Passed over for a promotion - how to react?

Last week I learned I was not chosen for a promotion at work. This is a big deal for me, because it is the only promotion possible for me and it likely won’t open up again for a very long time. Apparently it was very close between myself and the chosen candidate - they even went so far as to call all of the references for both of us before making a decision. Note - I was the internal candidate and they chose the other person.

I have been working with the people that were on the interview team for years. I feel completely hurt, betrayed, mad and now distrustful of what they say. Two of the people on the interview team state that it really was because the other candidate was more qualified in certain areas (not that there was an interview question on the given area - quality assurance).

Has this happened to anyone here? How do you handle continuing on with your job? I feel like I can hardly be civil to these people now. I’m on vacation for a couple of weeks to try and recover.

I have not been in this situation, but it seems like your only plan is to keep your head down and work hard, while looking for jobs elsewhere. If the new hire is blatantly incompetent you may be able to hope they don’t last in the position, but that could take months at best.

I have had similar experiences, though not as bad as what you describe. Firstly, I think the vacation is a great idea, as it will give you some perspective and time to re-evaluate both the outcome and your future options. Having said that, it’s probably best, if you can, to take off for at least a few days (perhaps go and see some friends or family in another city?) so you’re not just mooching around the house feeling hard done by.

I can’t speak for your exact situation, of course, but it seems to me the reason given for their choice was a decent one - the fact the issue did not come up at interview is unfortunate, but if it was really that close a call (and there is no reason to believe it wasn’t), perhaps it’s not a central part of the role. If I were you, I would take strength from the fact that they clearly felt you were a very good fit for the role, and it was just unfortunate someone came along with slightly better qualifications.

In my experiences of this sort of thing, the first time I was invited to apply for a job only to be told there had been a freeze on recruitment in that area, so the job was no longer available. This annoyed me as clearance should have been given for this before the position was advertised. The positives I took from that were that I was quite pleased not to be working for someone that incompetent, and I think their reason was genuine as they haven’t recruited anyone else in the year or two since then - so I think it was a genuine mistake. At the time I had my suspicions that it was just an excuse not to employ me as they didn’t think I was right for it.

The second time, 9 people were interviewed for 2 positions (so my odds were worse than yours to begin with). I was told that 8 of these (including me) were good enough to do the job, so it was a very close call. When I asked for the reason that I wasn’t chosen, the reason I was given seemed a bit spurious, but again, on reflection if it was that close then I was just unlucky that there were so many good candidates, so they picked up on that one point and used it as an excuse. The people who did get the job are indeed highly competent and I bear them no grudges.

I am quite pleased with the way things have turned out as I am fortunate enough to still be happy in my current job - but then I am very easy-going. It also helps that I don’t work with the people who snubbed me on a daily basis. But when I do see them in the office I am as friendly towards them as if nothing had happened. My advice would be not to burn your bridges, swallow your pride, and carry on doing a a great job - you never know, perhaps the new person will be a terrible fit for the company and/or leave in 6 months, you will then be in a very strong position to re-apply.

The above makes it sound easy and of course it isn’t, but I hope some of it helps.

When it comes to business, the best thing to do is realize the following:

  1. Your specific attributes, as they exists right now, have a higher chance of being a match for an open position in a different company than your own.

  2. There are many people more qualified than you for any job that opens up in your company and one or more of them may be in competition with you for that job.

  3. You are the more qualified person with respect to some number of jobs out there at other companies…in other words, if you were applying to some other job at some other company, there is a reasonable chance you are the outsider that is more qualified than the internal person trying to move up.

  4. Businesses will make what they believe is the best decision, and in general you shouldn’t take that as a reflection on your potential or whether you would be the perfect person for any number of jobs, but rather an analysis of best fit for this specific situation.
    Don’t take it personally.
    Don’t be mad at coworkers.
    Ok to be disappointed.

Remember it’s a big world and lots of companies and lots of people and businesses are going to take advantage of the fact that there are people out there with experience in specific areas.

This. Start looking for a new job. You are forever marked as not qualified for a higher position in your current position.

Do you want me to order a pizza?

