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5 Ways You Can Outshine the Internal Candidate in a Job Interview

As an outsider, it's frustrating to hear that you lost a job to an internal candidate -- particularly if you discover that you never really had a chance. While it's true that, sometimes, interviews outside the current company are just for show, it's not always impossible to beat an insider for a job. Do your research, including networking, highlight your strengths and don't forget to say "thank you" for your best shot at a new position.

RELATED: I Keep Losing Out to Internal Job Candidates

Advantages of Outsiders

You might assume that an internal candidate has the advantage, but that's not always the case. Executive coach Lauren Fritsch says you should highlight your "outsider cred" and use it to your benefit. Show the screening panel that bringing in a fresh perspective from the outside can serve the company, whether it's through new ideas for fundraising, a stellar client list or specialized education or training. Additionally, keep in mind that managers already know the weaknesses of internal candidates. While they likely realize that you have weaknesses, too, states consultant Allison Green, the fact that they don't yet know what they are is a benefit.

The Importance of Research

An internal candidate has one major advantage: He knows the company's culture, computer systems and how to work well with coworkers, including senior management. To stand out, an external candidate must seek out people who can enlighten her on all these insider facets, says Fritsch. "Do your best to understand the culture of the hiring organization by having conversations with people who can shed light on the company," she recommends. "Current and former employees, as well as vendors and clients, count. If you do this, you'll be able to use the company's language and touch on their perspective and world view during your interview."

Staging a Campaign

Take a page from political campaigns, recommends CareerBuilder, and go after the undecideds. After your interview, the hiring manager might be waffling between you and the internal candidate; he could be simply looking for a reason to go for the unknown. If you get the feeling during your interview that the manager is conflicted, take the opportunity -- whether during the interview or after the fact -- to convince him you're the right candidate. This could be with a note highlighting pertinent experience that wasn't discussed in your cover letter or an extra sample of your work.

The Value of Networking

Before you apply for the position, take some time to determine if there's anyone in your network at the company. The best way to do this is through the social media website LinkedIn, which allows you to see connections within companies -- such as if an employee there is connected with a colleague of yours. You can also network online via LinkedIn's industry groups. However, recruiter Lisa Rangel says on the Career Attraction website that you shouldn't simply use the contact and then drop the person after you do -- or don't -- get the job. Customize the initial message reaching out the person and get to know her on a professional level before asking for any career favors.

RELATED: How to be a Winning Job Candidate

Saying Thank You

According to CareerBuilder, 22 percent of hiring managers report that they're less likely to hire a job candidate if they don't receive a post-interview thank-you note. An internal candidate might not feel as if he has to send a formal thank you, so as an external candidate, this one way you can outshine him. Forbes.com recommends personalizing the thank-you note with the hiring manager's name, the title of the open position, a specific mention about what was discussed in the interview, an appreciation for the interviewer's time and your contact information.

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