Next week, I am being interviewed to become a manager with my current employer. It will be my first management role after 13 years of experience as a customer service advisor. I accepted the competition would be tough and would include external candidates but today I discovered a close colleague is being interview too. I did not know he had applied.

The colleague in question has just turned 20 and therefore is 9 years younger than me. His experience is limited whereas I have past management training and a temporary management role to my name as I covered for someone's maternity leave with a past employer.

We work very closely together as it is a very small team and we were hired on the same day. In terms of our internal experience, we are both roughly equal though I have worked on some additional projects under another supervisor.

I will be interviewed first and will later cross paths with him before his interview. I realise that I will need to remain professional and not bad mouth my colleague but one of my primary concerns is that I will be unable to discuss mutual projects because this will help his chances while failing to highlight me as the perfect candidate. In addition, the hiring manager is the same man who hired us both ergo my 2nd interview in 18 months with him.

Please can you suggest ways I might prepare for this interview and handle this delicate situation? I imagine this will be my toughest interview to date. I really would like to land this job.

  • 3
    I can't imagine how this is much different because a close colleague also applied. You should never bad-mouth anyone in an interview, and (similar to what you mentioned) discussing mutual projects where he outperformed you might not be in your best interest, but, then again, they probably already know about the project, so not discussing it probably isn't in your best interest, and he will most likely discuss it anyway, so you may as well too. Commented Jun 13, 2014 at 4:57
  • I have never applied for promotion before. I do not know how it works or what to expect. The fact he applied has thrown me because I was not expecting it and I find it rather odd that the company would consider him ready for a management role with his limited experience. I'll also have to continue working alongside him until the interview and in the post interview limbo and potentially accept that they chose someone nearly 10 years younger than me (that last bit hard would be a bitter pill to swallow.)
    – Chris
    Commented Jun 13, 2014 at 5:05
  • I don't think the interview is what you should worry about, the aftermath might be worse. If you end up managing him afterwards, or the other way around, it needs to be done with care and a lot of empathy.
    – Fredrik
    Commented Jun 13, 2014 at 7:26
  • 3
    Your interview needs to be about why you are the best choice for the job, including all the good things you've had a hand in. If your primary concern is that you can't talk about good things you've done because it makes someone else in the team look good then you probably aren't the right person for a promotion anyway, to be frank about it.
    – Rob Moir
    Commented Jun 13, 2014 at 8:16

4 Answers 4


Pretty much anytime you compete internally, you can expect others you work with applied too. That is the nature of the situation, more than one of you wants to be promoted and only one of you will be.

Make the best case you can for why you should be the manager. ANd accept that you may not be chosen and this person may be.

If you are chosen, go to him afterwards and tell him that you are aware that he wants to move into management as well and taht you are going to do what you can to help him get the experince he needs to move up the next time a postion is open. Make sure he is aware that you think well of him and are will to help him along. But if he starts having a bad attitude becasue you got promotred and he did, then make sure you immediately confront that behavior and stop it.

If he gets promoted, then you congratulate him and you do your best work for him. Everyone can't get every promotion and most people don't get selected a few times in their career. But your attitude after you aren't selected can make or break whether you will ever get selected in the future. I would also talk to the manager who did the selection privately and ask him what you need to do to get the next promotion.

It doesn't really matter that he is almost ten years younger than you, so put that out of your head. I worked for someone half my age and he turned out to be one of the best managers I ever worked for. And possibly neither of you will be chosen since there are outsiders competing as well.

  • 1
    +1 As Aristotle wrote "The way to get good will is to show good will" :) Unfortunately, that's the only thing that Aristotle wrote that I liked. That, and change is permanent. Commented Jun 13, 2014 at 14:51

Your interview is about you not him so there is no need for you to badmouth him. You will highlight your record, your strengths and the potential that you bring because of your stronger background in terms of breadth and depth of experience. You will fight hard for what you want but you will fight fair. if you win, you won because a third party, the manager, says you won - In other words, the decision that you won is outside of your control and that's the way it should be.

If you see him before his interview, wish him good luck. Then put in everything you've got to win, don't think about him - you haven't got that kind of time - and don't look back. If you went at it and you were fair about how you went at it, you need not apologize for winning nor be embarrassed nor regret that you won.

