Can an External Applicant Apply for Internal Job Postings?

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Government organizations sometimes restrict their job postings to internal applicants only. An organization cannot control the job applications it receives in response to a posting, but it can set up processes for handling those applications. Such processes include steps for handling applications that do not conform to the requirements stated in a particular posting.

When an organization restricts to internal applicants, it almost always discards applications from external applicants without even looking at the documents.

Therefore, an external applicant can apply for an internal job posting, but in the vast majority of circumstances, external applicants will hear nothing back on the job.

Why Do Organizations Limit Postings to Internal Applicants

Organizations may restrict postings to internal applicants for any number of reasons. Common reasons for posting only to internal candidates include a hiring manager looking for someone with internal knowledge, a hiring manager having a specific person in mind for the job, saving time in the hiring process and creating promotional opportunities for the organization’s workforce.

Organizations are free to establish selection criteria that are ​applied to all applicants for a posting. The criteria cannot be discriminatory against protected classes, but, otherwise, an organization can set up any hiring process it wants.

Why You Shouldn't Bother Applying as an External Applicant

Internal postings say to outsiders, “Do not apply.” This is especially frustrating when an external candidate knows he or she could do the job just as good as someone selected from within the organization.

Government organizations often overvalue organization-specific and program-specific experience. They certainly shut out good candidates when they post only to internal applicants.

For an organization to consider an external application after restricting a job posting to internal applicants causes problems for the human resources department and hiring manager.

If they accept one external applicant, they must review all applications received. But doing this calls into question the whole notion of restricting to internal applicants.

No one can know what the applicant pool would have looked like if the job had been posted as a true open competition. The one application a hiring manager wants to consider could pale in comparison to those the manager would have received if external applicants would have been welcome to apply.