I’m being asked to apply for the job I’ve already been doing

A reader writes:

I work for medium-sized specialty manufactuer. I started just over one year ago. The position for which I was hired was a bit of step back in pay and responsibility, but I took it wanting to get back into corporate marketing after being in the nonprofit arena for over 15 years. I like my job and hoped the responsibility level would grow.

I was part of a team of 2.5 — myself, my manager and her manager who oversaw two departments (hence the .5). After being hired, I was told that my manager was pregnant and would be going on maternity leave in six months. She was very organized and prepped me, but only to the extent of things I would need to cover during her leave. Two weeks before she left, her boss left to take another position. So after six months with the company, I became the only person in the department.

Well, fast forward six months, my manager decided to stay home with her baby and I am still doing all of the work for no additional pay, to very good reviews based on my new manager’s feedback. I have been told I am professional, a team player, and produce quality projects.

They finally have posted my manager’s position, which I had to “apply to.” I am more than qualified based on the posting, with 20 years experience and a degree in marketing and an MBA. I then found out that it is company policy to post externally as well as internally. It is out on LinkedIn and Monster and in this economy, I am sure they will have tons of applicants.

Frankly, I do not know what I will do if they actually hire someone from the outside in above me. Would they expect me to train them? Any advice on how to handle would be great.

Well, first, stop being insulted that they’re advertising the position. They have a responsibility to ensure that they’re hiring the best candidate possible, which means looking at a larger pool of candidates than just one person.

And … well, it’s possible that they will find someone who’s a better fit for the job. And if that happens, it would be silly of them to be obligated to turn that person away out of appreciation to you for filling in the past six months. They owe you appreciation, certainly, and probably a salary bump when raise time comes around (in recognition of your value in being able to fill in when needed), but they do not owe you a promotion if someone else is a better candidate.

It’s easy to think, “I’ve been doing the work of 2.5 people and doing it well, so this is unfair.” But it’s pretty unlikely that you’ve really been doing the work of 2.5 people. You’ve been keeping a 2.5-person department going with only one, yes, but that usually means that the work output changes during that time. While the key things for those jobs are getting covered, they’re generally not getting covered in the same way that they would if the positions were fully staffed. You’re doing as much as you’re able to do, but if you’re juggling three things, you’re necessarily giving each less attention than if you were juggling one.

That’s in no way meant to take away from the work that you’ve been doing. My point, rather, is that it’s not useful to think, “But I’ve been doing all of these jobs.” You’ve been doing one restructured position during a period where they needed you to pinch-hit. And they absolutely should appreciate  and recognize you for that … but it doesn’t automatically entitle you to the manager position now that they’re ready to fill it.

It does entitle you to serious consideration from them as they consider who to hire for the manager job, and they should give you that. But if they ultimately end up hiring a candidate who they think will get them better results, that’s fair and you’ll want to be prepared for that.

And yes, that would probably mean that you’ll be expected to take on some of that person’s training. That’s not too unusual; when a new manager comes in, she usually relies on her new team to help her learn the pieces of her job that they can teach. Again, it’s not an insult; it’s how businesses work.

If that happens, I’d recommend trying to objectively understand why the person was hired, and giving her a chance to see whether she’s someone you can happily work with. If you decide she’s not, you can always look elsewhere.

But don’t be insulted. It’s not insulting; it’s just the way this stuff works.

{ 84 comments… read them below }

  1. Em*

    Last summer, I was in a vaguely similar situation. I had been performing as manager of our small (2-3 people, including myself) for awhile in a very unofficial capacity. There had been direct no manager of my team as long as I’d been at the company, but there had been one a few years prior. Last year, my manager sat me down and told me they were opening up this manager position and that I was encouraged to apply, but that it would be opened up to other candidates as well, both internally and externally. I was thrilled by the opportunity, but also knew that if they were to hire someone else, I would take it as a sign that there wasn’t a clear future for me here, since I had been having conversations with my manager about that being my next goal and had been doing everything I could to set myself up for that kind of promotion. It wasn’t that I would disagree with their decision – the management team would need to hire whoever they felt was best suited for the job – but it was that I knew that *I* would no longer be happy in my role in that situation.

    So, I applied for the job. I spent 5 hours in interviews, where I spoke with three senior directors and two senior managers. In the interview with my manager, I asked how many people were being interviewed for the job, and he said it was just me. Over the next couple of weeks, I learned that it is policy that anyone being promoted from an individual contributor role to a manager role must be interviewed, and that the job must be opened up for others to apply to. As it turns out, as soon as I applied, they took down the listing, which was before it had even gone outside of the internal job boards. Suffice to say, I “got” the job.

