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Thursday, 12 November 2015

Six tactics for passing a promotion interview

Even the most confident candidates baulk at the thought of promotion panels.  They are particularly intimidating if you already report to panel members. How do you put on a convincing performance for people who already know your strengths and vulnerabilities?  

If you follow these tactics you will feel much more confident and in control:

(1)  Be crystal-clear on your message. 

You are there to show them that you are the obvious candidate.  You can hit the ground running when they hire you because you have already performed the important parts of the role. (These are found at the top of the job description, usually under 'purpose of the role' or in the first couple of role accountabilities).  The rules of all successful interviewing apply: be armed with well-prepared answers to obvious questions and make sure you have at least four really good case studies that between them nail all the competencies in the job description. (Check out www.zenaeverett.com/blog for more advice on competency based interviewing).  

What do you want them to say about you in the wash-up session at the end of the day, when they review all the candidates they have met?  Make sure you feed them the correct message with a powerful positioning statement early on in the interview.  Why are you better and different than the rest of the short-list?  What special talent can you bring? Figure it out BEFORE you go in the room.  

(2)  Remember you are only as good as your answers on the day. 

It doesn't matter how good your work is or how well you are liked: you have to be judged on the answers you give, otherwise it isn't a fair process.  That's why internal candidates can lose out, because they don't think they need to give full enough explanations to their answers.  It's not always the best candidate who gets the job, it's the person who is best at interviewing.  You know that, so perform. Give more detailed answers than you naturally want to, even if it feels a bit silly.  The Panel can't give you life-lines.  It may be obvious but you have to spell out what you have done and your contribution to the team.  Don't feel embarrassed about taking credit where it's due.  

(3)  Quantify your achievements.  

How will you evaluate the contribution you have made so far?  You might remember everything you have done, but your Boss might not.  And HR certainly won't.  So get on a roll and tell them about the measurable results you have achieved and the outcomes of your initiatives.  Add in lessons learned, with hindsight.  HR panelists love this as it demonstrates your management competencies (strategic thinking, taking responsibility, leadership). 'If faced with that situation again, I would ... cut budgets earlier, nip this behaviour in the bud quicker, identify that customer issue faster' etc.  Why would they hire anyone else when you have already figured out the best way to do things?

(4)  Demonstrate your softer skills.

Try to engage with all the panel, in a natural way.  They may feel as awkward as you, so will be grateful that you are playing the game.  It's hard to make eye contact with all the panel equally so don't get stressed trying to do so. Look at the person that asked the question you are answering and just concentrate on engaging with one at a time.  Then glance at them all when you have finished answering.  Shake hands professionally at the beginning and thank them for the opportunity at the end (without sounding like a fired Apprentice candidate).  And don't panic if the questions get difficult, that's a good sign.  Generally only the better candidates are put under pressure. 

(5)  Fake It to Make It.  

Make a big effort to look and behave like you are already in the role.  Dress smarter than you normally would. Ask yourself 'what a successful {whatever the new job title is} would look like, sound like, think like, perform like?' and be that person.  Our beliefs drive our thoughts which in turn drive our behaviours.  Believe you are worthy of promotion and you will think and behave like you are.  The panel will start to imagine you taking on new responsibilities and how much easier their own lives will become when you do.  Have a development answer or two ready to show you are self-aware and keen to learn: some weaker skills that you know you will need to improve on once in the new role and your plan for doing this.  

(6)  Tell them why you want the job.  

An obvious question that can trip up internal candidates is 'why are you interested in this role?' Prepare a strong answer to this, explaining the skills that you have developed that are more appropriate to the new role and that you are already seizing extra responsibility whenever you can.  Clarify your personal career goals, aligning them to the organisation's goals if possible.  Show you are ambitious, committed to a career within the organisation. You are a talented employee that the business needs to retain, not risk losing you holding you back.  Finish the meeting by making your ambition clear.

Good luck!  If you want to invest in 1:1 interview coaching, there's more information about my rigorous prep sessions here: www.zenaeverett.com/interview.  Your real interview will be a breeze in comparison. Please keep in touch: I'm always interested in good and bad interview experiences, although no one has yet trumped 'if you were a dog, which breed would you be?'.

Warmest wishes

Zena 

This blog was written by Zena Everett who specialises in executive coaching and outplacement, you can see more at http://www.zenaeverett.com/. 


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