Thinking Like an Employer: The 5 Steps to Getting a Job or a Promotion Inside an Organization

By Elisabeth Sanders-Park

For career professionals, helping people understand how to access career opportunities inside organizations is important. Whether working with employees who want to access an internal promotion or aiding external job seekers who come to you for an informational interview, these individuals need a reliable process to access opportunities. The following “5 Steps,” when combined, will help job/promotion seekers become more marketable in their careers and address the concerns that employers have as they consider candidates.


Step 1: Find the Desire/Motivation to Work

Many career professionals encourage clients to find their passion in order to fuel their desire to work. While this is an excellent practice, it’s important to remind them that employers also have a desire: they want the people that work for them to want to work there. The employer rarely benefits from an employee that doesn’t enjoy coming to work.


To help individuals find the desire to work for the employer, career professionals can help employees and job seekers:


  • Identify two or three things about the role, team, department, or company they are targeting.

  • Understand and communicate benefits the company will derive from hiring/promoting them.

  • Articulate their genuine and authentic interest .


Step 2: Clarify the Career Direction and Job Target

Focus on clarifying the individual’s career direction and the next steps to be taken. Too often, job seekers or employees hoping to be promoted expect the employer to identify where they’d best fit in. This is the responsibility of the job seeker or employee, not the employer.


To clarify direction and target, career professionals can help individuals:


  • Assess their most important fascinations, non-negotiable values, and the skills they have and most enjoy using.

  • Creatively combine the most important findings to identify career goals they can explore.

  • Explore their most compelling career possibilities by networking with people who do the work and by learning about the person’s unique career journey.

  • Identify jobs they can target next (using their current skills) to get onto their desired path. For example, if a person has administrative experience but wants to pursue project management certification, she may target admin jobs in an engineering or operations department while working on her project management certification.


Step 3: Prepare Proof They Can Do the Job

Clearly, people should not pursue jobs they cannot do. However, when people are making transitions, they may not have all the requisite experience needed for the job. And, some of their qualifications may come from non-traditional sources. So, the challenge is to present their proof of qualification in ways that hiring managers will ‘buy.’


Career professionals can assist by guiding individuals to start researching and identifying the manager’s top needs in an ideal candidate for the target job. Then, consider these techniques for proof of performance:


  • Demonstration: If someone is seeking a supervisory role but doesn’t have supervisory experience, he or she may volunteer to lead a special project (whether the company picnic or some other event or activity) that will bring opportunity and proof of their ability to supervise others.

  • Stories/Examples/Facts: An individual may have examples of supervisory experience that came from outside of work, such as supervising parents for the school carnival (e.g., “directed team of 12 in event that served 1,000”) or supervising people at church or synagogue (e.g., “delegated teaching assignments to group of 8”).

  • Credible References: Enlisting the support of people whom the hiring manager trusts and respects can be very helpful in accessing opportunities. The “credible reference” can come in several forms, including asking someone to have an informal conversation with the hiring manager on behalf of the candidate or including a testimonial on the individual’s resume.


Step 4: Avoid Getting Screened Out

Employers are inundated with applications when advertising an opening to the general public. In the early stages of filling a position, their job involves jettisoning excess baggage. We can help those in the candidate queue get closer to the job of their dreams by helping them successfully handle barriers. Here are tools from The Six Reasons You’ll Get the Job that career practitioners can use to help individuals address any number of challenges:


  • Change the Job Target: This may mean avoiding some opportunities and targeting others. Consider the individuals’ skills, fascinations, values, career direction, goals, and strengths and support them in pursuing jobs that offer the best chance of success.

  • Adjust the Client’s Outlook: Sometimes people don’t need employers/hiring managers to screen them out because their own limiting beliefs are already holding them back! Observe whether your clients’ thinking seems to be moving them forward or holding them back, share your observations, and encourage them to build an empowering mindset and behaviors.

  • Learn a New Skill: Having the skills to do the job is not enough. Individuals need to execute an effective job search or promotional campaign, market themselves to hiring managers, and function well in the workplace once they are hired. In some cases, this means personally investing in training to be a competitive candidate.

  • Craft a Good Answer: When the tools above have helped to reduce but not eliminate any employer concern, help the person craft a good answer. For example, an overweight candidate might say, “I am sure you have noticed that I am a very large woman. I know that initially it can make some people uncomfortable, but I find that my friendliness and openness help others get comfortable quickly. Being on your team means I’ll interact with customers on the phone, so it won’t be an issue, and I am sure my positive attitude can win over your team, just as it will win over your customers.”


Step 5: Access and Impress Decision Makers

Being great for the job isn’t enough. The hiring manager—the person who can say ‘yes’—must be convinced. In a formal job opening, the majority of candidates are screened-out before the decision maker enters the process. Only a handful make it past the screening process and talk with the person who has the power to hire. Gaining access to decision makers is critical. Career professionals can use these suggestions from The Six Reasons You’ll Get the Job to help those they work with:


  • Spontaneous Contact: Watch for opportunities to have informal conversations with hiring managers and the colleagues who have influence with them. Conversations about the results of the big game over the weekend can be a way to develop rapport; this foundation can then ease into work-related conversations.

  • Intro by an Influencer: Get connected in a social or work setting by someone whom the hiring manager knows and trusts, and who sees the client’s value.

  • Show, Then Tell: Give hiring managers a chance to ‘try before they buy’ by doing the job ahead of time. This may require volunteering and doing additional work for a time, but the investment is often worth it.

  • Customer Contact: For external job seekers, approaching the company as a curious, talented customer who admires the company can often be a way to develop rapport.


These five steps build upon one another. You may encounter individuals who can prove their qualifications (Step 3) but are not convinced they want to work or are not excited about working for the target employer (Step 1). Or you may see some who can access and impress decision makers (Step 5) but don’t know what they want to do (Step 2). For someone to be both prepared and create enough opportunity to land their next opportunity, all five steps must be addressed. This overview can help you and the people you serve build a reliable framework for thinking through and expediting the process.




MacDougall, D. and Sanders-Park, E. (2010). The Six Reasons You’ll Get the Job. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall Press.



Elizabeth Sanders-ParkElisabeth H. Sanders-Park has been a leader in bringing career solutions to people facing significant barriers for more than 15 years. She co-authored the ground-breaking, L.A. Times top ten career book No One Is Unemployable, as well as The Six Reasons You’ll Get the Job and 50+ publications used to help people make tough career transitions. As a trainer and speaker, she has equipped and inspired more than 10,000 career industry professionals and employment staff in schools, prisons, workforce centers, and social service programs across North America. She also teaches the Certified Tough Transitions Career Coach program at www.TheAcademies.com. To learn more about Elisabeth, visit her website www.worknetsolutions.com or email her at Elisabeth@worknetsolutions.com.

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Philip Tomlinson on Wednesday 05/02/2012 at 10:48AM wrote:

This is pretty good advice. I love it all begins with finding out what the job seeker's passion is.

It's really hard to stay focused on looking for employment when you aren't even passionate about what you will be doing in the future.

Susan Whitcomb on Wednesday 05/02/2012 at 11:04AM wrote:

Agreed (about starting with passion), and I love that it intersects the employer's perspective. Passion absent a "market need" separates the jobseeker from the job! Too often, job seekers miss this important point.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the comments shown above are those of the individual comment authors and do not reflect the opinions of this organization.