    Long story short: The situation you’re finding yourself in could all be smoke and mirrors for the sake of following policy. Don’t get offended, no matter what happens.

  2. Rob Bird*

    One thing to remember is that you don’t know what the company has in mind for that department or that position they advertised for. Maybe this is their chance to reorganize the department. Without advertising the position, you just never know what other skills/abilities/tools other people can bring to the table.

  3. Runon*

    My first question is have you clearly and directly expressed your desire for this position. Because all the things AAM and others have already said are important but if they don’t know (because you told them not because they should know) then they are doing the exactly correct thing. If you are a frequent reader you may remember there was a recent question by someone asking how to say, hey you have to hire someone else I don’t want my old bosses job. You have to have clearly asked for the position. And for them even if you have (which may seem extremely obvious to you) they may still have to go thru this process, or they may want to because they want to see what other people are out there.

    First and foremost tell them what you want, and that comes in applying too.

  4. Lily in NYC*

    This is why it’s interesting to get an HR perspective, even though Alison’s answer kind of upsets me (not that I don’t understand her point of view). And companies wonder why they don’t have loyal employees? My company often does this – we will have an excellent VP doing a fabulous job – but when an SVP vacancy comes available, we’ll end up hiring someone from outside. The outside people are rarely as good as the person passed up for promotion. Then the VP leaves as soon as he/she gets a new job and we are stuck with crappy managers with no institutional knowledge. And whatever happened to career development? What’s the point of going so far above and beyond for your company if you won’t eventually be rewarded for it (I don’t mean simply doing a good job)? Alison, I’m not arguing with your response but it certainly was a depressing eye-opener.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think you’re expecting rewards to work in an unrealistic way though. The company does have a responsibility to reward the OP for her work — through recognition, a raise, etc. But it’s not responsible for a company to use promotions as a reward if the person isn’t the best candidate. They need to hire the person who they deem the best for the job. (They won’t always get that right, of course; hiring isn’t a perfect science.)

      1. Lily in NYC*

        I think it’s reasonable and realistic to expect a promotion if you are already doing the job and doing it well. That’s how I got promoted and I would have quit if they had hired from outside. That’s exactly what I meant by my earlier comment – it shows the difference between how regular staff and upper management/HR view certain situations. I’m not saying one is right and one is wrong. It’s just how I feel. Maybe I see it differently because of how my company handles it – we will pass up someone great to hire our president’s golf buddy or someone that donated big bucks to our Mayor’s campaign (I work at a quasi-governmental agency). Sure, you can say we just have bad managers, but many companies have bad managers and I know there are plenty of places that do the same thing.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Oh, I agree with you that passing up a great internal candidate for the CEO’s golf buddy is horrible management. I’m only advocating external hires when they’re truly judged to be the best for the job.

          1. CatB (Europe)*

            I’m only advocating external hires when they’re truly judged to be the best for the job

            Problem here is that “best” isn’t easy to determine. As professional and grown-up as one may be, we’re all human; and the danger of dis-satisfaction, bitterness and sense of betrayal is ever present.

            It might very well be that the new external hire is a savvy pro, with all what it takes, clicks well with the company… but the insider’s enthusiasm dwindles down to nothing and they leave. Now you have a whole department staffed by a newcomer (the manager) and more newcomers (the new staff). The risk here is that all that newness could make them re-invent the wheel. Plus, the whole thing sends chilling vibes all over the company and suddenly you have a rush of resumes flowing in every direction. Where’s the “best” here?

            I’m not saying this is how things always work. I’m saying this risk should be carefully assessed even before deciding to open the position. Because, in such a scenario, the company could have had a lukewarm manager (the insider) but one on “full steam” and eager to learn. And their (to be hired) team would have a different “energy” at work.

            Maybe it’s just that I come from a different place. But I’ve seen companies struggle after such a move for the “best” candidate, even when they did it in all honesty.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Right, of course “best” isn’t easy to determine. But the point is that the company has to be allowed to make that determination for themselves, rather than feel that they owe promotions out of loyalty to candidates who they don’t actually feel are the best ones for the job.

              1. Josh S*

                You are right. The company has to be allowed to make the determination of what ‘best qualified’ is, and that may mean hiring an external candidate.

                But a lot of companies (too many, IMO) fail to recognize the benefits of corporate continuity, and tend to default to looking for external people who have experience in doing a task vs. looking for internal people who can move/grow into the role. It’s the mindset of “we want to find a person who has proven that she can do XYZ” rather than the mindset of “we want to find a person who is best able to do XYZ at our organization.” A subtle, but important, difference.