Back to basics: you are making the case that YOU should be manager - that's your worry and your responsibility - You are NOT making the case that he shouldn't be manager - that's the manager's determination to make. And you are NOT making the case that he should be manager - that's his worry and his responsibility and not yours. Get yourself a good night's worth of sleep. Make your case with sobriety, cool and confidence. Make the manager feel good and trusting about you being a manager. Kill that interview and no one including me needs to wish you good luck.


A few alarm bells go off in my head when I read this. If you want to prepare for the interview well, I think the best way to prepare would be to address these two issues, both of which would probably kill your chances of getting the job if you were being interviewed by me.

First of all you mention that you are worried about badmouthing him. Do not say anything bad about him or ANYONE else at the company. If you start talking about other people's shortcomings, then you will lose the role immediately, i promise you. An interview is the one time in life that it is socially acceptable to brag about yourself.

Remember, the interview is about how YOU would be good for the new role, it is not about how your collegue would be bad or worse at the new job. Talk about how great you would be, don't talk about anyone other than yourself. A company will not want to hire a manager that focuses on all the wrong things with the employees and the company. It's really important to stay positive. If you start talking bad about your collegue, then you will lose the job.

Of course, you also don't want to make it sound like there is nothing for you to work on because it's so perfect there. If you make it sound like a utopia than you will lose the job too, because there is always stuff to improve on. So prepare ideas for constructive ways to improve the company. Be specific. This will be the best use of your time to prepare. As an example you might say:

"We do _______ pretty good right now, but I think we can do it better by implementing my strategy of X, Y, and Z. Would it be okay if I went into some more detail about it? I would love to share my ideas with you about this, because I think it can really benefit the company by doing A and B."

Know the numbers and/or data. Study them. You need to be ready to spit them out before the person interviewing you has finished the question (except you should patiently wait, but be good enough that you could do it if you needed to). This is a management role, which means you will have metrics that you are graded by. Depending on your industry this could be conversion numbers, average sale orders, billable hours, average call times, or whatever. Know the numbers you need to know and find ways to explain that you not only know the numbers, but also know the importance of them.

"The conversion rate of our website is a solid 4% right now. But I know we can improve on this by simply doing A, B, and C. If we get these tasks (A, b, and C) completed in less than 4 months, then I know that the remaining 8 months of the fiscal year we will see an increase of conversion by 0.5% which, based last years rough projections would equate to roughly $1.5M in additional sales"

Lastly, prepare yourself. It sounds like the idea of going up against your co-worker is really bothering you. Don't take this a bad way, but this would normally be indicative of a lack of self-confidence. It's ok to admit it, we can all improve. So you can work on mentally preparing yourself for the job. If you go into the interview mentally prepared, knowing that you are the best man for the job, then it will show in how you answer any of the questions. If you go in, feeling like someone else might be better, that will also show. So you need to mentally prepare and convince yourself that you can do it. Think about what type of awesome benefits this job will bring you. Practice the interview in a mirror or with a friend/spouse/etc. Be confident and go in knowing that you know how to do a great job.

Don't think about an interview as answering the questions correctly. I have interviewed hundreds of people and let me tell you a secret. Most questions don't have right or wrong answers. Most interview questions are designed simply to see how you react. When you are asked to talk bad about yourself (one of the most common interview questions, 'what is your weakness'), it doesn't really matter what you say (unless its really bad like, 'Im usually late twice a week', or 'I am constantly getting flagged for harassment in the workplace'), but usually it has to do with HOW you answer it. Are you confident that you can improve, are you honest, are you sincere. Did you give a canned answer or did you think about it.

Last secret to interviewing well, set goals for yourself. Where do you want to be in a year WHEN you get this job? Where are you going to be in 3 years? What is the first thing you want to improve when you get the job? What ways can you contribute better to the company? How can the company benefit by having you in this role? Prepare yourself mentally for those type of questions. Have specific goals in your head. These will help you answer 50% of the questions you get asked. You can't anticipate the exact questions you will be asked, so you simply need to make sure you mentally know that you have what it takes and you are the best one for that role. Your confidence will glow through you. If you know your goals, then any question you get asked, can always come back to your goals. A lot of people work every day of their life, not knowing where they are going and what they want to become. You need to figure that out and once you do, you will do great.

