Job Interview Question

Why haven’t you been promoted?

How To Answer Interview Questions Series

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If you are someone with quite a bit of career experience but you haven’t moved up the career ladder, you can expect to be asked why you haven’t been promoted in your job interview.  Employers don’t worry about this issue quite as much as if you had been fired, but both situations do make them wonder if you have some secret fault they don’t know about yet.

Remember that hiring you is a risk for them because they will be investing time and money into training you and getting you up to speed in the job.  And they really don’t want to have to go through this hiring process again.  So this question is yet another way to ask about your weaknesses, or otherwise uncover flaws while they still have the chance.

The best answer is one where you can say, “I was actually offered a promotion, but I wasn’t interested.  I didn’t want to take on that additional responsibility.”  There could be a lot of reasons for this.  Maybe you had small children or other family obligations.  Maybe you had something else going on.

Or, “I was offered a promotion, but I wasn’t interested in taking on that role.” Maybe you just weren’t interested in the responsibilities of that job.

Or, “I wanted to move in a different direction in the company. The promotions that were offered to me (or available to me) were going to take me in a direction I didn’t want to go.” Not every job you qualify for is going to fit neatly into the career path you are following.

All of these answers tell the best story you can tell, which is that it was your choice.

Or, it could be that the lack of promotional opportunities in your old company is exactly why you’re in the job search.  Maybe you worked for a small company with no room for you to grow and develop.  Then it makes perfect sense for you to be looking for advancement opportunities in another organization.

What you don’t want to do is give the impression that you’re lazy and didn’t want to do the work; that you weren’t offered a promotion because you’re not good at your job; or that you don’t have the work ethic or the people skills necessary to move up the chain.

One thing that will help you in this situation or any situation where there’s some question about your background:  your references.  A great reference will counter a lot of doubts the hiring manager has about you.  Cultivate good references and prep them before your interview.


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