        2. jonathan*

          I was passed over for promotion for a position I was already doing, to good reviews for upper management, as well.

          This is an unforgivable policy . If no matter what you do, you cannot advance in a company the incentive to work harder become negligible. This is an absurd policy and it leads to institutional stagnation and bad company morale. My former employer is just about as bloated and inefficient as they come. No wonder – I’ve moved on now.

        3. Katie Y*

          Agreed! I left my last position after 6 years because I applied for and didn’t get a promotion to a job I held down in the interim, along with my own position. After interviewing in front of my entire department of 7 people, they hired an outside person who immediately wasn’t happy in the position and will soon leave as well. And the revolving door continues….

      2. Josh S*

        I could equally make the argument that as much as you’d like to “get the best candidate”, the definition of “best” might perhaps include ‘institutional continuity’. Not necessarily, but perhaps, depending on the position, the industry, the company, etc etc etc.

        Too many companies want the ‘most qualified candidate’ but fail to consider that an understanding of the organization and how to get stuff done within that org structure is (or can be) a huge qualification that may not be so well-defined that it would look ‘proper’ on a job description.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Sure, of course. But it still doesn’t translate to an internal candidate have a special entitlement to the promotion because they’ve been doing extra work and working hard.

          1. jon*

            I think that’s somewhat ridiculous.

            Passing over someone who is a) already loyal to your company b) talented c) spends his or her life working hard for your company makes absolutely no sense. It is even worse to pass over this person in favor of someone who a) hasn’t yet demonstrated loyalty to your company b) hasn’t yet demonstrated talent – only communicated in an interview context that they possess talent and c) doesn’t already spend his or her life working for you . I can’t think of a better way to, one in one fell swoop, send a signal to all your current employees that the person they see working extremely hard every day can’t possibly get promoted within the company.

            What do you think they take away from that?

            If this is a common management practice, it needs to change.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              You don’t reward people with jobs that you don’t believe they’ll excel at. Not everyone is good at everything, and if the job above them involves skills that they aren’t fantastic at, it would be irresponsible — to the company and to the employee — to move them into that role. There are plenty of ways to reward people and even given them increasing responsibility that don’t involve moving them into jobs that they’re not highly suited for.

              I’m not sure what you mean about external candidates who “hasn’t yet demonstrated talent.” Effective hiring is about ferreting out what kind of track record people have. If you’re hiring well, you’re going to be hiring people who have demonstrated talent through their previous accomplishment.

              1. jon*

                Well, if we’re talking about this specific question, we’re talking about someone who is already doing the job. So, if they’ve already been doing the job for six months, then clearly they are capable of doing the job. I would pick this person over someone I didn’t know.

                I’d rather give someone I know the chance to excel at a job I already know they are good or very good at than completely betray them in favor of someone I barely know.

                Loyalty had an evolutionary purpose. It promotes organizational cohesion.

                1. jon*

                  It sounds like it involves managing herself, since she says her department shrank to 1, unless I’m missing something.

                  But that’s kind of besides the point. The incremental increase in performance that you are not even guaranteed to get by searching from a wider pool does not outweigh the cost to company morale inflicted by passing over your already-loyal employees.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Managing yourself is really, really different from managing other people. No comparison, really.

                  And that’s not true re: only getting an incremental increase in performance. Top performers will often outperform lower ones by a factor of five or more. It’s hugely, hugely significant when you have the right person in the job.

        2. jon*

          In addition, people aren’t stagnant, unthinking beasts. Most people learn on the job. Most people. Even the MBAs among us are going to encounter management situations they weren’t trained for. It’s called being able to adopt – if you pick your best employee for an internal promotion, chances are they will be able to adapt to the role. If it doesn’t work out, you can fire them and hire someone else. But give them a chance over anyone else, please. It will most likely work out.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            That’s just not always true. The promotion might be a position that requires very different skills (management, for instance, or bringing difficult and disparate stakeholders together). Some people are well suited for those jobs, and others aren’t. It doesn’t make sense to put someone in a position where they won’t thrive, or where the company will have an opportunity cost from not hiring someone better suited. “If it doesn’t work out, you can fire them and hire someone else” isn’t a great way to proceed — you want to try to pick the best person for the role originally.

            1. jon*

              Exactly – it is not always true. I’m willing to bet that it is most likely true, however. I’d take a statistical probability over telling *all* of my employees that even if they work extremely hard and are loyal there’s a chance that someone could swoop in from the outside world and take the job they were working for.

                1. jon*

                  Right. Most people. But we’re not talking about most people. We’re talking about your best employee :-)

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Are we? Because your best employee is one person, so that doesn’t account for everyone else.

