This being a 2-part question about professional pathways
October 8, 2017 11:25 AM   Subscribe

1) Should I apply for a job in my department despite having been discouraged from those directly involved in the hiring process 2) Should I speak up to our hiring manager about how she has handled another aspect of the process?

1) My boss just left for a different job so we are hiring for her position, which is the position in question. Based on prior hiring practices for this position (hiring someone over-qualified who is a good 8-10 years older than me - and declining to hire a similarly qualified colleague to me who was very respected who had previously held my current job), I didn't think the job was in my reach, and my outgoing supervisor said she didn't think they would hire me when I asked if she had any thoughts on the topic in my recent performance review. In addition to this, I have been thinking about other positions I could look at recently/have begun to feel like making a move, and my supervisor's old job is really very similar to my current job and probably wouldn't meet my desire to do something new/different, so I wasn't sure of my level of interest or how long I would stay even if I did get the job. In short, my organization works internationally and I've begun to feel like I want to go be stationed abroad, while my supervisor's position is domestic.

So the hiring process, which has been ongoing for a couple of months, had largely been under my radar. However, I have had the chance the past few weeks to see a few colleagues who are well-acquainted with the requirements of the job and who asked when they saw me if I applied/thought it was strange that I didn't when I explained that part of the reason that I didn't apply was that I had been discouraged from it or didn't think I would be taken seriously as a candidate. They pointed out that on some levels there is really very little difference between the job in question and my current role, except that the job in question is a supervisory role while mine is not. The day to day on the role in question is pretty much the same as mine, except with the supervisory responsibilities and the opportunity to be a little more involved in wider strategic decisions for the department.

I know that they had offered the position to someone within the past couple of weeks, and it just recently turned out that this person declined the position. Another aspect of this situation for me is that that person when I saw their resume did not seem to have demonstrably more experience than me. They DID have a fair amount more supervisory experience, and more experience abroad which I imagine is what made them attractive as a candidate. But overall when I saw their resume and then was treated to offhand comments by various colleagues wondering why I hadn't applied, I did start to wonder if I should have applied. Since there potentially seems to be an opening here if they are planning to re-start the hiring process, I am wondering if I shouldn't approach my boss' boss to let her know I am interested and submit my resume. As mentioned above, I had some qualms about whether it was the right move, but I'm not sure if the right position will come along in the time it would take to be in that position for a little while and it also occurred to me that I might ask if they are open to having the position posted abroad instead of domestically, something which would allow me to get more experience in our offices abroad while staying with the department.

2) Concurrent to this I have been a bit unhappy about something I found out recently related to the hiring process and how it was handled. Essentially, though I had voiced an interest in interviewing the candidates for the position, I was not asked to participate in the process. At one point the hiring manager did say that I and the colleague in our department who is junior to me and had my previous position could interview the candidates, but since the hiring manager hadn't seemed too keen on including us in the process, I deferred and said they should do what was easiest though I would be happy to participate. I never heard anything else but just found out last week that they had my junior colleague interview the candidate but not me. And no one told me that this was happening. I was traveling at the time and hadn't forcefully indicated my interest (though I feel like I indicated more interest than my junior colleague....) but still. It felt like a breach of what the hierarchy was supposed to be and it really bothered me and made me feel like they don't respect my opinion/experience.

Overall, I am feeling a bit under-appreciated given all of the above. I am not sure how to proceed - would applying to the position and having some conversations about where I am professionally even if they don't end up hiring me be useful for at least getting me more on the hiring manager's radar? Should I confront the hiring manager (my interim supervisor) about why they had my junior colleague and not me interview our potential supervisor? Thanks for any thoughts.
posted by knownfossils to Work & Money (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
1. If I understand it correctly, the only member of the organization that actually discouraged you is your former boss whose position that you are sort of interested in. If that is the case, then go ahead and apply. They are no longer with the company and their opinion no longer matters. Admittedly, if they did not have a high opinion of you then they may have shared that with the hiring manager. Nevertheless, even if that happened the interview may be a chance to change the hiring manager's opinion about you.