I already ordered a pizza!

Well, that’s not necessarily true, is it? It depends on the company, the position, and whether you have the opportunity to gain those qualifications while working in your current job.

A lot of companies prefer internal candidates as they already have a good knowledge of the company - mine certainly does. In the OP’s case, it seems this was over-ridden by another consideration in a very close call. So while advice to look around for another job is not necessarily wrong, staying where you are may not be the worst move either. It just depends.

I am considering this - but unfortunately for me, there are precious few jobs around here for my type of work (small town - I’m a chemist/database manager). To have a chance a getting a decent job - our family would likely have to uproot. It would be hard - but it is on the table at this point - just because everything is on the table for now.

Thank you Dead Cat, this was a great post. I will be re-reading it several times over the next few days.

It’s not over until it’s over. And even then it’s not over. The other person may not take the job. They may prove insufficiently competent. There may be a personality clash. Keep your nose to the grindstone and keep on the lookout for other opportunities. Beyond that, they have identified an area where they think you require development, so get them to train you in it.

On a wider note: for an internal candidate to be passed over in such a close situation is demoralising not just for you, but for everyone who knows.

You have my sympathy, Crab Rangoon, and empathy - the same thing happened to me a few weeks ago (except the other candidate was also internal, but from a more distant department). What’s worse, I’d let slip to a few other co-workers that I had applied for the job, and truly believed I was almost a shoo-in for the position (having had major hints dropped to that effect). So now lots of people now I tried and failed.

I disagree with those that said you are forever marked as not up to the job, though. It could well be that the chosen candidate turns out to be no good, or doesn’t like the job and leaves, or meets a terrible accident (evil cackle), so you just have to keep demonstrating your skills in your existing position.

Having said that, my experience does make me more keen to leave and search elsewhere, but then I feel I am in an industry with a grim future (print publishing). I’m tied in for a couple of years thanks to a sharesave plan (currently treble the option price, which I’d lose out on if I left), but after that…

What is a chemist/database manager? I know what a chemist is and I know what a database manager is, but I’m not sure what a chemist/database manager does. Do you manage a database of chemistry stuff?

When one door closes …

…it hits you in the arse?

Don’t make any major decisions about your future while you are still upset. Give yourself some time to cool off.

When you get back to work, you will need to keep your attitude in check. If these people perceive you as being the least bit hostile, they’ll become uncomfortable being around you and you will ruin any chances of a future promotion. Be cordial to the new person even if it kills you.

Make a point to do your very quality best work. Polish your credentials. Whatever the outsider had that you didn’t this time around, get more.

Whether you eventually decide to leave or stay, this will put you in a better place to get what you want.

That or another one opens. The OP may have just dodged a bullet.

I was speaking of this particular case. Of course I’m assuming the OP is actually qualified for the job. And I also assume since it will be a long time before the OP gets another chance at a promotion that it was considered in the decision and not a concern. The OP could provide more information, but I think the picture is pretty clear.

A hole in one - yes - I manage all the environmental data that comes into our bureau - so I do quality assurance (oh, the irony) for the lab data that I upload into our database - I also help our tech staff and project managers extract the data and create reports.

I have also aided the lead chemist (my old supervisor) in projects - but she retired - and now I will have a new supervisor - and I don’t know how we will get along. Really looking forward to that.

It’s something you have to pursue anyway. You may not be successful, but you don’t want to regret not trying. Also, as a database admin with a background in chemistry you have a very marketable background that could be applied in different jobs, or possibly in remote employment. And of course, it’s possible things will work out at your current job, there’s no real reason to give up hope. But you do have to do what you can to give yourself the most choices because things aren’t working out well there right now.

Is there some type of quality certification within your industry that you can get?
My company is in the process of reorganizing right now. Our job descriptions were eliminated and everybody had to reapply for the new positions. I’ve been here for ten years and it never occurred to me that one day I might have to jump ship. I think I’m going to be OK, but this was definitely a wake up call for me. I have lost all trust in them. I will continue to do the best work that I can do, but I will also keep my resume up to date and add as many skills and credentials to my tookit as possible.