You’ve been in your current position for a while, and lo and behold: a job opens at your company and it would be a step up. You might think getting a promotion would be easy, as the company already knows what a great employee you are. However, no matter your accomplishments, climbing the ladder and achieving your career goals can be a challenge. When preparing for a promotion interview, make sure you have smart, thoughtful answers to any question the hiring manager might throw your way. Knowing the kinds of questions you’re likely to be asked will ensure you appear capable, thoughtful, and professional.
In this article we’ll discuss everything you need to know about promotion interview questions and show you how to put your best foot forward and get the promotion you desire. Here’s what we’ll cover:
How to prepare for a promotion interview
Demonstrating why you’re the best candidate
Eight common promotion interview questions and answers
Prepare a list of highlights
Since you already work for the company, be ready to set yourself apart from other internal candidates by discussing company-specific experience, skills, and experience. Don’t forget accomplishments, goals that you’ve achieved, and important projects that you’ve worked on.
How do you prepare for a promotion interview?
Some of the questions you’ll encounter are standard interview questions. But there are some questions that will be more company-specific, and those should be handled with as much importance as any other. The company is already familiar with your education, how long you’ve been with the company, and so on, so be ready to showcase the work you’ve done in your current position. But even before you interview, you need to set the groundwork for a potential transition.
Tell your current manager
No one likes to be kept out of the loop, so make sure to inform your current supervisor of your plans to apply for a promotion before you start the process. Your manager today might be your peer tomorrow, and you don’t want to start that relationship on the wrong foot. Also, this will keep your supervisor from feeling like you went “over their head” for a new position.
Find out about the application process
Check with Human Resources or your company handbook to make sure you understand the process for applying for a promotion and follow it accordingly. You should also send an email to the hiring manager(s), which will serve as a personalized introduction and help them understand your intent to move up as well as why you deserve an interview. Be sure to include:
Reasons why you should be considered for the promotion
A list of short-term and long-term goals
Any recent accomplishments or achievements (and make sure you can quantify them, specificity is your friend!)
An updated copy of your resume
Make sure to keep your email brief, focused, and entirely professional. This is not the time to brag about your personal, non-job-related attributes or gripe about your current position.
Gather your skills
Each position will have a set of unique skills that are needed to be successful in that role. Go through the job posting with a fine-toothed comb, noting both hard and soft skills that are required, and match them with those you already have. Does the job require computer skills? Make a list of software in which you’re proficient. Are they looking for leadership ability? Be ready to discuss a time when you led a team to meet a goal. Highlighting relevant experience will show the hiring manager you already possess the potential to be successful in your new role.
Assume that your prior work is part of the interview
This can be an advantage, as you’ll go into the interview with a proven track record of work. In a way, your interview begins the moment you apply for the promotion, so use the additional examination of your work to highlight your strengths.
Get input from your colleagues
Before you go into the interview, it might be helpful to have an idea of how others view you as a co-worker. Ask some trusted colleagues what they feel your strengths and weaknesses are, and take notes. Mull over any concerns they might have, such as your leadership ability or organizational skills, and figure out how you can address them in your interview, if they come up, and prepare responses that show how you utilize these skills in your day-to-day work.
Tips for the promotion interview: show them why you’re the best candidate
While you might be tempted to treat this interview like any other interview, resist the urge. Promotion interviews are different from other interviews for a few reasons:
You’re already working for the company. You understand the company’s goals, values, and expectations.
You have a chance to demonstrate that you’re a good fit for the position every day.
You’ve already demonstrated that you’re committed to producing good work for the company, and have an investment in its success.
For these reasons, you may be held to a higher standard than an outside candidate, and expectations will be greater.
Show your worth
A primary focus of a promotion interview is how you can bring value to the new position. Make sure you’ve reviewed the company’s mission, goals, and values, and align your responses accordingly. This is also the time to focus on your accomplishments and goals. Line up specific examples of the steps you took to achieve them and the outcome. Mention any awards or special recognition you may have earned too. Consider showing a physical copy (or an email link) of a relevant project you’ve worked on and how it positively affected the team.
Ask the interviewer questions
Being proactive in your promotion interview can show the hiring manager you’re serious about excelling in a new role and that you desire to fully understand the scope of the position. Keep your questions brief, direct, and limited to the scope of the position and its responsibilities.
Here are examples of questions to ask the interviewer:
What is a typical career path for someone in this position?
What are some of the challenges for a person in this role?
Where do you see the company/department going in the next three to five years?
What is the most interesting or exciting thing about working in this position?
Have I answered all your questions?
How has this position evolved?
Do you have any qualms about my qualifications?
Even if you know the interviewer well, this is not the time to speak off-the-cuff, appear too casual, or be overly relaxed. You don’t want to give the impression that getting this promotion is a fait accompli; make sure the interviewer knows how much you appreciate the opportunity to interview and that it is important to you.
Don’t assume that you’re a “shoo-in” for the job just because you already work for the company, or that this interview is just a formality. It’s good to be confident, and you should be, but appearing presumptuous or overconfident can damage your chances of getting the promotion.
Make sure to send a thank-you note after the interview. Thank them for their time, reiterate your relevant skills and experience, and recap what sets you apart from the other candidates. You can also mention any other pertinent information you may have forgotten in the interview. Keep it concise and relevant to the position.