2. Absolutely not. To be honest, you are over thinking this. The candidate came in a day that worked schedule wise for them and the hiring manager and you weren't there so they had the junior colleague interview the candidate. I would not read this as a slight at all.
posted by nolnacs at 11:39 AM on October 8 [4 favorites]

Just to add a little more potentially relevant information on point 1 - my understanding is that my former supervisor was advising me not to apply based on their knowledge of what the hiring manager was looking for in the person they hired for the position. I know they were initially looking for someone who could supervise more of the department than the outgoing person was supervising. Advice was also based partly on former supervisor's own opinion of me, which I don't think was bad (actually quite positive) but just that she may still see me as more junior and she has a bit of a protective mother stance towards me sometimes that has made it so I've had to wrestle with her for responsibilities occasionally. I'm a little less clear on the hiring manager's opinion of me personally though my former supervisor recently told me that the hiring manager has more or less consistently had an overall positive opinion of me.
posted by knownfossils at 11:51 AM on October 8

Well, you'll never even be considered if you don't apply, so in most cases, it doesn't hurt to try. Yours is the one case where it might actually hurt, though. If you apply and you're rejected, it'll be hard not to take that personally. How personally you take is an open question. If you're the kind of person who can forgive and forget pretty easily, then yeah, the downside of not applying outweighs the downside of applying and being rejected. Me personally, though, I'm the kind of person who gets pretty hurt in situations like these. I don't think I'd be able to look at my boss's boss again without thinking "this person doesn't think I'm good enough". And from there it would spiral into "well, maybe I'm NOT good enough, maybe I do kind of suck". And that's a pretty horrible place to be. The fact that other colleagues think you might be a good fit would just make me feel worse. So for me, the downside of applying and being rejected far outweighs the downside of just not applying. I probably wouldn't apply unless I was explicitly promised the position. Most people are probably somewhere in between those extremes. From your second question, it sounds like you're probably closer to me than to the imaginary "forgive and forget" person, so I'd probably pass if I were you unless you can get some further validation from someone in a position of power.

Unless your organization/department is enormous, applying as a reach probably won't "get you on the hiring manager's radar". There are three possibilities: either the hiring manager already knows you and sees you as someone who is going to eventually be promoted, the hiring manager already knows you and sees you as someone who isn't on the promotion track, or your organization just doesn't identify internal candidates for promotion very well. Applying to "get on the radar" won't change any of those.

You should absolutely NOT confront anyone about the junior colleague's role in the interview process. This has literally nothing to do with you. You were out of town when the interviewee was in town. What were they supposed to do? Fly you back so you could do a 15-minute interview with this person? Fly the interviewee out to wherever you were? I guess maybe they could have let you do a video interview with the person, but even that seems a little excessive to me unless your approval were integral to this person's hiring (i.e., you'd be their direct supervisor or something). If you'd been in the office that day, you'd probably have gotten to interview them, with or without your junior colleague. Do not take it personally.

In fact, I would actually say that taking it personally will negatively affect your prospects with your current organization. Instead of looking like a competent, ambitious professional, you'll look whiny and petty. There aren't many supervisory positions in any industry where people explicitly seek petty whiners. It's a good way to get yourself off the upwardly-mobile track.
posted by kevinbelt at 12:00 PM on October 8 [7 favorites]

I agree with the advice above. Don't say anything about the role of your colleague in the hiring process. (It might actually be a good sign that they didn't involve you, if they think you could be a potential applicant.) Do approach the hiring manager and say that you've heard they are still looking for someone to fill this position, and you are interested in being considered for ABC reasons on the basis of XYZ qualifications and this would benefit the company for [reasons].

As a datapoint, I was in a similar situation in my organization a number of years ago. My boss was being replaced and I wouldn't have thought of applying except for the fact that a colleague at the same level as me contacted me to say he hoped I wouldn't mind him becoming my boss! Since I most definitely would have minded, I approached my boss's boss and asked him to consider me so that if they chose someone at my level, I'd have the "right" (according to the culture of my workplace) to move to another unit. It turned out that they had already found someone with more experience than both of us, but all of a sudden I was on the "management track" as far as my boss's boss was concerned. He became my mentor and all kinds of doors suddenly opened for me. That taught me not to wait for permission to go for things, because "if ya don't ask, ya don't get."

You have nothing to lose here, and you might make gains in areas you don't even know exist now.
posted by rpfields at 12:13 PM on October 8 [3 favorites]

Hi, I will try not to thread sit/stop commenting. On point 2, I was envisioning that the interview was a remote/phone interview in any case that I could have done from out of town, but maybe it was an in person interview which as has been pointed out which would make more sense and actually might explain the situation a bit more, and hadn't occurred to me. The reason I feel left out on that point was that generally I and the person being hired are the more senior team members playing complementary roles, both of us supported by the more junior colleague. So it just seemed strange to me to have the support function person interviewing the candidates in that case but not me. When I say "confront" the hiring manager, I don't mean in a whiney or er.. confrontational way. I meant bringing it up in a non-dramatic way and potentially in conjunction with a more definite expression of interest in being able to interview further candidates if I don't apply myself.
posted by knownfossils at 12:14 PM on October 8

It sounds like communication could be better at your organization. My immediate thought when you said the junior employee was invited to participate, but you were excluded after asking, was that they expected you to apply. In that case you would have been interviewing other people in a process in which you were also a candidate, and that would have been a pretty terrible conflict.

