Prepare like an outsider to get a promotion

Dear Joan:
For seven months I searched for employment and after much work and research, I landed a job that is a great match for me. I have been here for five months and my supervisor tells me I am doing an above-average job. My direct supervisor is currently looking for other employment right now and has expressed more than once that she intends to recommend me to take over her position. She has also stated that she feels her superior would have no problems with giving me the promotion.

Now, I realize that this is just in the talking stages and the organization may hire someone else from within or someone from the outside, but I would like to know how to handle a few things.

Most of my 10-15 intelligent interview questions are aimed at finding out more about the organization in question. How does one handle an interview in the place they are presently working? Would I simply focus on my accomplishments? Also, the organization's dress code is very casual. Would it be wise NOT to wear a suit or dress? (I got my current job wearing a blouse and skirt. I feel I may have come on too strong had I worn a suit.)

In addition, how does a person handle a second interview? I have never had one and wonder what they are like.

Finally, how would I deal with co-workers who may not take kindly to the fact that someone who was hired after them was promoted first?

Congratulations! You must be doing a heck of a job. Your supervisor wouldn't tell you she was going to recommend you unless she thought you were a clear choice over other internal candidates. (In fact, it's a little surprising she told you; she must have known you wouldn't take her comments as a "promise.")

Since your boss is such a strong supporter, schedule a meeting to discuss your strategy. Ask her these questions:

1.         What are the most important qualifications for her job?

2.         What issues/problems does her boss want her to solve?

3.         What are the biggest frustrations of her job?

4.         If she were starting this job all over again, what would she do the same/differently?

5.         What skills and abilities does she think you have that would be a good match for this job?

6.         In what areas do you need more growth?

7.         What political issues do you need to be aware of as a candidate for this job?

8.         How would the organization look upon promoting you over your peers?

These questions will help you learn some inside information about the job and the strategy you need to land it. If you can get some honest information from your boss, you'll be able to put together some great questions for an interview.

Regarding your dress for an interview, study supervisors' wardrobes over the next few weeks and model what you wear after them. Your instincts were good for your last interview so follow them again.

If you get an interview, approach it as though you were on the outside. Do as much research as possible beforehand. Assume your interviewer(s) know very little about you so tell them about your accomplishments (on this job and other jobs). Be sure to include examples that illustrate all the things your boss told you to emphasize. Make sure you use examples that show you have good people skills. And most important, use some examples that prove your co-workers respect and like you.

Here are some questions to ask. You'll see they aren't really different from the ones you asked as an outsider.

1.               What are the primary issues challenging this department?

2.               What results are you looking for in the first year?

3.               How would you describe "excellent performance" in this job?

4.               Are there areas in which you'd like to see improvement in this department?

5.               What management style do you feel is most successful in this organization?

Second interviews aren't much different. However, they are often used to probe more deeply into areas they may have a concern about. For example, they may be worried about how you'll supervise former peers. During the first interview, listen for these worry spots.

Another use of second interviews is to get approval from someone higher in the organization. You may even get a third or fourth interview with future peers or with people at high levels. These are "chemistry" interviews to see if these people feel comfortable with you and your philosophies. In these cases, they will be trying to find out if you are a good team player and if you know how to communicate and lead.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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