How to Tell Your Boss You Are Applying for an Internal Position

How to Tell Your Boss You Are Applying for an Internal Position


How to Tell Your Boss You Are Applying for an Internal Position

Don’t feel like reading? Listen here!

Deciding to apply for an internal position at the company where you’re currently working is a big deal. It’s not a step to take lightly, and part of what makes the whole process so complicated is the prospect of having to talk to your current boss about it. How to tell your boss you are applying for an internal position?

If you’re considering an internal job search, we’re here to help you decide what moves to make in which order, and how best to approach some of the tricky conversations related to seeking a new internal position at your company. 

Advantages of Changing Roles Within the Same Company

There are distinct advantages to changing roles within the same company.

  • You have an opportunity to expand and grow without having to undergo major adjustments
  • You already know the company culture
  • You’re familiar with the core values
  • You know the personalities and expectations of the different departments
  • You have built-in connections and potential advocates in your bosses and coworkers

We call your bosses and coworkers potential advocates because, as you may already be aware, conducting an internal job search at the company where you’re already working can prove tricky.

Shooting Your Shot with a New Position

From time to time, companies will post job opportunities internally before making them public for outside hires. This allows hiring managers to recruit from within their own ranks, allowing their employees to grow and develop while cutting down on the training process. It also allows employees a fresh shot at a potential title change and salary negotiation without major life disruption.

If you receive an internal job posting email or are interested in the open position, always take time to soberly measure the pros and cons of the new opportunity. If you decide that the internal position would be a good fit for you, strictly follow internal protocols for applying to the position. 

Bear in mind that if your job title stays the same, you’ll have less grounds to ask for a salary increase, but if you’re leveling up in both title and responsibilities, be sure to negotiate your salary for a more competitive compensation package.

Even though you already work for the company, you may be asked to fill out a job application, enter an interview process, resubmit a fresh resume and/or cover letter, and meet with a hiring manager. The best thing you can do is to take this process seriously and follow the protocols to the letter.

Close up view of the workplace desk.

Be aware that standards are often higher for internal hires than they are for external ones. Whenever possible through the process, be sure to reference specific metrics and wins you’ve earned for the company as a way to show them your value and prove your worth. 

Before you apply for your new position, however, you’ll want to think through what you may want to say (or not say) on the matter to your fellow employees—and, perhaps more importantly, to your boss!

How to Tell Your Boss You Are Applying for an Internal Position

Should you actually let your boss know that you are applying for an internal job? Or should you only tell them once you’ve actually secured the green light to change positions

There aren’t easy answers.

According to career coach Kyle Elliott, “Applying to an internal position requires a lot of thoughtfulness. You do not want to damage relationships you have built within your current company.”

Elliot believes the decision regarding whether to tell your boss that you are implying for an internal position hinges on the nature of your relationship. 

If you have a close relationship with your boss, you will want to notify your boss before applying to an internal position. This ensures your boss does not hear about your internal application from another source. Additionally, this provides you with the opportunity to ask them to recommend you for the role. However, if you have a poor relationship with your boss, you will want to be mindful if you apply for the position. 

Either way, Elliott recommends that if you do choose to apply for the position, you should consider asking human resources and the hiring manager to keep your application confidential until a final offer has been made. This can safeguard your reputation if you are not chosen for the role and keep it from impacting your relationships with your bosses and fellow employees as well. 


The Best Ways to Have “The Talk” with Your Employer

Knowing how to tell your boss you are applying for an internal position isn’t something that comes naturally. Having “the talk” with your boss will require some foresight. 

As you consider an internal job search, bear this in mind: you have a reasonable expectation that HR will keep anything you discuss with them confidential. That means in most cases, it’s possible (and perhaps even preferable) to apply for an internal position without informing your current boss or coworking team of your plans.

A colleague smiling at the workplace.

Occasionally, however, bosses have a way of finding out what’s happening before everything is finalized; and while your boss can’t legally prevent you from changing positions, sometimes disgruntled bosses find ways to gum up the works when they feel slighted.

In other cases, however, there are advantages to making your application common knowledge from the beginning. As we mentioned above, if your relationship with your current boss is good, and if you are confident they will be rooting for you and are likely to advocate in your favor, you may want to inform them sooner rather than later.

When talking to your boss about changing to another internal position, consider following these steps:

  • Talk to your boss first and keep them in the loop. The worst thing that could happen would be for your boss to find out through office gossip or back channels that you plan to change departments. The consequences on your working relationship can be dire. To avoid this, include your boss from the beginning (and if you plan not to tell them, ensure they only find out once the process is a success and you’ve got the job).
  • Frame the transfer as benefiting the company. While you may have started your internal job search for personal reasons (better pay, more development), when you’re talking to your boss about the opportunity, always frame the transfer in terms of how it would benefit the company.
  • Consult with your boss about building a transition plan. Show concern for what will happen to the department if you’re to transition out of your current role. Discuss transition plans and reassure them that you won’t leave everyone in a lurch. 
  • Be patient and stay positive. Internal transfers are tricky and can take a long time. Even if your boss was on board and supportive initially, if you grow impatient or irritable over inevitable delays, the relationship could quickly sour, and you might lose their support. 

Of course, these tips are most helpful when your boss is supportive of your new position. Remember: if their support is in question or seems unlikely, you may want to do everything in your power to keep the process confidential until you know the results. 

Ready to Submit an Application for a New Position?

Now that you know how to tell your boss you are applying for an internal position, check out more resources designed to help you climb the career ladder:

How to Deal with Office Politics

Should You Quit Your Job Without Another One Lined Up?

Interview Attire for Men: How to Impress the Hiring Manager

Lensa Insights
Lensa Insights
Work is changing faster than an angry retrovirus. For jobseekers, that means one thing: adapt or die! Lensa Insights is your survival guide, offering actionable career tips to keep your future in focus.

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