How to Get Internal Promotion: Hints and Tips

November 14, 2023 thehrobserver-hrobsever-InternalPromotion

Internal promotions can be tricky to navigate, this is because the staff members are already known to the organisation. Some people may be put off from applying as they don’t want to be seen as failing at something or they may be concerned about awkwardness if their colleagues apply for the same role. This article shares some practical hints and tips in making a successful application for internal promotion.

Deciding to apply

Deciding to apply is often the most difficult stage, some people are very critical of themselves and will only apply if they meet absolutely every criteria. Interestingly research suggests that there is a difference between genders at this stage with women being more likely to de-select themselves if they don’t address the criteria 100%. On the other hand, men are likely to apply even if there are several criteria that they cannot evidence.

The starting point should be an objective review against the selection criteria, identifying where they have significant knowledge and/or experience and those where they are not quite as strong. Gaining feedback from a trusted colleague or manager can be helpful at this stage as they may be able to identify things that are in individual blind spots. They might also want to consider the following questions:

  1. How will they feel and cope if they are unsuccessful, but remain working in the organisation?
  2. How will they manage their relationships so that they are unaffected whether they are successful or not?

At this stage it would be advisable for potential applicants to review any feedback that might have been provided as part of previous applications they have made. Where constructive comments were received, they should ensure that the latest application has incorporates a response to them. Failure to do this can be disappointing for the selection panel and doesn’t demonstrate a hunger for attaining the new role.

Informal conversations with the recruiting manager or the current post-holder may be possible, but it is always best to check with the HR team whether this would be appropriate. If they have the opportunity to discuss with someone, they need to make the most out of it. Without grilling them intensely, notes of some of the key things they would like to know should be taken in with them. This might include what a typical day looks like, what are the key challenges are etc. Remember that they may also be asked to provide feedback on their interactions with them.

Putting together the application

Making an effort with applications is essential, they should show all of their career history as if they didn’t know the selection panel. This is particularly important if there are also external candidates being interviewed. Internal candidates should explain why they want this role at this specific time and how they meet the criteria. Cross-referencing experience with what they are looking for makes the job of the selectors easier. If it is quite a different job in comparison to their current role, they should think about the transferable skills that they would bring.

Candidates should think carefully about the language that they use, for example, what ‘achievements’ can they identify from their current or previous roles.

It should go without saying that they need to carefully re-read their application to ensure that there are no spelling errors or sentences which don’t flow well. Compliance with the specific information requested in the job advert is critical. For example, if a covering letter and/or supporting statement is required.

The interview stage

Before they walk into the room, they should carefully consider what they have achieved in the organisation since they arrived. It is fine to use examples of when they were part of a team who performed well, in these instances it is helpful to highlight which role they played. 

Once in the room they need to demonstrate to the panel that they have done their homework on the role, team and Department and they are a serious candidate. They also need to be careful to ensure that they don’t say anything which could have an impact on their current role. This doesn’t mean that they can’t identify areas for improvement or use personal reflections, just be mindful about the language and examples they use. Sometimes it is useful to reframe weaknesses as opportunities.

If the role would be a step-up career wise, they should show the panel that they understand this and have considered what type of support they will need to be able to adapt quickly to the new role. 

As internal interviews can be particularly stressful, they could take some notes cards in with them to make sure that they don’t forget any of the key messages they want to emphasise. They should also take in with them a copy of all of the documentation that they submitted with their application, so that if questions are posed they can cross-reference very quickly.

If they aren’t successful

Unfortunately not everyone can be successful in their application. This may be down to the fact that there were so many good candidates that borderline decisions had to be made. To understand this, they should ask for feedback from the chair of the panel. Whilst it may make some uncomfortable reading immediately after the interview, it will help them with further applications. They can usually request for feedback to be provided either verbally or by email.

Unsuccessful candidates need to consider their response carefully and take some time to reflect. They shouldn’t make any rash decisions such as resigning from their current role to try and find a job elsewhere. Remaining the consummate professional will be appreciated and noted within the organisation.

Professor Fiona Robson

Head of Edinburgh Business School and Social Sciences, Heriot-Watt University Dubai

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