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How to Address a Lack of Promotion in a Job Interview

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When you've been in the same position for several years, an interviewer might wonder why you aren't in a leadership role or why you haven't been promoted by your current employer. The reasons companies don't promote certain employees aren't based solely on qualifications -- there could be other circumstances that prevent you from seeking or accepting a higher-level position. And this might explain why you're looking for employment opportunities elsewhere.

Lack of Opportunities

Depending on your employer's structure and whether the company has a promotion-from-within policy, the lack of opportunities and workplace policies can affect why you haven't received a promotion. If you work for a company that doesn't have a career track or the company doesn't support your professional development goals, don't allude to any discontent with your current employer in the interview. Simply say that you are ready to join an organization that values aptitude and identifies emerging leaders.

You're At the Ceiling

If you've reached the highest rank in your field with the company you're with, you might not have a choice but to look outside the company for higher level positions. For example, if you work for an organization that ranks paralegals from junior to senior levels, your only other chance for promotion is to get law degree. At this level, you've reached the top of the position structure, both in terms of money and responsibility. But if you're looking for a paralegal position that offers higher-level responsibilities, you could say that you are among the top-ranked paralegals at your firm and the only way you can fulfill your career goals is to determine what other firms offer, such as complex cases and case management opportunities or paralegal administration roles.

Happy Doing What You're Doing

Everybody doesn't have professional development goals that include climbing the corporate ladder. Some people enjoy what they're doing so much that they don't want the added responsibility of managing people and departments. Maybe you don't want to be promoted but you're looking for another employer where you can contribute your talents without the pressure of becoming a leader. After all, the world needs ditch diggers, too. Referring to yourself as a ditch digger isn't the most flattering assessment of your capabilities, so tell the interviewer that organizations need rank-and-file employees just as much as they need leaders and that you love what you do but you want to you enjoy your work too much to stop. Add that you just want to be a worker bee for another company.

Geographical Constraints

You might have family obligations that prevent you from relocating, which would be the only way you would receive a promotion from your current employer. If so, let the interviewer know that you are ready for a promotion but that you want to stay in the area. When you discuss the possibility of a higher-level position with potential employers, don't assume that they, too, won't require you to move at some point in your career. If you limit your search for another job to local companies or headquarters within your region, you might not have to consider relocation as a way to move up the ladder.


Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.

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