                  But even your employee who’s best at X isn’t necessarily going to be best at Y, so you wouldn’t necessarily promote them to Y without looking at a fuller candidate pool.

              1. N*

                Jon, I am going to guess that you haven’t managed much? Some of this sounds like the kind of thing everyone thinks idealistically until they get in a job where they are responsible for running a company.

                1. jon*

                  I’m a software architect, and I’ve managed very complex software projects.

                  Last month, I had the opportunity to let someone go who did not know one of the technologies we were using, as we started using it when I came in. Instead of letting them go I taught them what they needed to know. We successfully completed the project and we subsequently got a huge new, $100k project from the company that we did the initial project for.

                  If you invest in people, they pay you back.

                  I would rather invest the time and effort to bring someone I know up to speed than to bring in someone from the outside world who might very well be excellent, but whom I do not know.

                2. jon*

                  Think of the alternative in the above situation. Instead of keeping the person on, I would have had to replace them. Replacing them would be costly and take time and effort to sift through applications to find someone who was suitable. If I found someone who looked promising I would probably give their references a call. I would most likely get a blaise “They were excellent” response – because that’s a blanket response above managers for employees who performed adequately. I might be able to go on the past projects listed on their resume, but even then I wouldn’t have seen anything.

                  But I’d already seen what my own employee was capable of doing and what he was incapable of doing. I taught him what he needed to know and everything worked out.

                  You’re telling me it would have been a better use of my already cramped time to find someone I could guarantee to be excellent from the outside world?

                3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I’m telling you that not all situations work out like yours did, and often it absolutely is worth the manager’s time to fire, hire a replacement, and train them. Because having a really high performer in the role will get you significantly better results than having an okay performer in the role.

                  It sounds lovely to never fire anyone or hire externally and just give your people the training they need to get to wherever you need them to be. But in reality, some people aren’t going to be able to meet the bar that you need. You can decide that you don’t care and you’d rather rely on the people you have, but you’re going to get better results if you hire the best people you can find, internally or externally. Coming from the nonprofit sector, I can tell you that there’s a moral responsibility to do that in that sector — not to save someone’s job or promote them at all costs.

                  I think we’re going to need to agree to disagree on this.

                4. jon*

                  As someone who hasn’t worked in the private sector, I can admit that it might be different there.

                  But to me hiring even reputable people from the outside world is akin to starting from scratch. Breeding a culture of excellence starts with visibly rewarding excellence and investing in the people you have.

                  That said, I can agree to disagree.

                5. jon*

                  Please note that my combative replies here have more to do with the fact that I have been on both ends of this question (I am the jonathan from above) – and it feels terrible from both.

              2. SCW*

                We have this issue where I work–moving into management requires experience supervising, but unless staff had previous supervisory/management experience it can be hard to break into management. Of course, this worked out for me–I was an external candidate who had been doing the job they were hiring for 3 years, where no one in the system interviewing for the job had done it before.

                My boss told me she was turned off from internal candidates who acted entitled to the job, and who would not be able to bring new ideas. Sometimes hiring internal candidates, particularly one who has been acting in, means a continued commitment to how things have been, where an outside hire can be a chance for change

              3. Monica*

                I know you just agreed to disagree, but I have an analogy for you. Imagine you manage a baseball team. Your third baseman is the best player on the team, hands down. One day your pitcher gets injured and has to take the season off. With no other pitchers you can either scout a new pitcher or replace him with someone already on your team.

                If you put the best player in (third baseman), you’re tossing up the season’s success on the ability of third base to learn to pitch and do it well. Also, your third base is weaker now. Third base used to have the best player.

                And lets go back to the former third-baseman (now pitcher). If this player does not pitch well, you’ve set him up for failure. He was a great third baseman, and helped the team there. If he gets cut because he’s a terrible pitcher you have: weak third base, no pitcher, and an overall less-than-thriving team.

                1. no....*

                  Not if your third baseman has experience pitching and has proven to also be a good pitcher….

    2. jesicka309*

      Ugh my department did that to us. About 7 internal people went for 2 positions – they opened the job up externally as well.

      Our immediate thoughts were: out of seven of us, they are worried they can’t find two people to fill these roles? Do they have that little faith in us? They kept us hanging for weeks after intervioews, before finally admitting they wanted to do a restructure so that all of us would be bumped up, but it could take a few weeks or longer, so they had extended an offer to an external candidate in the meantime to fill one of the gaps. this guy had numerous years more experience than us, apparently, and they were super excited. We all rolled our eyes and thought he’d be bored, and that they really didn’t want to hire us.
      The guy knocked back the offer, and we all got promoted up in the restructure, but it shook our faith in our managers. Surely there was one or two of us that they thought were good? It felt like they were dragged into promoting us kicking and screaming., which wasn’t a nice way to start.

