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I don't use this site too much but majority of searches online haven't really clarified so I thought I'd make a post about this just to get a few possible answers.

I work in the operations department of a UK-based limited company that develops and delivers qualifications domestically and internationally. We recently lost several team members due to impromptu promotions in the busiest summer season and due to pickiness from upper management/HR these lower positions remained mostly absent and caused major issues both in workload and quality (it became very normal to do 12+ hour work days and pick up on work through the weekend). Fortunately the overtime was compensated and temp staff hired to alleviate any major issues.

At the tail-end of the busy period a new colleague was hired (I'll just call him "nuguy") fresh graduate from a Russell Group uni and quite mild and softly spoken. Most of the mess caused by understaffing had been cleaned up by this point and it was quite easy to forgive a lot of his mistakes as work became more and more manageable.

Busy periods in this job are very clearly defined due to examination periods, and what followed this was a long period of low activity for several months. Within this period a job opening higher up in the company for a marketing executive was offered and of the candidates that applied for the job, nuguy received the promotion and over 25% raise from his initial salary.

Now I didn't apply for this job (not a fan of marketing) and I have no issues with this guy himself if he has the legit credentials for this. I'm relatively new to office environments as my previous experience is more freelance and I'm admittedly quite naive when it comes to office etiquette and recruitment procedures. What I am wondering is if it's normal or even remotely common for a company to do something like this. The reason this generally raises eyebrows for me is:

  • He joined this company 3 months ago and has done very little actual work, nor has he reached a point where he could confidently go through a single busy period or provide sufficient training for his replacement. He has yet to complete his probation period and it's really hard to assess his style as an employee (especially under pressure). I'm not certain he could even get a decent reference.

  • Other colleagues who have been at the company 1-2 years longer than him and were even on company-sponsored marketing courses were overlooked for this promotion when interviewed. True, if the other colleagues were unsuitable candidates to a large degree I can understand, but I feel with internal promotions seniority and investing in loyal workers should have some significance.

There may be several other factors that contribute to this decision, but what I really want to know is if this is standard procedure and if you have come across fresh graduates immediately getting promoted after accepting lower positions.

Tl;dr: Is it normal/reasonable for a new employee to get promoted to a higher position after 3 months, even if they haven't fully been integrated into their current role and have little to no experience?

Sorry for the ramble. Thanks for all your help!

  • "nuguy received the promotion and over 25% raise from his initial salary" How do you know that he received a 25% raise from his initial salary? – sf02 Oct 23 at 18:04
  • The starting salary for the new position was advertised at that salary on the lower end. It would be slightly higher depending on relevant experience. – Lop Oct 23 at 18:07
  • I think you're right on the role being different, and probably one of the main reasons I can see it being okay if his skills are more geared towards marketing especially if he had been the only applicant. I do feel a little sorry for my other colleagues though, as it was exclusively an internal promotion and a job he would likely have not received were it not for his 3 month stint in operations. From an internal perspective I feel this may cause a lot of friction but I'm not sure if I'm overthinking it. – Lop Oct 23 at 18:21
  • @Time4Tea, I've seen a lot of companies where the sales and marketing positions are all called "Executive something-or-other". I wouldn't put too much stock in the title. – Seth R Oct 23 at 19:24
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    @Lop Just based on the information you gave, a more productive question might be, Why haven't you been promoted, yet? :-) It seems like this company had a lot of turn-over in higher-level positions, and maybe you should position yourself for the next opportunity that presents itself. – employee-X Oct 23 at 19:56
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The OP stated

I feel with internal promotions seniority and investing in loyal workers should have some significance.

The managers of a company need to assemble the team most likely to succeed, given the constraints at hand. There are many factors, some of which are competitive, which must be considered. For example, there might be a superstar candidate available for a certain role, but hiring her might not leave enough money to fill out the rest of the team with enough talent.

A good manager definitely takes "seniority and investing in loyal" employees into account - as doing so encourages even more loyalty - but that is just one of the factors that need to be considered. It is quite possible that none of the more tenured employees had the sufficient skills or traits required for success in this role.

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I'd like to re-frame the question for you:

A recent graduate with only 3 months experience was hired for [insert_role]. Is this reasonable?

Should internal applicants have been given preferential treatment, assuming they had appropriate credentials?

This is a tricky question and somewhat subjective.

My point is that, rightly or wrongly, companies take external hires all the time and when they do so they have very little information outside of a resume and an interview.

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    I think this is a good point. If it had been an external hire, would the OP be asking the same questions? However, I feel the OP's frustration at experienced employees not being given opportunities for advancement. At my own company, the Management always seems to be hiring people from outside and rarely promoting internally, which I would argue is having a detrimental impact on the motivation and loyalty of the existing workforce. There is a balance to strike between internal/external hiring. – Time4Tea Oct 23 at 21:15
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If you find a rare talent, you pay him a rare salary, or his next employer will.

If this guy got that big of a raise, push for one yourself.

In my own case, I took a process that was taking more than an entire workday to run, and got it down to a matter of minutes.

Who's worth more, the people in the company who were there for years, or the new hire that just saved the company millions? Now I know you say he did very little work, but he did put in for the promotion and got it. You didn't. You can't fault someone for ambition.

As you said, there may be factors in play you don't know about. IF he moved over to marketing, he might have a skill that blew them away.

Sometimes you find a rare diamond in the rough, or someone who's working a job, but is immensely qualified for another one. In my case, I had been out of work due to a stroke, and took a very low-level job to get my foot in the door. I was better than they thought, and both my employer and I are happy with the results. This could be a similar case. He may not have been good in his past role, but someone saw something in him. Take it as inspiration, maybe you're a diamond in the rough as well.

  • Thanks for your answer. I think that is definitely possible, and his skills in marketing even at 22 may be worthy of a higher position that possibly were not obvious in his current job role. He is a legitimately likeable guy and I have zero issue with him specifically moving on up as the position didn't interest me. I suppose my main concern with this promotion was how the company were handling promoting people internally rather than a problem with him personally, and if this quick promotion was a red flag I should take into consideration if going forward. – Lop Oct 23 at 18:42
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    @Lop - the other option is that he simply has the right connections to get the job, which happens very often. – AndreiROM Oct 24 at 18:34
  • @AndreiROM or both. Or, could be that someone saw potential. I've taken people under my wing and mentored them to competence myself. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Oct 24 at 18:36

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