8 Common promotion interview questions (and answers!)
Preparation is the key to a successful promotion interview. Reviewing possible questions (and planning your answers) will build confidence and set you apart from the crowd. Here are some common questions and suggestions on how to respond (make sure to tailor them to your individual situation, of course).
1. What do you like the most about your current position at ABC Company?
“I have enjoyed working with my team. We’ve worked hard to cultivate processes that have increased efficiency and met our goals. As a <current position,> I have personally been responsible for <accomplishment>, and I’m glad to work with a supportive team that helps me provide solutions to challenging issues.”
This question is designed to gauge how you feel about your current job. Be positive in your response, and focus on how your current position has set you up for success in a new role. Be sure to mention your loyalty towards the company and highlight your successes in your current position.
2. Why do you want this new position?
“Since I started with this company I have worked hard to hone my skills and become highly effective in my current role. Now, I’m eager to utilize my experience in a new role with more responsibility, as well as develop new skills that will continue to benefit the company.”
The interviewer wants to know your motivation in applying for the promotion, what your career goals are, and how they line up with the company’s vision and mission.
3. Why should we consider you for this promotion?
“I’ve worked here for five years and I am well-versed with our company’s goals and vision. As a <current position,> I have exceeded expectations and have been able to design three new processes that have led to a four percent increase in revenue for the last three quarters. I work well on a team and have strived to become an effective communicator and leader. I believe I can apply my skills and experience to this new role and continue to exceed expectations.”
This question is designed to assess your confidence. If you can’t verbalize why you should get the job, they probably won’t consider you. This is a perfect opportunity to highlight your accomplishments, awards, and achievements, utilizing numbers and data to quantify your reasoning, as well as the pertinent skills you possess that are necessary for this position.
4. What challenges have you overcome in your current role?
“In my current position, a teammate, who was in charge of a large, new project, left her job with little notice, and I was put in charge. While I had never held this type of position in the past, I had experience leading a team. Using my communication and problem-solving skills, I advanced the project, supported the remainder of the team, and carried out her responsibilities as well as mine. My team completed the project on time and within budget.”
This internal interview question is an opportunity to reflect on some of the challenges you’ve faced in your current position. Analyze the steps you took to overcome the obstacles and how the outcome was beneficial to your team and to the company. It’s all right to mention something that didn’t have the result you expected, as long as you remain positive and share what you learned from the experience.
5. How will you react if you don’t get the promotion?
“If I don’t get this new position I'll be disappointed, of course, because I truly believe I can excel in this role and make a positive contribution. But I understand that the hiring process is multifaceted and the company needs to hire the best person for the job. I will remain in my current position and do my best to continue being a productive member of the team.”
If you’re faced with this question, remain calm and professional. The interviewer wants to know how you handle rejection and if you’ll stay in your current position within the company.
6. What would your short and long-term goals be in this new role?
“Short term, I would like to increase staff morale, set quantifiable goals, and increase our department revenue by two percent. Long term, I would like to develop inventive solutions that increase overall efficiency and boost our standing in the industry.”
This is an opportunity to showcase your knowledge of the new position as well as the company’s mission. Your answer should be specific to the industry and show that you are prepared to take on the role.
7. What sets you apart from the other candidates?
“I’ve been with this company for five years, so I have a deep understanding of the issues that we deal with every day. With my track record of exceeding my monthly sales goal and helping my team increase our profits by 22 percent over the last quarter, I can provide creative solutions with a full grasp of the methods we’ve already used. Also, I’ve been interested in moving over to this department for quite a while, and I think my skills, background, and record of success set is a good match for the position.”
This question is designed for you to give them concrete reasons why you’re the best candidate, even if there’s some tough competition for the position. Don’t hold back. This is where facts, data, and proven results backing up your accomplishments will come in handy.
8. What do you know about this new position?
“I know this position is client-facing, and requires dealing with a large volume of requests and complaints. This would require strong communication and problem-solving skills, which I’ve demonstrated during my tenure as a customer service representative where I was able to maintain a record of 100 percent ticket-closing of resolved customer issues. I’m also aware that the position requires strong teamwork, both within the department and other areas of the company, and may also involve some travel to client sites from time to time.”
Interviewers ask this question to make sure you know exactly what the promotion entails, and if you’re prepared for it. It also shows your commitment to the position, as you’ve done your due diligence and researched what the job is about—you’re not just blindly reaching for a promotion. But if there’s still something you don’t know about the new position, don’t try to bluff your way through it. It’s okay to admit you’re unclear on a point or two, and make sure to ask appropriate questions about it when you get the chance during the interview.
- Demonstrate why you’re the most qualified candidate.
- Highlight your skills without disparaging others.
- Prepare for the possibility that you won’t get the promotion
- Throw your colleagues “under the bus.”
- Point out all the problems in the role, which might offend interviewers.
- Complain about your current position.
Need a little help with your interviewing skills? Check out our interview prep tool to build the skills you need to ace your interview.
Prepare for the promotion interview. Make sure you have reviewed the job requirements and aligned your current skills and experience to the position.
Show your worth. Quantify your accomplishments, prepare specific examples, and demonstrate what you would bring to the position.
Practice your answers to possible questions. Keep them concise and relevant to the position. Demonstrate how your current experience would be of benefit to the company in the new role.