of recruiter would tell you would be a matter of personal judgment on the part of that recruiter.
- A third party (contingency) recruiter will always try to define this matter so that s/he doesn't spin wheels on an assignment that presents limited opportunity for ever getting paid.
So you can ask, but whatever you are told there is limited likelihood that you will ever know the truth, but stick around because otherwise you'll miss the point and lord knows how many job offers.
Your greatest need and biggest weakness
The point is that this job change isn't the first and almost certainly will not be the last you will make, yet I'll wager that your greatest professional weakness is an inability to turn interviews into offers. Yet the single most important professional skill you or anyone can ever develop is that very ability to turn a job interview into a job offer.
How to turn weakness into strength
Seize on every possible opportunity to go to job interviews, you will gain experience and build this critical professional survival skill into a real skill. Don't fool yourself that you go to an interview to decide if you want the job, because you have nothing to consider until an offer is put on the table.
You should go to every job you can with the single intent of getting the job offer, and the determination to steadily improve your responses to the tough questions the interviewers pitch. Nothing else is relevant.
The worst that could happen is that you get an offer you don't want, and as they say in New York, "such a problem you should have." So bottom line, you will never really know if an interview you go to will ultimately be filled internally, and it really doesn't matter. The great thing is, that you are in the game, and you learn more and get better every time you swing for the ball.
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