When talking with your manager about a promotion to a more senior position, how do you answer "why should we promote you?"

What's in it for the company? I could say "promoting me shows all employees that this company offers career growth possibilities, and that hard work & taking ownership is rewarded" - but maybe that's a bit cheesy?

I don't want to go "if you don't, I'll have to change companies", that sounds too threatening.

What other interesting reasons could there be?

  • 2
    Promote you to what? Argument for promotion to a more senior position where you do essentially the same tasks is a different discussion than about a promotion to managing someone to do those tasks.
    – buckminst
    Jul 22 '20 at 20:25
  • Thanks buckminst, in this case it's indeed a more senior position, same role. Read: job title changes, more salary, take your work a bit more seriously.
    – Konerak
    Jul 22 '20 at 20:29
  • Have you thought about why you want to be promoted? If so, why?
    – sf02
    Jul 22 '20 at 20:58
  • 1
    The technique I reference in the answer to a different question is your best bet. If your "I love me" file is up to date and matches the senior position, then that conversation is super easy: workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/35730/… Jul 22 '20 at 22:00
  • 1
    Pretty sure they’re asking why they should promote you specifically, not why promoting is good for the company. Jul 23 '20 at 1:57

Good answers to this question are:

  • I have proven myself with (cite examples)
  • Others have noted my positive contributions
  • I have gone above and beyond by doing (cite examples)
  • I am ready for more responsibilities
  • Because you want to reward success (if you're bold enough to pull this one off)

The key is to quantify your answer. I did X therefore Y

where Y is that you should be promoted.

  • I think managers would only care about 3 and 4. After all, proving yourself = promotion falls to Peter's Principle. Of course, somewhat related to being ready for more responsibilities is that the current skills you have developed are of more value elsewhere.
    – DKNguyen
    Jul 22 '20 at 20:22
  • @DKNguyen I'd argue that the first two also matter: the first because you shouldn't get promoted to a higher level if you aren't competent where you're at (although "failing upward" is apparently a thing in some places), the second because it speaks in your favor if other people like working with you (esp. if the promotion means working more with those people).
    – BSMP
    Jul 22 '20 at 20:30
  • @BSMP I guess, but they are also evidence that indicate you are good where you are. I'm also assuming that any manager that asks that question doesn't actually want to promote you so is taking the least charitable interpretation.
    – DKNguyen
    Jul 22 '20 at 20:31
  • 3
    If the company has published guidelines about what competencies are expected at each level (many do), another good response would be to highlight how you are already exhibiting the characteristics of the level above the one you currently occupy.
    – Seth R
    Jul 22 '20 at 21:12
  • @DKNguyen yes, but plenty of companies promote that way anyway. Jul 22 '20 at 21:22

There are three areas to stress when discussing promotion.

  • Things you've done that benefitted the company (rewarding for past performance). Worth mentioning, but actually the weakest value proposition.
  • You are currently contributing at a higher level (fit to job descriptions). Many places have job level descriptions with defined expectations for each level, and showing that you are meeting the criteria for the higher level is the way you get promoted in those orgs.
  • There are specific things you can do to benefit the company in that new role (what's in it for them). This is super specific to the situation, but leveraging your past accomplishments to say what you can achieve in that new role is a lot stronger than saying "give it to me because I deserve it for past things" - jobs and titles and salaries aren't rewards. They are a reflection of the benefit the company believes it will derive in the future from you.

My view is that the best way to get promoted is to already be operating at that level. This makes it a no-brainer for the company. Rather than asking "Should we give Konerak a chance in a more senior role" you want them saying "Konerak is already effectively functioning as a senior [whatever], we should make if official".

So, your answer, if asked "why we should promote you",should be along those lines. For example: "Well I've already been doing [this] and [that] for the past 6 months and I think I've shown that [the other] in that time".

What's in it for them? Exactly what you've said - they want to reward good work and show that it's possible to build a career there. Seeing internal promotion will energise and motivate other staff to earn promotions, their team will improve and they will hold on to their best people. Plus, by hiring internally they get somebody who already knows the organisation and market space and doesn't need time to ramp up on both.

  • Agreed, with the caveat that it's to a more-senior role in the same discipline (which it sounds like it is in the question, but emphasising for clarity). If you want to be promoted from Junior to Senior, demonstrate that you are operating at the level of a Senior. If you want to be promoted from Senior to Lead, don't start trying to tell everyone else what to do, with the justification that you're trying to act like a Lead to earn a promotion! Jul 24 '20 at 0:18
  • 1
    @BittermanAndy Agreed - don't go about the office wielding power and permission you don't actually have. However, there are still ways you can show leadership to position yourself for a role. For example, volunteer to take ownership of that complicated, high-visibility, strategic project and deliver on it. Mentor more junior members of the team. Look ahead and identify risks or problems coming down the track and take action to get ahead of them. Get more involved in important meetings - but make sure you're making valuable contributions and not just speaking for the sake of speaking. Etc.
    – amcdermott
    Jul 24 '20 at 7:02

One reason not mentioned so far is market value. If people at other companies doing similar jobs get paid more then you are underpaid and that is reason to give you a raise, since it will be less disruptive for the company to retain you and the company-specific knowledge you have acquired than to recruit and someone else and wait for them to get up to speed.

Of course you have to be careful how you phrase it. I wouldn't lead with it, but along with other points about your contributions and the benefits the company has received from your labour you could also add a single sentence about your research suggesting that your pay is below market rate.


Mention seniority.

Something none of the other answers have mentioned is seniority. In some places, “I have spent X years working in this role” is a valid reason for promotion, and might in fact be mandated by local laws or union agreements.

For instance, in Australia, the minimum wage is determined by an Award system that considers both the type of job and the amount of experience you possess; as a result, you would be entirely justified to go to your boss and say “I’ve been working here for 3 years, and that puts me into the next Award”.

  • If the promotion includes managing people, simply having experience in the job/organisation is definitely NOT enough : training is totally needed, as relying on someone’s (possible) innate leadership ability is way too random. And even with some innate leadership skill, training WILL make a better manager anytime.
    – breversa
    Jul 24 '20 at 13:26

It seems to me that, as in a hiring interview, you should focus on the business case to the company. How will their business benefit/improve with you in the more senior position?

  • "I will be able to bring my management and scheduling expertise, as proven in projects A, B, and C, to benefit larger projects and more employees."
  • "I'm looking forward to focusing on areas P, Q, and R to bring qualitative improvements to our processes."
  • "I expect that I'll be able to share my domain-specific expertise and training with a larger swath of people, improving performance of juniors and new hires in particular."

Something like that.

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