How to Prepare for Promotion Interview Questions

How long does it take you to spot someone who is unprepared to answer a question? Or perhaps on the flip side of that coin, overprepared? Since it is debating season in the political arena each of us has more opportunities than we probably want to observe both ends of that spectrum.

If a candidate is unprepared, they might pass on the question or avoid it by talking about something else altogether. If the candidate is overprepared, the answer can come across as the verbal vomiting of a well-rehearsed talking point. Neither outcome scores well when the candidates are being evaluated post-debate.

Much the same for candidates within organizations vying for internal promotions. This article will provide advice on how to prepare for those interviews, some of the questions that have a high probability of being asked, and hopefully some tips on how to make your well-prepared answers authentic.

Why Apply for an Internal Promotion?

First off, there are a number of benefits to applying for internal promotions:


  • Visibility: The simple act of advancing your name for consideration for an internal promotion introduces you (at least on paper) to people you might not have met otherwise
  • Updated Aspirational Inventory: Preparing for an internal promotion forces you to document and eventually discuss your accomplishments, your aspirations, and your untapped potential
  • Confirmation: One true indicator of how well a company is managed is the comparative caliber of its promotion process. Seeking a promotion provides each candidate with the opportunity to confirm whether they made a good career choice in coming to work there

How to Prepare for an Internal Promotion Interview

Suffice to say, the more thoughtful and strategic the process your company has adopted for promoting internal candidates, the more thoughtful and strategic you will need to be to make a positive impression. Here are several suggestions for your consideration in that regard:

  • Research: At a minimum you want to read the posting carefully. Figure out what you will be doing, who you will be reporting to, who you will be working with, what kind of training you will receive, etc. This investigation should include (but not necessarily be limited to) informal conversations with any number of people who have firsthand knowledge about the new position
  • Review: Research in hand, you want to review your skill set, capabilities, performance track record, your level of confidence so that you have what it takes to be successful and your level of motivation or desire to make this move!
  • Prepare: Think through several questions you would ask your interviewers during an interview. These questions should not only be developed to ascertain the information you seek, but to also communicate you are serious, you are forward-thinking and you have done your homework
  • Practice: As is the case with just about everything in life, the more you practice, the better you will perform. In that context, you know there are a series of questions that you will need to respond to during an interview.

Common Interview Questions

Why Are You the Right Candidate for This Position?

This is the perfect opportunity to articulate your understanding of the position, how that position contributes value to the organization and why your performance track record to date and career aspirations make this a desirable next step for you and the organization.  This needs to be communicated succinctly, but not like the on-cue regurgitation of something you have memorized.

What Are Your Current Responsibilities?

It is important when answering questions like this one to be able to clearly communicate what you do without getting bogged down in unnecessary detail. So as opposed to describing your responsibilities and putting a microscope on the nuances and particulars, describe your responsibilities and take a step back to explain how they fit into the bigger picture and the pursuit of the greater good.

Describe Your Greatest Success in Your Current Position

At first glance, questions like this would seem to be about you. They aren’t! These types of questions are usually intended to determine how comfortable you are putting yourself in the center of the circle (and staying there), as opposed to giving credit to others who undoubtedly contributed to whatever your greatest success happens to be.

Why Do You Want to Leave Your Current Position?

Along the same lines, this question isn’t about you being bored silly because you can perform your current job to standard with your eyes closed and still have half the day left over. It is about gauging your desire to tackle the unknown, grow, learn, develop and give someone else a chance to step into your position to do the same.

What Motivated You to Apply for This Position?

This is really sort of an extension of the previous question. You are ready for a new challenge, but why this new challenge? You need to be able to connect your drive and passion for learning to the responsibilities of the new position as well as the capabilities you have demonstrated to date in your current position.

How Would a Colleague or Supervisor Describe Your Work?

It is human nature to dive into your strengths and assume a colleague or supervisor would as well. Consider admitting your bias (“I really like me!”) and encouraging whoever asked the question to contact others. If you do answer the question directly, ensure you provide balance (of course you have strengths … but there are also a number of things you know you need to improve). Demonstrate self-awareness by addressing both.

What Is Your Leadership Style?

There are so many ways to answer this question! And with bias noted as a life-long believer in Situational Leadership®, I would suggest the first words out of your mouth need to be: “It Depends!” Also, consider answering this question by asking the interviewer some of your own:

  • What is the task, goal or objective?
  • What are the performance trends of the team?
  • What is the experience level of the team with the task, goal or objective?

Demonstrate that when it comes to leadership you thoughtfully assess the situation before you lock into an approach.

What Is Your Desired Salary Increase?

You can’t avoid this question or pretend it doesn’t matter. You have the potential to deliver increased value to your organization, so it stands to reason your compensation should reflect that reality. You should also have knowledge of the acceptable range your organization is willing to pay for the position you seek.

Describe a Challenge You’ve Overcome in Your Current Position

While this challenge could certainly focus on a work-related task that you worked on and eventually resolved, don’t be limited to that! It could be an interpersonal challenge you worked your way through with a colleague, or perhaps a challenge that related to your level of confidence as a contributor, or even a conversation you decided to have with your boss regarding workload and work priorities. Spend some time preparing for this one!

How Do You Approach New Tasks?

Are you the kind of person who “dives in the deep end” and figures out how to swim? Or the kind that carefully gets a handle on what you are being asked to do before you initiate? There is no wrong answer here, but it is important to be able to tell a story that brings your approach to life as opposed to simply describing it.

How Do You Plan to Manage Colleagues if You Get the Promotion?

Envision success and be able to articulate it! For example, what would you say to a peer that you knew was a candidate for the same position, and would now be reporting to you?  What steps would you take to work your way through any awkwardness that might exist and start building trust with you in your new role? Of equal importance, what would you be sure not to say or do?

What Type of Training Will You Require to Be Successful in This Position?

Nobody knows you better than you! Be able to articulate your skill gaps without creating barriers for your serious consideration as a candidate! Tie this narrative into your excitement about the opportunity. Not only will you be able to leverage what you already know and prove what you can do, but you will also be able to build on that foundation and take your game to an entirely new level!

What Do You Plan to Achieve in This Position?

Responses to questions like these are best positioned in the context of company and/or department/division goals and objectives:

  • How will placing you in this role help turn things around?
  • Or maintain momentum?
  • Or take productivity and performance to levels well beyond anything anyone could reasonably imagine?

Think about this! Dream about this! And be ready to fill your interviewers in on your vision.

What Do You Plan to Do if You Don’t Get a Promotion?

Questions like these give you the opportunity to articulate so much about yourself. Of course, you want this promotion! Of course, you will be disappointed if you don’t get it! But the ability to overcome adversity is what makes great people great. If you don’t get this promotion, you will get behind whoever does, and continue to work as hard as you possibly can for the organization and in preparation for your next opportunity to advance.

Improve Your Leadership Skills With The Center for Leadership Studies

The Center for Leadership Studies is the global home of the Situational Leadership® Model. This model has been helping leaders, around the world and across industries, effectively influence others for over 50 years. It has always been “a follower-driven model.” And we wholeheartedly believe that is the primary reason Situational Leadership® is more relevant today than ever before!

In keeping with this article, we have designed our flagship offerings (Situational Leadership® Essentials and especially Situational Performance Ownership™) to provide leaders at all levels of an organization with the necessary skills to objectively assess their performance and understand when it is time to seek new challenges, develop new skills, and pursue new opportunities!

Leadership has never been something you do to other people—it is something you do with them! And Situational Leadership® continues to help leaders at all levels do just that!