Again, the interview is about YOU, not your co-worker. If you see your co-worker in the hall between interviews, tell him

"Hey _! Good luck in your interview today. I just got out, (interviewer name) and I had some good discussions about the future and I had a good time. I'm glad its over and now all I can do is wait."

Be positive like that and vague. Tell him it went well without going into specifics. This will leave you on good terms, which is what you want no matter who gets the job. Plus, if you act like it went really well, he will feel like he needs to work harder in order to do better than you did. This will psychologically break him down and might cause him to mess up more or get frustrated in the interview.

As a recap, you asked what should you do to prepare:

  1. Don't say anything bad about anyone, especially the co-worker
  2. Be prepared with ways to improve if given the role
  3. Know your numbers/metrics and what they mean to the company
  4. Mentally prepare yourself. Know your goals for this job, this builds self-confidence
  5. Talk positive to him about the interview without specifics if you cross paths with him

Last, it is possible that you will get asked "Why do you think you would be better at this job than _co_workers_name__, I am sure you know they applied, right?" I would ask this question if I was interviewing, because again, I don't care what you say, I care what you are thinking and how you say it. I would be looking for positive comments and praise. I would actually prepare for this questions specifically since there is probably a 50% chance you will get asked it (I have been asked that before, multiple times in fact). My suggested answer (reword it to sound more like "you"):

Yes, I know ________ has applied, and I think that it is great you are providing the opportunities like this for people from within the company to apply. I wish him the best of luck. I don't know much about his experience, so its hard for me to comment directly on it, but I know that I have the stuff that the company really needs for this job such as A, B, and C. I have past experience and my career goals have really aligned me well for this job, so I know that it will work out great. I also know that you will do a good job at deciding. I have always respected the way you look out for the company since I have been here."

Say that, and you will have the job in the bag. Good luck!

Also, if its possible to reschedule so you are last to interview, that is usually better for interviewing as it leaves a more memorable and lasting impression in the interviewer's mind. If the interview is already set, you might be better off just dealing with it, but in the future always try to be last


Relax, the boss already made a decision. About the only thing you could say that would change that would be some startling revelation. Approach the interview purely responsively. Answer the questions posed in a simple and straightforward manner. Do not bring up new subjects or speak out of turn.


To answer the question why I think the boss has already made a decision...

In any organization the bosses or officers generally have a very keen idea of who is capable of what, even though it may not seem this way to the employees. All the rumors funnel upward, so you would be surprised what your boss knows. In cases where some promotion is involved, 95% of the time, the bosses will know exactly who they want to fill the position. Often their reasons will involve "personality". So, who you are, who your friends are, who you get along with, whether they just plain like you or not, and so on, will factor into their decision. The other factor will be their estimation of your capability.

Neither of these things can be changed in an interview, without, like I said, some big revelation ("Hey, I just found out I am Senator Smith's long lost nephew, what a coincidence he is chairman of the board, huh?"). The interview in most cases is just a pro forma part of the process that will only very rarely make any difference to the decision.

  • Hey Tyler, what makes you think the boss has already made the decision? Can you clarify your assumptions in this post to make it clear what led you to this answer? That's very important to making sure this helps both the asker, as well as all of the future visitors who will come across this thread.
    – jmort253
    Commented Jun 14, 2014 at 1:26
  • @jmort253 I added some explanatory text to my question.
    – Socrates
    Commented Jun 14, 2014 at 1:44
  • Great explanation! Thanks for taking the time to update and clarify.
    – jmort253
    Commented Jun 14, 2014 at 3:14
  • I'm not sure why someone downvoted this. Although people may not like it, this is usually the way this sort of thing works out. Of course it's possible that someone could mess up the interview so badly that they would change the manager's mind against them, but other than that the decision is probably already written in pencil. But of course you should still do your best to be ready for the interview.
    – Itsme2003
    Commented Sep 24, 2020 at 15:29

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