passed over for promotion

A reader writes:

A co-worker of mine was recently promoted to an open position without any other candidates, myself included, having been interviewed. When I first attempted to talk to the hiring manager about this, he accused me of “overreacting” and acting immature.

Now, my purpose is not to argue why I should have been promoted, nor am I particularly interested in running down my co-worker, both of which I would understand him calling immature. I really just want to discuss the process: the idea that the hiring manager — I quote — “didn’t consider other candidates because [my co-worker] has been with the company so much longer,” as well as anything I might have done wrong in my application.

To this effect, I met privately with the hiring manager (along with my direct manager — one of his assistant managers — as a witness) for almost two hours, but he spent the whole time talking about basic job seeking techniques, the importance of having good connections, etc., with a long aside about how it can be “more difficult for women in management” (I’m female, but I don’t see what that has to do with this).

So my question is: how much effort do I put into making him actually listen to me when I say that it’s not that I’m crushed by this or anything but that I think he’s making a fundamental mistake by making hiring/promotion decisions without actually looking at the candidates…before I go to HR and say the same thing? (It is a mistake for him to pick his preferred candidate from the get-go, isn’t it? Or is it not my place to say, even though it has just significantly affected me?)

Well, it’s possible that the hiring manager isn’t good at hiring. But it’s also possible that he knew that you weren’t well matched with what he was looking for (if not in skills, then in temperament or general “fit”). And he might have known your colleague was exactly what he was looking for. If either of those are the case, he acted reasonably. If so, his mistake was in not explaining this to you, rather than in making the hiring decision the way he did. (My guess is that that’s because he’s uncomfortable telling you why he didn’t consider you a strong candidate. He’s a manager and he should get over his discomfort with that sort of thing … but the reality is that many managers never do.)

Anyway, I wouldn’t recommend saying anything to him or to HR. Because of the context, you’ll appear to have an agenda and your message will be lost as a result. And it sounds like you’ve already had multiple run-in’s with the manager (your boss’s boss?) on this topic — one where he told you were being immature and then one even after that, where a witness needed to be involved. I don’t think you’ll get anywhere by keeping the topic going, and it’s possible that refusing to drop it will hurt you.

But you have every right to explore your possibilities for promotion within the company and to look elsewhere if you don’t think your needs will be met there. Good luck!

{ 5 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    I actually go back and forth on this kind of thing. I used to think that organizations should have interviews for all positions, even if they had already hand-picked the hire. More recently, I’ve started to think that’s disingenuous, and if they’ve already made up their mind, they should just give it to that person and not give others the impression they’re being considered when they really aren’t.

  2. Anonymous*

    Using phrases like “make him listen to me” and “he’s making a mistake by” will NEVER end well when directed towards anyone higher up than the person talking…

    Since the reader applied but wasn’t interviewed, would guess the decision was made based on work performance and politics. Perhaps the reader was a “good” fit, but maybe the coworker was a “better” fit than the reader? Wouldn’t matter if the coworker was just barely a better fit or was a significantly better fit, neither means the reader was a “bad” fit.

    Another possibility: What if both candidates are EXACTLY equal in terms of fit, but one has been with the company longer – shouldn’t loyalty/longevity actually be rewarded for once? There’s not enough as it is nowadays, on either side of the table. If the reader had been the one who was there longer, wouldn’t she be upset if the promotion was given to the “new guy”?

    OTOH, if the manager DID make a mistake and the reader WAS a better candidate than the coworker, wouldn’t this be a good motivator for pursuing other opportunities in a different group/division or even an entirely different company, as AAM suggested?

  3. Just another HR lady...*

    I think that perhaps the only mistake the manager made here was failing to personally speak to candidates who applied but were not considered for the position. You say that you applied and that there were also other candidates, so I’m assuming there was some kind of notice that a position was available.

    Internal competitions are sticky, and each candidate should have a personal meeting (not necessarily an interview) about their application, even if it’s only to say that they do not qualify and what they can do to qualify next time. Miss this step and people tend to feel like they were excluded, despite the fact that they probably didn’t qualify for the job.

    I’m not suggesting that the manager made a mistake in who they selected as the successful candidate, just that they could have been a bit more tactful in dealing with their other employees who were interested, but perhaps did not yet have the required skill-set.

    My suggestion? Let your anger go, ask what you can do to meet the qualifications next time, and strive to build your expertise to that level.

  4. Anonymous*

    Similiar scenerio – only in this case I was promised an interview and am the most senior person on site (In fact trained all supervisors) In this case my "New" boss hired one of the men that I trained without interviewing me. (On several dates even promised to hold an interview) What do you do?

  5. Ask a Manager*

    Anonymous, talk to him, say you were interested in the job and disappointed you weren't considered, and ask if there's something you should be doing differently.

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