It’s important to realize that employers will review your resume as they evaluate your job application. Depending on your work activity, the interviewer might wonder why you did not get a promotion at your previous job. This is especially the case when you apply for a higher-level position than your current one.
It might sound like a trick question to discuss when you were last promoted, but with the right preparation, you use this question to your advantage. Promotion interview questions are common and require preparation prior to your interview.
In this blog, we discuss answering questions about being promoted at work, why interviewers ask you this, and how you should answer this question.
Read more about frequently asked interview questions. Also, check our interview preparation checklist to ace your interview! Read more about other job interview topics.
Why interviewers ask about promotions
Not getting promoted is not as bad as getting laid off or fired, but it will still leave the interviewer wondering if there’s a problem with you. Therefore, give the interviewer a reason why you were not promoted or why it was your own choice not to take a promotion. For instance, you maybe had small children or other obligations that may not be a factor anymore now. However, it’s important that you can provide the right answer to convince the interviewer of your choices.
During your interview, your interviewers will be trying to assess your strengths and weaknesses. But also how your strengths and weaknesses can affect your ability to successfully perform the job. The interviewer will most likely ask you to describe yourself, requiring you to go into detail about what kind of employee you see yourself.
If the interviewer discovers some kind of reason in your answers why you could have been passed over for promotion, this can be considered a warning sign. It’s therefore important that you can demonstrate that you either have been promoted or have solid reasons for why you haven’t. Make sure you spend some time thinking about how you can best address interview questions about not being promoted in your last position.
Interviewers look for you to walk them through your background and job experience and convince them of your suitability for the job.
Tips on how to answer questions promotion interview questions
There are several ways you can go about answering questions about whether or not you were promoted and why. As stated earlier, not getting promoted is not as bad as being laid off or getting fired, but you need to be able to explain your situation.
You could, for instance, tell the interviewer, ‘I was offered a promotion in my current position, but at the time, I did not want to take on additional responsibilities.’ Always follow this statement up with a reason. If you, for instance, just had a baby or have small children, explain to them why this was not the right move in your career at that time. Also, make sure you have an explanation for any other situation or factor that was of influence on your decision.
If a promotion was not the right step in your career, that’s a valid reason. Furthermore, a lack of opportunity in the organization could also play a role, and that’s the reason that you’re applying for a new job now. This is a valid reason for searching for advancement in another company. Having references will also help you with this. A good reference that can confirm your story is worth a lot.
Don’t ever badmouth a previous employer or former coworkers. This will make you look bad, and you will not make the right impression. It will create a negative vibe and could indicate unresolved issues. Furthermore, it’s unprofessional in general.
In case you have been promoted, discuss what made the employer promote you. You can take advantage of this moment to highlight your strengths. Explain to the interviewer why the position is the right step for you at this moment. Furthermore, substantiate your statements with examples of how you used your strengths in past work situations. The best way to do this is by using the STAR interview technique. STAR is an acronym that stands for a situation (S), your task (T) in that situation, the actions (A) you took, and what results (R) you got based on your actions. These are the basic steps you take in your walkthrough.
STAR Interview Technique
When you want to discuss work situations where you successfully applied skills that are also required for the job you’re applying for, use the STAR method. The STAR interview technique is a specific way of structuring your answer to deliver a concise and to-the-point answer. You discuss the situation (S), the task (T) you had in that situation. The actions (A) you took to address the situation, and the results (R) you got from your actions. Below we discuss each step of the STAR method individually.
Start by providing the context of the situation you were in. Give a brief and specific answer. Don’t forget to include the important details.
Next, explain your task in that situation. Give a concise story about your responsibilities.
This is the most important part of the answer. Here you describe the actions you took to address the situation you were in. Explain what you exactly did and why.
Here you discuss the results of your actions. If possible, quantify the results to give your answer more weight.
Sample answers to promotion interview questions
Below you can find some example answers to the interview question ‘when was the last time you got promoted?’
Example Promotion Question & Answer 1:
‘The last time I got promoted was in my current position. I’ve been working there for over six years. After two years in my position, I thought of applying for a vacant manager position. I was somewhat hesitant since I did not yet have a ton of experience, but I thought it was the right time in my career to take on another challenge.
After my final interview, my boss gave me feedback about how impressed she was with my performance throughout the last two years and that she thought that I was ready for this step too. Even though I knew I was ready for it, I was really excited about getting the opportunity and the faith she had in me.
I’ve been a manager there for four years now, and I’m ready to take another step in my career. This opportunity is the perfect next step in taking on new responsibilities within a larger organization to further expand my knowledge and professional experience.’
Example Promotion Question & Answer 2:
‘In my previous position, I was promoted after just eight months. I was hired by a startup right out of university. I was the third person they hired, and after eight months, my manager left. The founder of the company asked if I wanted to take on the manager position since I was the most experienced.
Of course, I wanted to take on a challenge, but it was fairly soon in my career. My boss motivated me and told him that he would mentor me during the process. Now, four years later, the company has over 35 employees, and I’m an associate director in the marketing department. I’ve learned a lot during those years. I’m ready to take another step forward now.
The part of this job that really caught my eye is that I get a chance to manage large projects from across functions. Being able to advance my skills and continue to develop myself in a growing organization is why I applied for this job. Furthermore, there are several long-term opportunities, as well.’
Common Job Interview Questions & Answers
Below you can find a list of common job interview topics. Each link will direct you to an article regarding the specific topics that discuss commonly asked interview questions. Furthermore, each article discusses why the interviewer asks these questions and how you answer them!
- Career Change
- Career Goals
- Conflict Resolution
- Creative Thinking
- Cultural Fit
- Customer Service
- Growth Potential
- Honesty & Integrity
- Job Satisfaction
- Entry-Level & No experience
- Prioritization & Time Management
- Situational & Scenario-based
- Stress Management
- Telephone Interview
- Work Ethic