In the company I'm currently working at, there is a new opening for a project manager position. I've been here for two long years working in a more technical role (software configuration manager), although I also got a masters degree in PM and got certified as PMP in past June.

Everyone working here was invited to participate for this position, in case of being interested, by submitting an email to the management. I was happy to participate and to have my chance to shine here with the knowledge and experience I hard earned in the past two years.

The bummer appeared when today I was informed in Thursday I shall participate for an extreme situational scenario evaluation for two external candidates invited to participate in the PM selection process.

I became disappointed because I know external candidates could also have more advantages as they surely will be older and more experimented (I'm 28) and willing to work here. In fact, I know that one of the managers, recommended one of the candidates, personally!

Internally, I knew only of two other fully competent guys I was going to go through this selection. Now I'm uncomfortable of the news, even although I'm fully aware of my previous qualifications and the fact I have a solid leadership figure here, so the internal knowledge I have and previous qualifications could give me an edge in the selection process.

Today in the evening, I rejected to be part of the scenario for the external candidates, as obviously I have conflict of interests.

I understand that this is the kind of situation for which one must be prepared to face.

How can I take advantage of my current position and play my strengths in my favor so that I can have a chance of landing this position?

  • 1
    Hi Alex, I made some edits (see revision history). Please feel free to make more edits to further target the question if you think my edits lost part of your message. Good luck, and welcome to PMSE!
    – jmort253
    Commented Sep 26, 2012 at 3:52
  • Thanks jmort253! You improved the intent of the question, so now it's clearer.
    – Alex. S.
    Commented Sep 26, 2012 at 4:47
  • Isn't this question a better fit for WorkplaceSE?
    – Todd A. Jacobs
    Commented Oct 1, 2012 at 14:31

6 Answers 6


Let's put on your boss' hat for a moment. Their goal is to hire best possible candidate, given all the constraints they have.

By the way: it doesn't mean simply hiring the most skilled person, as they may or may not need to take into consideration things like:

  • Salary they're willing to pay
  • How the decision affects company culture, e.g. showing that they support internal promotions
  • How much risk they're willing to take in terms of knowing people or their incomplete skillset
  • etc.

Given all these their goal is to make best decision, so it isn't a surprise they look both: inside and outside the company.

Understanding this, you may consider advantages and disadvantages of you as a candidate.

  • You know way more about projects in the company than any outsider does
  • Your bosses know you, your skills and feats of your character way better than ones of any outsider
  • Considering that the position is considered as a promotion by yourself it is likely that you will expect smaller salary
  • Your potential to fulfill the role and to grow within its boundaries can be (hopefully) taken into consideration by your bosses
  • The decision is likely to have positive impact on people in the organization showing then there's no glass ceiling and there are plenty of options in terms ob building their careers

At the same time:

  • Probably points for skillset are not on your side
  • There may be some internal politics in play, e.g. one of other candidates was recommended by one of the managers
  • Promoting you the org loses a specialist in the other place -- something that they may not be ready to do
  • Managers may want to introduce some fresh blood to the team to shake things up.

Given all the background I believe one thing you can expect from your managers is an honest discussion about your role in the process and, potentially, key criteria they will be using to make up their minds. It doesn't hurt to talk after all.

And one more thing: even if you end up not being chosen, your attitude in this recruitment process may be go/no go decision next time your organization needs a PM, so there's virtually no point in taking offence, no matter what you end up with.


The good news is, project management experience is a useless predictor of future success. The validity of that criterion is very low. The bad news is, it is used the most and relied upon as a heavily weighted criterion (Hunter & Hunter, 1984) and you cannot give them an employee selection tutorial during your interview.

There is no formula anyone here can provide that will ensure your success. All you can do to further your career is know where you want to go and drive to that with persistence. You have advantages you can exploit that the external candidates cannot. You already work in the organization so you are a known risk. You have experience in your organization and in the projects your organization pursues. You know the culture, the politics, and you have an internal network established. Exploit those and remain professional, positive, and driven. And most importantly, demonstrate to them that you are smart, that you can critically think.

If you are passed up on this opportunity, your very next step is to schedule a meeting with the decision makers and learn why, ask for some things they'd like to see from now til then, and to thank them for consideration. Then keep them in your network and build on that relationship.

  • 1
    I agree. Your best bet is to use your insider knowledge of the organization and it's process. You know what works, and what doesn't, and what needs to be fixed. USe this chance to demonstrate how you would adress some of the challenges the other candidates might not even know are there. Commented Oct 3, 2012 at 20:20

I disagree with the concept that you do not need to hire the best possible candidate you can get. What you need is to find a candidate that meets your needs.

If you have a team that is good about generating documentation, and self manages their productivity then if the best candidate is an organizer then that is not what you need. Your team is already organized introducing a PM that wants to reorganize and change their process may actually reduce your teams effectiveness.

I would ask the following questions What management skills does the team need? Where are the pain points where the teams tend to get stuck? What does the business need out of the PM?


You have to be direct here so that there is no chance of misunderstanding. Talk to the manager(s) doing the hiring/nominating, tell them you are interested in the position, and ask them where you stand in the process with two external candidates coming in. If they tell you you have a shot then that's good news, but you will still have to wait for the evaluation of all candidates. If they tell you you don't have a shot then that's good news because you won't be walking around the office everyday wondering where you stand.

Once you get the news, then you may or may not have a decision to make.


The biggest advantage you may have is any knowledge of the personalities on the selection committee and company hiring practices. That should help you gauge what questions are likely to be asked, how to answer the questions in the best way (e.g. "Lots of detail" vs "Short and sweet"), etc.

Beyond that focus on yourself. You don't know who your competition is or what they bring to the table so don't worry about them. List your own strengths and weaknesses. Try to put these into buckets. Look at the buckets and work out how to emphasize your strengths while acknowledging your weaknesses in a positive light (e.g. "I know that I lack PM experience with the company, but I know our products and have been serious enough about being a PM to go out and get certification etc.").

Opting out of the extreme scenario being presented to the external candidates could have been a bad move if you didn't discuss thoroughly with the selection committee. You may have thought you had an unfair advantage and wanted to do the "decent thing" which is laudable, I hope the committee sees it the same way.


You may want to consider expanding your job hunt to other companies. It sounds like you threw your hat into the ring and it didn't work out. The fact that you bowed out of the selection process due to a conflict of interest says a lot about your character and should be viewed positively by other employers.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.