Up for a Promotion? Be Clear on Expectations

By Kenneth Bredemeier
Special to washingtonpost.com
Friday, July 11, 2008 3:45 PM

Sometimes the simplest work situations are not quite so simple. Consider this commonplace event:

I am up for a promotion where I work. I have a luncheon interview. The people who are interviewing me have known me for the five years that I have worked here. Is there anything unique or special I should do or expect during this interview?

Patricia Mathews, who owns Workplace Solutions, a St. Louis human resources consulting firm, suggests that first and foremost, "Don't let your guard down. Keep in mind that despite the fact that it's a lunch, it's an interview [so that management] can get a better understanding of how they think, what insight they might have about the job."

Mathews says she likes to ask job candidates what are the first three things they would do in a new job.

"And even if they don't ask that," Mathews says, the applicant "ought to come prepared to provide that same information.

"It shows the person has given some thought about the job, is knowledgeable about the position and that they're a person who likes to plan and has an opinion about certain aspects of the job," she says. Mathews advises that if the applicant can talk to the immediate predecessor in the job about it, including that person's successes and failures, so much the better.

Moreover, she suggests that the applicant "prepare some questions for the people interviewing her. What are their expectations? What do they expect to see her do in the first three months or six months? Are they cleaning house? Are they changing the way the job is done? Have the responsibilities changed?"

Mathews says that such preparation is vitally important because often workers only think of themselves as winning a promotion and no doubt getting a bigger paycheck. But then they have regrets about taking the job.

Often, she says, the reason is that they did not have enough information about the position and what was expected.

In short, she says, "They didn't do their homework."

Kenneth Bredemeier has six years of experience writing about the workplace. On the Job, a column addressing real worker questions about office relationships, corporate policies and workplace law, is written exclusively for washingtonpost.com.

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