You should go to your two-levels-up boss and say you'd like to discuss that as well as future opportunities. The only way they know you're interested in advancement is if you advocate for yourself. You can say you didn't apply because your departing superior indicated you shouldn't, and you now think there may have been a miscommunication or a mistake. But you can also use that time to lay out your career plan and get some guidance on (A) whether they do see you as a candidate for that position (and/or other positions they expect to open up), and (2) how you should be focusing your efforts as an employee in order to become a more serious candidate.
posted by fedward at 12:33 PM on October 8 [4 favorites]

Never not apply for an internal position because someone doesn't think you'll be picked, especially if that someone has some kind of insider knowledge of the position's hiring prospects or may be directly involved in the process. Why? Just the experience alone is worth the price of admission. It forces you to take a self-stock, identify strengths and weaknesses that have evolved as you've worked within the department, has given you examples to draw from should an interview arise, and allows you an opportunity to be mentored into the process by someone else more senior in your organization.

You have to take a chance to get a chance. If you don't get inclined to even an interview status, don't be discouraged. Find out what they are specifically looking for an be able to deliver it in the future. In fact, start applying it in your daily departmental life.

And... what they are looking for may not be what they need. Be what they need and fit what they look for, get me?
posted by missh at 1:08 PM on October 8 [3 favorites]

Applying for an internal post is always useful, even if you aren't selected. It tells the organisation you have ambitions to grow. If they have some kind of issue with you, it will usually also become clear. So, yes, I would apply.

Regarding the second issue, I would drop it. It likely doesn't mean anything and I don't see what good you can do.
posted by frumiousb at 4:56 PM on October 8

1. It really can't hurt to apply here, you just have to be prepared for the potentiality of not getting the job. However, if you're not 100% sure you'd take it, then get clear on that because it's a lot more awkward to turn down a job offer from a current employer. Don't worry about what your old boss said. Sounds like she was bringing a lot of her own baggage. Doesn't mean there was no truth to it, but it certainly shouldn't stop you.

That said, I do think you may be underestimating the difference between the two roles. Supervising staff is actually a pretty big step up, and is a whole skill set in its own right. As is having more of a role in shaping strategy. Not that you shouldn't take that step, but don't discount the learning and skill development it takes. Operating as a manager is a whole different thing from operating solely as an individual contributor.

2. This sounds literally just like a miscommunication and you shouldn't give it another thought. It actually sounds to me like you were pretty ambivalent in your communications about this. And juggling interview panels - getting the right mix of people, finding times they can all be at interviews, etc, - is a big hassle. So if there's someone who should be on a panel as a stakeholder but lukewarm about actually doing it, as a hiring manager I'd be as likely as not to leave then off - especially if there's someone else who can take their place.

In the future, if you want to be included in something, you should just say so. I feel like in both these situations, you were waiting for an invitation or at least permission. I really understand that - for a lot of my career, I felt like I needed to be invited to things or that if I asked for opportunities, it wouldn't be as valuable. This is silly. Yeah, it would be nice if your old boss encouraged you to apply for her job, and yeah, it would have been great if the hiring manager had said they really wanted you on the panel. But you don't always have other people looking out for you that way - you have to be your own advocate. In a professional, polite manner of course. But it would have been totally professional for you to have said "great, I'd love to interview the candidates."

sorry to go on about this, but I do think this attitude shift was one of the biggest things that helped me make the leap from being stuck in entry-to-mid-level roles for YEARS to becoming a manager and then a director in just about three years. THIS is one of the things I'm talking about when I say there's a difference between being an individual contributor and a manager. When you're a manager, you have to be able to be direct with your staff and FOR your staff. Which starts with doing it for yourself.
posted by lunasol at 6:32 PM on October 8 [1 favorite]

For anyone who cares, just an update that I took the advice of not bringing up not being involved in the interview but asking about applying for the "reach" job. That conversation resulted in me discussing my interests with my interim/two levels up supervisor and getting a short-term opportunity that may not have come my way otherwise. I also ended up submitting an application for my supervisor's old job and while the interim supervisor was a bit skeptical at first, they seem to be potentially seriously considering my application (after submitting it I was told I was one of the stronger applicants). So overall it is still a bit up in the air but I am glad I had the conversation, as awkward as I've felt about it :)
posted by knownfossils at 9:17 AM on November 19 [2 favorites]

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