    3. Veronic in NYC*

      This post is completely disheartening! I have been in a acting director position for 1 year. I see people coming into my institution fresh off the street and get SVP or VP positions. I have worked for my institution for 14 years in many areas and have a wonderful relationship with everyone at work. I’ve been handling a large department of over 100 people, and am integrated in policy making through out the institution as well. So the job is one of many facets…and still no official promotion! My question is how long can a company keep an employee in a “Acting” position.?

  5. businesslady*

    I’ve had three different positions since starting with my current organization; the second one was basically “we created this position for you”–but I still had to apply, interview, the works. & the process for the third position was the same as if I’d been any other candidate (my future boss teased me gently for wearing a suit & the co-interview was like, “it’s an interview!). I wasn’t insulted by either instance; that’s just how companies confirm that they’re making the best choice for the job.

    the thing is, you’ve already got an advantage over other candidates by knowing the work so well–use that to your advantage. brush up your resume so that it aligns perfectly with what you’d need to be doing, write the kind of insightful cover letter that external candidates wouldn’t be able to write, & then treat the (I’m assuming) eventual interview like you would any other, aside from perhaps a greater sense of rapport than you’d normally have.

    at the end of the interview for job #3, I told my coworkers, “I’m really excited about this position, but I know you have to do what’s best for the organization, & I promise we can still be friends if we don’t all make the cheer squad” (which, okay, was not professional, but it did make them laugh–& it helped acknowledge that I had a longstanding collegial relationship with these people). if you manage to convey a similar sense of “I *won’t* be offended if you don’t choose me,” it’ll only further reinforce their conviction that you have the company’s best interests at heart–& thus, that you’re the best candidate for the job.

    1. businesslady*

      ugh, first paragraph has typos galore–that should be: …the co-interviewER was like, “it’s an interview!”)

  6. nyxalinth*

    Well, you don’t say how happy you are in that position, only that you’re in it and working very hard. Ask yourself this:

    How ego-driven is my desire to remain in this position versus wanting to remain in it because I genuinely enjoy it?

    I figured I’d ask this, because everyone else will cover the business-y aspects of it well, but you also have to know what’s in your own heart. It’s easy to stay in a job that is overworking you and stressful (maybe, you didn’t say either way) but lets you get to feel awesome and that be the only thing going for it. You’ve probably got that all sorted, but it’s something I thought worthy of bringing up, because a lot of people confuse the feeling of “I am awesome doing all this kick-ass work” with “I am genuinely happy where I am.”

      1. nyxalinth*

        Thanks :) I speak from experience. In my job hunt I have to ask myself “Do I really want this position, or do I just want to be able to tell people asking me about my job hunt “I found a job, STFU already” “Or this position would be really cool, if they hire me it means I’m awesome!” or tell myself “I am awesome and win, I found a job!”

        It isn’t easy. But it keeps me mostly away from places that would suit very poorly (overlong bus ride, terrible environment, etc.).

    1. Jamie*

      On an unrelated note, I’ve actually been struggling this lately and have been deliberately refusing to address it because my heart and ego aren’t on speaking terms at the moment. Thanks for the nudge to examine this.

      Regarding the OP – Alison is totally right and that this is common and it’s even logical and a smart move for the company to have a larger pool. I do get it, though. My ego is so rarely impacted by logic – I would be feeling weird about it too. That doesn’t make it right or easy…but I think it’s a common impulse to be kind of insulted.

      So indulge the impulse for a few moments and then banish it – let logic kick it’s ass because seriously, if you take work crap personally it will kill you. Trust me.

      And good luck.

        1. K*

          Yes, Jamie – great line! (Might even have given me a bit of a lightbulb moment about my own job right now.)

    2. tcookson*

      “How ego-driven is my desire to remain in this position versus wanting to remain in it because I genuinely enjoy it? ”

      Very important to consider, especially because as the interim person, you’re probably getting a lot more praise for (and feeling pretty kick-ass about) going “above and beyond” than you will in the normal course of doing the job, if you happen to get it. Will you love the job when you’re not getting extra kudos for doing it?

  7. Anonymous*

    I just hope it’s your company’s policy to disclose that there are strong internal candidates who’ve applied for the position. It would be a travesty all around if they hired an external candidate and then spring you on him/her…and worse yet ask you to train.

          1. businesslady*

            & if that did happen, it pretty much confirms that management was right to hire someone else, right?

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I think you’re revealing something about yourself here, which is probably worth taking a look at. Because no, most mature adults don’t operate the way you’re describing.

