A Quick Take: There’s an internal candidate in the search – Don’t panic!

By Dr. Jane S. Bray

You applied for a faculty or leadership position in an institution of higher education, and you find out there is an internal candidate in the search. This is not a time to panic or worse yet, withdraw from the search.

The internal candidate may not be the chosen one for the position. However, even if they are destined to be the chosen one, consider the following three reasons you should remain a candidate in the search.

First, there is validity to the fact that interviewing is a skill. And like other skills, interviewing takes practice to hone those skills. Normally, we might rely on a partner or colleague to help us prepare. But what better practice is there than the real thing!?

Answering questions and having interviewers challenge your answers is truly the best possible practice you can arrange. For this reason alone, do not pull your candidacy from the search or take the interview lightly. Do your best and this practice will prove to be invaluable to you.

Second, the networking opportunities presented to you during a search are priceless. You will meet other faculty and campus leaders who may prove to be interested in your research or academic endeavors. Often these connections lead to productive opportunities which will not happen if you panic about this search.

Third, exposure from an interview frequently presents opportunities for other positions. It is not uncommon for private schools or community colleges to create a position for you if they deem you to be an excellent candidate.

All institutions recruit for positions, and you may find yourself being recruited for another position at the very institution who hired the internal candidate. If there is a search firm involved, the consultants record your position interests and contact you should future opportunities arise. Appreciate this exposure as you search for positions.

If you do find yourself in a search where there is an internal candidate, don’t panic. Instead embrace the opportunity. Lean into interviewing to enhance your own experiences and go for it. You may be surprised with the outcome.

Dr. Jane S. Bray, former Dean of the Darden College of Education & Professional Studies at Old Dominion University, former Professor and Dean Emeritus of Millersville University of Pennsylvania , and former Chair of the Board of Directors for the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.

Dr. Sandra Miles
Head of Practice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Sandra joined Academic Impressions in 2022 having served as a leader and administrator in higher education for two decades. She has served as a subject-matter expert for Academic Impressions, facilitating trainings and workshops in higher-ed. Her passion is making DEI concepts resonate for individuals from all walks of life.