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I was interviewed a few days ago for a lead position in a support team.

The role would be supporting the software and mentoring a 6 persons team. The role would encompass hiring duties and probably firing ones too. The role is to replace someone who has been working on that position for 9 years and has decided to move to new pasture

During the interview, one question popped out in my head

  • Why they did not promote someone internally instead of recruiting?

For me, it doesn't make much sense to not promote someone internally especially if the team is quite substantial.

There can be many reasons to not hire someone internally and I want to rule out as many of them as possible

  • The company organisation is such a mess that no one wants to take over the person who is leaving's position
  • The software is flawed with tons of issues and taking a lead position is akin to work in a sweatshop

If the company carry on with the recruitment with me as a candidate, can and should I ask the question mentioned above during my next interview?

Thanks

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    You can ask. They are not obligated to answer, or to say anything meaningful if they do answer. – keshlam Sep 7 '16 at 22:11
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    It could simply mean that they want someone who has had some experience leading a team (and the developer's have not got that), or possibly no one in the team wanted to be promoted because they are happy with the position they have... – HorusKol Sep 7 '16 at 22:20
  • Hi @keshlam thanks. That still bugs me though. I read that question , I want to avoid a situation where I would be overworked or treated as disposable – John Legas Sep 7 '16 at 22:21
  • @JoeStrazzere fair enough I'm mixing a bit here. In my mind, would that innocuous fact hide something bigger? Anyway, pay no attention to my mild paranoia , sometimes I'm overly cautious for my own good. In this situation, I need to understand them more to see if they would be a good fit between their expectation and my needs and my career path. – John Legas Sep 7 '16 at 22:43
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    "Fantastic idea, we never considered that! Thanks for your time." – Masked Man Sep 8 '16 at 0:36
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If the company carry on with the recruitment with me as a candidate, can and should I ask the question mentioned above during my next interview?

Since the issue concerns you, and since you feel that it doesn't make much sense to not promote someone internally, then you certainly should ask.

There are certainly more than two possibilities (the organisation is a mess, the software has a ton of issues). Sometimes nobody on the team is capable of leading, sometimes nobody is quite ready, sometimes an outsider's viewpoint is needed to change the team's direction, etc.

It's certainly reasonable to ask why they didn't promote internally in this case, just as it's reasonable to ask why the prior lead left.

As a hiring manager, I get asked these sorts of questions all the time. When a candidate asks, it makes me feel like they care about what they are getting into, and that's usually a good thing. Hopefully, they aren't looking for a perfect job/company with no challenges. Hopefully, they are up to any challenges that the opening may provide.

In general, ask questions for any issues that concern you, or could affect your decision about the job and company. Interviews are two-way streets. They are evaluating you for your fit within the team. You are (or should be) evaluating them for their fit for your needs and career path.

  • Thanks @joe-strazzere I appreciate very much your answer – John Legas Sep 7 '16 at 22:25
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    Excellent answer: I (as a candidate) would also ask if there were applicants from the team for the position. I'd want to know if I was walking into a minefield with someone who felt they deserved the job and might resent whoever got it instead. – Wesley Long Sep 8 '16 at 15:07
  • A phrasing that can work well and is neutral is: why is this position vacant?. – Monica Cellio Sep 8 '16 at 18:14
  • Hi @MonicaCellio the previous employee is leaving because she wants to have a baby and also leave the place where she currently stays. From the tone of voice of the recruiter, he was deeply annoyed but hey, we're all free right? :) – John Legas Sep 9 '16 at 10:07
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If the company carry on with the recruitment with me as a candidate, can and should I ask the question mentioned above during my next interview?

You can and, yes, you should. Joe pointed out that the fact that you're wondering is sufficient reason to ask the question but beyond that this is a vital question to ask when you're applying for a management position. There are a great many reasons why a company chooses not to promote internally and few of the common ones point to outright dysfunction, but that's one reason for asking the question. The other is to help you determine what your prospective management chain wants to see in that position. How will they qualify your success? What will they expect of you? What should be done differently? What did the previous manager do that could have been done better? You can tie this into the reason behind the vacancy, though that's a topic that needs to be handled tactfully.

Beyond this, what you should also ask, though not until the later states and probably not until you're preparing to start, is whether anyone internal actually applied for the role. If some of your reports tried to get your position you want to be aware of that as well as how far they got and whether anyone reacted poorly. Don't ask about a poor reaction though: it's rare for functioning adults to harbor outright resentment but they'll tell you if it happened.

  • Hi @lilienthal, many thanks for your answer. The concerns you flagged out , were those I had in mind even though I could not spell them out loud, probably because I've never been hired for such a position before. Anyway, thanks for your answer , my level anxiety just drop down massively. – John Legas Sep 9 '16 at 10:05
  • Actually your answer should be the one I've accepted but well, first come, first served and I'm a man of my points (and it won't be fair to Joe). Next time. :) Thank you again. – John Legas Sep 9 '16 at 10:11
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    @JohnLegas You're quite welcome. Keep in mind that you are free to (re)move the Mark As Accepted mark at any time on StackExchange, but my answer was intended to supplement Joe's excellent answer so there's no need to do so. The guideline is to accept the answer that was most useful to you and I think Joe was more specific to your situation. Finally, while it's good of you to follow up on a question you've asked, there's no need to reply to every comment or answer you get to say thank you. Those kinds of comments often end up removed as they don't contribute much. You can upvote to say thanks. – Lilienthal Sep 9 '16 at 11:28

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