      1. Lora*

        Eh, I can kinda see how that would be insulting though.

        Think of it like dating: Your SO, who had recently proposed to you, has suddenly told you s/he wants to see other people. You are hurt, but muster as much grace as you can for the situation and try to go about your business with your head held high. Now your SO informs you that his/her new love interest will need help learning about SO’s favorite meals to cook, hobbies and intimate preferences, could you please help the newbie out and teach him/her all this stuff?

        I know it’s normal and loads of companies do it, it’s just kind of insensitive.

        That said, I’ve had to do this when three jobs ago management decided not to hire me, or even one of the numerous applicants far more qualified than me, but instead hired a guy dependent on an H1b because they were paying him half what they would have had to pay the guy with 10 years of management experience. When I tried to explain the internal politics of the department to the poor guy, it was simply incomprehensible to him–Colleague X could get away with murder because he was friends with the director, Colleague Y was always in trouble because he had upset QA, Colleague Z never did any work and New Hire would probably want to think about managing him out, etc. It took the new guy a looooong time to get up to speed because he didn’t have that internal knowledge.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think this is a time when dating analogies really don’t apply, though. Businesses need what they need, and they pay you to provide it. If you’re the logical person to provide it and can’t/won’t, they’d need to replace you with someone who will. Most people don’t want that, even if they’re not thrilled about what they’re asked to do on a short-term basis.

  8. Tara*

    Im being laid off from my current employer due to a restructer. Not that its exactly the same idea, but they did advise us in the meeting where they laid us off, that we were “highly encouraged” to apply for open positions and they wanted us to come in “full battle gear” for any interview for those open positions. Management made it blatently clear that just because we already worked for them they werent going to just give us a new position. WHEN you interview, because you will, bring all that insider knowledge you have earned to prove you are the best candidate. Its kind of like you already have a leg up on the competition because you know how it works.

    1. The IT Manager*


      Your experience with the company and the job (as well as being a known quanity) is one of the things that will hopefully make you the best qualified, but you still have to polish the resume and prep for the interview so that you demostrate that to them.

    2. glennis*

      Indeed, I’m in the same situation Tara describes. An entire division (22 people) being laid off due to loss of funding. I’ve seen all kinds of HR manipulations. Some people have classifications that exist in other divisions – there is a transfer policy. Other people have positions created for them, but they have to apply for them. HR can manipulate the recruitment process – write the qualifications tailored to match the desired person’s resume. Or restrict the opening only to internal candidates. Or truncate the time period for applications to be submitted, to reduce the pool.

      One person was able to be transferred to a vacancy without going thru recruitment, on the logic that her current position was simply being “re-organized” within her division.

      The people who are in the biggest trouble are those whose job classifications are unique and don’t exist in other divisions. Then you’re doomed to follow the regular recruitment process. Now, certainly you might be a preferred candidate due to inside knowledge, but you still have to interview and be ranked. So… the Staff Assistant III can be transferred; the Piano Technician has to compete for an opening in another classification.

      The lesson learned is that management will save the ones they can – it’s like triage, they will save the ones with the greatest likelihood of success.

      So you have to make yourself an attractive candidate for saving. And it has to start well before you get laid off – you have to take those professional development opportunities, gain those additional certifications, work on those cross-departmental teams, volunteer for those external projects.

  9. Ann*

    I pretty much agree with Alison and I would just add that if you do want this job, you’re going to need to accept the situation and make sure that you really do take the interview process seriously. If you think of yourself as a shoo-in or feel like they owe it to you, you may sell yourself short in the interview and end up not getting it. Don’t let that happen! Prepare for this like you would for any other external interview and really wow them.

  10. Planner*

    I had the same thing happen to me in my last position. I took over the Manager’s duties and my duties for close to a year before the position was open to the public. During this time my Director also left and I helped them transition the new individual into their new position. Once the Manager position opened up, I applied and interviewed. Sadly, I didn’t get the promotion because I was told by my new Director that I wasn’t qualified although we had only worked together for less than a year. I asked my Director why I wasn’t qualified and what steps we could take to make myself qualified for the next time a position as such came along. That went nowhere. An outsider was eventually hired. Come to find out the new hire was best friends with my Director’s best friends and had less experience than me. That was my final straw to move on in my career.

    I agree with AAM to be really, really mentally prepared that this can go right or left. I prepared myself and had an action plan in case my promotion went right or left. I tried to work with my Director to make myself into the manager the company wanted and that didn’t work so that was my final cue to move on.

