Cover letter for internal positions - game changer or not?


If you apply for an internal position, in a big company, it might make sense write a cover letter. It can help your application to lay out your motivation and qualification for a new role in the cover letter, especially if you find it difficult to communicate it in a conversation with your (future) boss. I know that many of you ladies out there are finding it difficult to talk about why you are the right person for a job. Especially when you are lacking a bit of confidence, it might therefore be really helpful for you to write a cover letter for an internal position. 


Your reputation is crucial


The more important part for an internal change is self-marketing however. If you want to change within the same company, you need to be prepared for the future manager to talk to your current one as well as to your colleagues. So you need to build up a good reputation. With a bad reputation, it will be very difficult to get a new internal position. But the problem of most women is not a bad reputation. It’s a non existent reputation. 


Many women with whom I worked both as a team manager and as a coach have a big problem: no visibility. They are doing a great job but apart from their direct colleagues or customers, nobody knows about it. Nobody knows who they are. That’s not good if you want to change internally. You need a good reputation, you need to be known. 


Your first step should therefore be to build your reputation and your network if you want to apply for an internal position. Yes, that’s a mid to long term endeavour. If you want to apply for an internal position, the hiring manager will probably look at your performance of the last year or at least of the last couple of months. So before worrying about a cover letter for internal positions, you need to do self-marketing and make sure you get the right visibility. 


Seek exposure


If you have a tendency to sit back in meetings and let the others talk because you feel insecure about voicing your opinion, you should change that behavior. I heard so often from my female employees: I never say anything because I feel like I have nothing to contribute. This is complete nonsense! You are an expert in what you do and people invite you to a meeting because they value your opinion. If they feel that you have nothing to contribute, they won’t invite you. So muster up the courage to speak your mind in meetings. 


Especially cross-functional meetings are a great place for self-marketing because they give you exposure to departments other than your own. It is important to build a reputation and network across different departments. Maybe that person you hardly ever talk to will be asked by the hiring manager if they know you. What will they answer?


If you have the possibility, you should also try to get exposure to the mid or higher management, like people at your boss’ or your boss’ boss level. A good reputation with someone in higher management is very important if you want to change internally. Bosses tend to listen more to their peers than to others. 


Be proud of your achievements!


If you’re performing well in your current role, don’t be shy about it. You need to talk about your achievements. I don’t mean telling everyone constantly how great you are… that can quickly make you come across as conceited and annoying. I mean that the right people need to be aware of your achievements. First of all your boss of course. If you have regular meetings with your boss, make sure to update him about achievements in your role, like a successful sale, a project milestone you completed, a problem you solved, etc. You might consider them small achievements but it’s important for your boss to know that you are an achiever. 


If you’re part of a project team, make sure that the project team knows what you’re working on and which tasks you completed. Every project manager likes to get proactive status updates and so do many of the project team members. If you’re in an operational role, make sure to tell colleagues who are involved in or affected by your work about achievements. Like how you almost had to postpone a delivery but you managed to convince the customer to take the goods anyway. Make sure that you’re building a reputation as someone who is bringing results. 


Get the facts right!


If you’re looking for a new position because you haven’t performed great in your current role or because you don’t get along with the manager or the team, that’s easy to verify when applying for an internal position. So try you repair your reputation before changing internally. This can be very hard and if you’re being bullied by your manager for example, it might be almost impossible. 


If your reputation isn’t great because of your performance however, you can repair your reputation. It’s going to be a bit of a process but it is possible. I had employees who just needed a bit of guidance. When I paired them with a more experienced colleague for holiday backups, their performance improved significantly. Sometimes you just need a little help from a colleague or maybe even your boss to realize what you can change to improve your performance. So don’t be afraid to ask for help. 


Don’t complain 


You might be really unhappy in your current position for a number of reasons. That is legitimate. But make sure you don’t complain. Nobody wants complainers in their teams. And the reputation of a complainer is unfortunately the one which travels quite fast and far in a company. So even if you are in a negative place at the moment, try not to be too vocal about it at work. It won’t do you much good if you want to change to an internal position. 


Back to the cover letter question


Once you got your reputation right, it’s time to start with your cover letter for internal positions. There isn’t a huge difference between writing a cover letter for internal positions or external ones. The main difference is this: you should explain why you want to change department and what really interests you about this new role. So you still need to do a bit of research. As usual, make sure to read the job description carefully and identify the most interesting parts. It’s also a good idea to call the recruiter, hiring manager or someone in that department before you apply to find out more about the role. 


When writing your cover letter for internal positions, you also need to focus on the experience you gained within the company and pick a few concrete examples which are relevant for the new position. Make sure to answer these two questions:

What did you achieve? 

How did you achieve it? 

Describe the achievement briefly for the hiring manager and make sure that you have someone in your department who can confirm it. Mentioning a concrete reference in your cover letter for internal positions is a good idea so that the hiring manager can double check immediately if you’re telling the truth.

If you received good evaluations in your annual performance review, mention them in the cover letter for internal positions Usually HR managers in big companies talk to each other and so do team managers. They will probably check your performance review of the previous year anyway, so if you had a great review, bringing this up will help your move. Companies are always looking for high performers and are keen to promote them. It’s a good thing to know your strengths and achievements and to be proud of your performance and your worth for the company.


With the right self-marketing and a solid cover letter in place, it should be easy to get a new internal position. If you feel insecure how to best present yourself, reach out to me. I’d be happy to work with you.