Interviewing for promotion ...

"What's the best line of approach to take when being interviewed by my present employer for an internal promotion? I don't want to appear critical of the other supervisors and managers because they'll all still be here, whether I get the job or not."

This was a question I was asked recently by someone I was helping to rehearse for a forthcoming interview and it's a very valid one.

During the interview, the best way to stand out is to try and put across two things:

  1. The progress you've helped your job function or department or colleagues or organisation to make and try to put some numbers on it. For example, if you helped re-organise the stores, how much time is being saved as a result? Or by how much has this enabled cutting the level of stocks held? Or how often has this helped reduce stoppages on the production lines? This type of approach demonstrates your worth. If they were your ideas, make sure you say that. If they were someone else's ideas, explain how you helped to implement them. If you were a cog in a larger team, explain some of the problems you helped overcome so that the team could succeed.
  2. The ideas you've got for the future. Aim to explain the changes you'd like to bring about, the progress or benefits that would result and, again, try to put some numbers down, even if they're guestimates at this stage. In this way you're demonstrating your future worth in the role.

This is a powerful approach and not everyone thinks that way. Perhaps not even the people interviewing you - and therein lies the danger. You need to be careful not to come across as a bull-headed know-it-all who's going to run around like a maniac the day they get the job and undo existing team-working.So how do you do that?

  • Firstly, stay focussed on the positives during the interview - what has been achieved, what could be achieved, the benefits involved. Ignore the negatives - the 'if only this ... ' and 'the problem with...' whiny conversations.
  • When talking about the future try and use 'we', not 'I'. Talk about a 'team approach' rather than the fact you think you can move mountains. Particularly, never criticise other specific individuals. Even if 'invited' to do so, try to avoid comment. It's work, stay away from making it personal.
  • Never run-down the other people competing for the job. Don't try to compare yourself to them and make out you're better, let the interviewers do that in their assessment. Focus on what you've done well instead and make sure you know how to put it across very concisely, and with the numbers.

All of that should help, and certainly cannot harm your chances. Let me know any other difficult issues you can think of and I'll try and reply here. Email them to

Jon Gregory