  11. Jess*

    I’d like to point out that it sounds like you haven’t been doing one of the main jobs of the manager- managing an employee in the department. So yes, you deserve serious consideration, but no, you aren’t doing exactly the same job they expect the manager to be doing.

  12. Don's ask if you don't want the answer*

    This was my question and I appreciate all of the feedback and so quickly. Initially some of it is hard to hear and I agree with SOME of what AAM has to say.
    To address a few posts,
    yes I did express my interest as soon as it was clear my manager was not returning back in early November, and yes they just posted the job last week.
    I have have more experience and education than my manger did.
    I do like my job and actually enjoy the more strategic portions of the job, new product introduction, program implementation, etc. that I missed with my “first” job.
    And yes, I also applied with a clear, concise cover letter and updated resume.
    I will say that while I agree a company has to do what is best for the organization, my concern are:
    1) How do I address that while responsible for my manager’s job, I have not been able to be as strategic as I would have liked as I also had to execute at a more tactical level at the same time in my “first” job.
    2) How to best translate the intangible benefit of – my being a proven quantity and producing high quality work under difficult conditions (the devil you know is better you don’t), institutional knowledge and frankly of building more effective cross-functional relationships than my manager was able to do.

    They have not delineated how long the posting will remain open externally , but is is slightly disheartening to see over 25 applicants just on LinkedIn.
    And yes AAM there is some hurt ego here, I will admit.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      How do I address that while responsible for my manager’s job, I have not been able to be as strategic as I would have liked as I also had to execute at a more tactical level at the same time in my “first” job.

      This is something that went wrong in my current job. I got “promoted” and I was supposed to focus on all these new, strategic things, with no one to come pick up the slack on the other day-to-day tasks I had been doing.

      I’m not sure how to best address it in an interview, but in my performance review I did bring up the fact that I felt I wasn’t doing the new parts of my job as well as I wanted & suggested that we could hire a new person. I outlined how I was spending my time now, put together a DOR & job description for the new person and described how I’d spend my time in the future, and my boss thought it was great. His boss ended up saying no to the idea. Your situation should be better because 2 distinct roles are already carved out.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You can just say directly, “Once I’m no longer responsible for juggling several different roles, here are my plans for how I’d approach the manager job” and then get specific about it.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Initially some of it is hard to hear and I agree with SOME of what AAM has to say.

      By the way, I’m curious to know which parts you disagreed with, if you’re inclined to share.

    4. Revanche*

      I was in this boat more than once over 12 months, once because my role grew so large that a new position was required and once because my supervisor left.

      In the first situation, I was already doing the job having created the position and restructuring my department but the company policy was to post internally and externally. The job was NOT guaranteed to me even though I was the one who grew the dept, the job and the role. So I interviewed against internal and external candidates, most of whom had 20+ years of management experience to my 3. My interview was w/5 directors and evaluated by the CEO. The best way to prepare for that is to tell them exactly why an insider, assuming you have the skills and all that, is better than an outsider: polish and show the advantage of institutional knowledge.
      I built a strategic growth plan (all things I wanted to do but didn’t have time to), addressed all the things the various interviewers would be concerned about, and wrote a 90 day plan. I didn’t talk about how other people failed, I talked about all the goals I knew they wanted to accomplish in the upcoming 1-, 3- and 5-year plans, and how I would get us there.
      Got that job.

      When my supervisor left, I simply assumed half that job’s responsibilities as well but it became an opportunity for the company to reorganize and restructure again. In that case, there was no job to claim, just more work. My decision then was to do the best I could until I found a better fit.

  13. Don's ask if you don't want the answer*

    Jess and AAM noted that I have not managed a person in this department, however I have managed a staff of up to 4 in the past, so the skill set is there, not just in the past 12 months.

    I guess the feedback here is wallow in my – not fair mud hole on my own time and then move on, ramp up my attitude and come to the interview ready to fight for this if I want it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      For what it’s worth, having managed staff in the past isn’t the same thing as having that skill set — given how many ineffective managers are out there. That doesn’t mean that you’re not a great manager, of course, but it does mean that you want to be sure to point out the ways in which you are, not just rely on the experience itself conveying that.

  14. Tiff*

    I’m probably the only one who wants the opposite: I’d LOVE to compete for the job I’m already doing and it probably just won’t happen. I work for a public agency and they will most likely slide my additional duties into my regular job description and give me a slight bump in pay. If they advertised it openly I’d have a better shot at negotiating a higher salary.

    1. Don's ask if you don't want the answer*

      That is another concern I have, our company is family owned (for over 100 years) and the founder’s grandson is our president. Cheap does not begin to describe him and if it were my company I would possibly be the same way.
      There is a bit of an inkling that he is shopping not necessarily for a more qualified candidate, but one who will do the work for less money that I would be willing to do as I KNOW that the job posting/description does not come close to addressing what the job entails, which of course an outside person would not.

