How to Position for Greater Success in your Promotion Interview

Career Coaching Singapore in Technology Yolanda Yu

Landing a promotion in your company will help you earn more money and advance your career. But first, you have to pass an interview for a promotion. It doesn’t matter if you are applying for a higher-level position in a new company or going through an internal process in your current company, a promotion interview should be taken seriously.

You shouldn’t mistake a promotion interview for being the same as a job interview. While they have similar aspects, there are some differences and adequate preparation is required for you to ace it. This article will show you how to adequately prepare for your promotion interview so you’ll pass and get that promotion. If you haven’t got an interview yet but thinking of applying for a promotion or amending your CV for promotion, the strategies here will also help you. First, what is an interview for promotion all about?


What is a promotion interview?

This is an interview that is usually conducted in a company where the interview candidate works in a lower position in the company. If that candidate passes the interview they will move to a higher level in the company or move into a different department in the company. Some organisation makes their employees go through the normal hiring process as external candidates.

Again a lot of companies like to hire internally for certain positions because they want to use a known face for that job. It is only when they cannot get anyone that they take the job outside. If you are in such a company and you want to move higher or to another department, you may be due for a promotion interview. Since the company already knows you, they have a higher expectation of you.

My tips for success before a promotion interview are generally about:

  • Convincing the employer
  • Convincing yourself

These two people are the main ones you need to convince for you to do well in the interview. You should be able to convince the employer that you are the right person for the job. And you need to convince yourself too. It’s strange but imposter syndrome can stop you from getting the bigger job you deserve. In fact, over 70% of people think they are “fake” or ill-qualified for their new job even after getting the promotion.

Convincing the Employer 

It is important that you position yourself to be already doing the bigger job or at least part of it. The trick is to think about what you can do, which is not part of your official duties at your current job and start doing them alongside your job. These tasks are usually more strategic, and less routine. It can be a little fluffy and you probably hated it when doing it, but such tasks are required more and more as you move up the corporate ladder. 

Some examples could be:

1. Strategic reviews

From time to time, you may get a chance to work on strategic initiatives. The outcome may not be tangible, but the thinking process is great for you to understand things on a much bigger picture. You will also understand the landscape of the business, the past and future, the danger and opportunities, then convert those back into actionable points for the organization.

It is even better if the strategic initiative covers a bigger scope than your job. For example, if you are in charge of a sub-function, and the strategic initiative is on the entire function or your job only covers South East Asia, and the initiative is about the Asia Pacific. The way you handle the functions that are outside the scope of your functions will help you win a promotion. In the interview, you may not actually showcase the project that you did, but the insights from such a project can be great talking points and prove that you have the big picture positioning for promotion.

2. Process re-engineering

Another type is process re-engineering projects. Such work is great because it reflects on “How we are doing things”, “How we can do better”? Part of your work as you grow is to keep a keen eye on major re-engineering processes. Generally, such projects can help you to build a cross-functional network within the company, and facilitate a very good big picture understanding. Whether it’s internal or external opportunities, proving you have such understanding will be very important for your next move.


3. Change Management: 

This is a very critical aspect of leadership and it’s the most challenging even for seasoned leaders. Man’s resistance to change makes change not just a technical or business matter but a psychological matter as well. This is where you will shine if you can show that you are already a grassroots leader in some of the teams you led. This will show your influencing power, leadership, EQ and interpersonal skills, as well as your deep understanding of the culture and subculture.

This also demonstrates your resilience as most people are resistant to changes, and you will have to use management skills to slowly gain the buy-in of key people in the organization, to get things done.


4. Incubation of new project

This is often required at the leadership level, and if you have already done such work, you can present it during the promotion interview. Your courage and capability to build something from scratch and your resourcefulness in getting things done by organizing the effort of everyone in the organization will be noted.


5. Mentorship 

If you have taught a peer (or sometimes a senior), and mentored a new colleague at a lower than you, it is recognised during promotion interviews. Such mentoring or on-job-training experience is worth mentioning, not only for the leadership aspect but also because they can help you to better understand your job and reflect on processes.


Convincing yourself

This is much harder than convincing the employer, even after getting the job, you may still feel like you are “fake” from time to time, and worried that you will be poked through and exposed. Or if you were like me, you believed that your parents will only love you if you do well in life, you may become an overachiever who still feels insecure. I have met many high achievers who believe that they are complete fakes. Many of them seem to be amazingly accomplished and extremely successful. Impostor syndrome is extremely common in women.

To overcome imposter syndrome and get the more senior-level jobs, you first have to understand what’s going through your minds, what are the assumptions.


Assumption 1 

Everyone else is qualified for their jobs. Interestingly, if we assume workplace promotions are generally efficient, that is if someone is 100% good in his current job, then he will get promoted to that next role. And this keeps going on till he’s not 100% good for his current job so he will be stuck at this job. In a workplace that is 100% efficient, the world will be full of people who are not good at their job. Because if they were that good, they would have been promoted already. And if the workplace is not efficient, then many disqualified people will be promoted. Either way, we’ll end up with plenty of people disqualified for the job.

But we can challenge ourselves. Why must people get a job only when they are fully qualified? Can’t you get a job when you are 60% qualified and grow in it? In fact, that’s often what actually happens in the real world. This is just a thought experiment, and in fact, most of the time, the hiring managers are aware that the new hire will come with some skill or experience gap for that role. And that means there is room for growth.


Assumption 2

I am a fake and even if I manage to fool others, I will be exposed one day. Actually, you can’t really fool others, you just passed their standard, although you couldn’t pass your own. So the best way to manage the feeling of an impostor is to evaluate yourself objectively. After all, you are the best person to assess the source of these problems. A career coach or counsellor can certainly help you on this journey of self-discovery and change, a mentor, or good friend can also put things in perspective.

I also met with some clients who encountered some setbacks in life, like retrenchment, or negative comments from previous supervisors. These supervisors may say things like, “You will never make it in this field”, or “you will never become good at something.” And these life scenarios or comments have badly affected how they see themselves. So I tell my clients that this statement is an opinion expressed by someone else. And you have the right to agree or disagree. If you agree, how many % do you agree with? What is it that you agree? Any evidence to support that he/she was right?

With the discovery following these questions, my clients learn to separate the other person’s opinion from their own. In the process, they also get to make sense of their feelings as most often that comment has been like a thorn, hurting them festering a wound that refuses to heal. This will also allow you to get your self-confidence back even if you are an introvert. The awareness allows them to take what that opinion taught them, and throw away the part that does not make sense, and move on with their life.

This is to say that, if you think any past setback is affecting your self-esteem, please work on it, so that you can do well at the interview for a promotion. Read this article to see how you can overcome your fear of rejection and win at your promotion interview.


What to note for internal interviews

An internal interviews is an opportunity that comes when you have done a lot of work that made you excel. This means your hard work was noticed by your supervisors and senior management and it got you a generally good reputation internally for your attitude and leadership. So grab it with two hands and make the best of it.

One thing to note during the interview is not to sound like you feel unrecognized. In fact, if you are presenting to a committee, you probably have gotten some support from your manager beforehand. It’s important you have some alignment with your boss and sound well supported in the interview.

If you would like to book a 1:1 session with me, click on the book a call button today.



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portrait_Yolanda Yu_YL_r

Yolanda Yu

  • 𝗣𝗖𝗖 ICF Certified Executive Coach
  • 𝗣𝗲𝗮𝗸𝗣𝗿𝗲𝘀𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲ᵀᴹ Career Coach
  • Ex-Visa Ex-Alibaba business leader
  • 🐧Penguin Author
  • Ex-Headhunter