      1. Risa*

        In my experience, hiring from outside causes salaries to go up not down, as internal candidates don’t usually get pay raises at the same rate the the market rate of the position goes up. It is usually less expensive to promote from within, even with fairly generous pay raises (in relation to the current pay) than it is to hire someone from outside.

  15. DA*

    Yeah, nothing all that unusual here. Companies either post for these positions or they don’t. In this situation, they chose to post for it.

    That being said, they may end up not interviewing anyone and just permanently placing you in this position, or they may truly launch a full scale search.

    Also, quit leaning so much on your education. Degrees don’t mean quite as much as people think and if they did, the people making the most money would be Ph.D.s and MBAs. It doesn’t work that way, so get that out of your mindset.

    Don’t be offended, just keep working hard, and things will eventually shake out.

    1. Piper*

      I didn’t read that the same way you did. The OP mentioned 20 years of experience in addition to her education. It’s hardly leaning on education. If you have an advanced degree, it’s okay to mention it, especially the way the OP did. The disdain for higher Ed by some commenters in this blog baffles me.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I don’t read it as disdain, just a recognition that in many fields (not all, but many) education doesn’t count as much as people think it’s going to. I hear from a lot of people who think a degree should earn them a raise or promotion, but in lots of fields, it’s not going to. (And again, in some it will.)

  16. SCW*

    Funny, I was in this position–acting manager and interviewing for the job I was doing against external and internal candidates–and my coworkers and boss and everyone in the system told me I had LESS of a chance of getting it than others, because they didn’t want to give preference to a person who had access to more information than other candidates, who may be more qualified. So I went in thinking it would be good interview experience, and I would learn more of what they were looking for so I could work towards this. However, through some unforeseen circumstances, in which few people applied and they used an external roster for a similar position in a less desirable location, I actually got the job!

    From my experience, if you are doing the job already you need to show that you not only can do it, but do it well and think strategically towards the future.

  17. Not So NewReader*

    I guess a good way to frame the whole thing is that if TPTB do not do what is best for the company then NO one will have a job. They have to keep everyone employed not just Jane who is working like three people.

    However, I did marvel at some of the comments here. I guess I spent too long in retail. I have never seen this go well. At all. People passed over for promotion and a newbie is hired. Moral tanks. Next, have to train the new hire. Very seldom do I see people put their best foot forward training the new hire. The resentment just runs way to high. It’s a nightmare that culminates in the the newbie very upset and even refusing to listen to good advice or good training.
    It can take months or maybe even a year to clean up the resulting mess.
    I think that explanations can help a little with these things. “Newbie has extensive background in X, since we plan on taking on X in six months we will need her expertise.” I saw one place do this- I thought that was very good of them to give us the heads up. Unfortunately, when X fell apart and newbie did not do well with the current Y, newbie had to leave.

    But the negative comments and the rumor mill can be brutal in these situations. I think companies lose touch with just how low moral has fallen.
    I have no issue with an outside hire if it is handled professionally. But when the situation deteriorates into snide remarks, especially from TPTB, it makes the workplace a mud hole.

  18. Jules*

    I am in the same situation, kinda. I am a contractor doing the position currently advertised. I think in the beginning I was mildly insulted until I took my ego out of the equation.

    I’ve supervise before and I have looked for candidates for positions before. It’s the position that I focused on. I need someone who would succeed in that position.

    When they look at you as an internal candidates, you have to remember something. They know you. They know how you perform. They know how you act and interract. Sometimes, you might think that you are awesome but others might not. That is the problem when you self assess. Who wants to think that they are anything but good?

    I am great technically but I am pretty sure that if I can find someone who is willing to learn and have better communication skills. I would hire them into my position in a snap. So while I do apply for the job, I do know that there are better candidates out there. And while I am here, I am better of doing my best since I am also building and sustaining my reputation.

    It took me a while to get to this realization so I am not all all suprised that others feel the way they do. Nor do I feel that they are out of place for feeling what they do. Feelings are abstract. Different people feel different ways at the same situation. It’s how you act that matters. Good for you OP for moving forward!

  19. MJEMA A*

    I also agree with all of the above,this is the methods of increasing competitive advantages in the department and company as well, when the position is advertised externally it does not mean that there is no qualified personnel within what is meant is to increase the competition in skills, experiences, commitment and awareness for within employees so as to bring fairness. So even if the position will be taken by another person outside it does not mean you did not qualify the only difference is the candidate was the right and best with all the skills to do the job.

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