Retired Boston Fire Commissioner Leo Stapleton said it best in his book "Thirty Years on the Line" (or was it in "Commish"?)..
You only have to be smart a few times in your career.
If you are a better qualified candidate that keeps getting passed over, is there any advice anyone has on how to finally make it to a promotion?
Right or wrong, the department had decided I was somebody they didn't want in a leadership role. Who knows why. I probably stepped on somebody's toes years previously and didn't even remember it. Finally coming to this realization, I decided to quit as soon as I could. I beefed up my education, and started applying at other departments, and soon enough I found the perfect place and I couldn't be happier.
So, to your original question. Try to find out why you get passed over and address those areas as dutifully as you can. If it's truly a good-old-boy problem (which is what I think I ran up against), it may not help. At least you'll know you did everything you could. Then at some point you'll need to decide whether you can be content staying in the position that somebody else has predetermined for you, or whether you want to step outside your comfort zone and look for opportunities elsewhere.
Unfortuantly under civil service, it is the only way to promote for just about every combo and career department in the state, except for those too small or too large to be covered under civil service. Since we are going that route, not our choice b y the way, we will have to start promoting career members in the same crappy fashion.
Minimum training requirements which can be made on department time. Additional training bonus points which have to be completed on a member's off time. Testing. And a very limited number of points for seniority.
I understand there are a lot of "good ole boy" systems out there today, mainly in smaller departments. I have watched my department transfer away from the good ole boy system and seriously work on implementing a fair system in promoting the proper people for the position. We have had some issues and the right person has not always been appointed for the job.
I have a few thoughts, especially being that I am preparing for our next promotional process as we speak...
1. The "good ole boy system" argument is an easy out in finding blame for the reason you were not promoted. I have used it in the past to justify my reason for not making the next promotion but I have come to realize that I didn't receive the position because I was not the best candidate for the job. Therefore, I have been working extremely hard to be the best of the best for the next round.
2. Be prepared and work toward making yourself the obvious choice. You can't just walk in there doing the bare minimum or counting on your "experience" over the past 5, 10, 15 years. You have to put an actual effort into it showing that you are the best. One thing will put you above the rest real quick... train without being told to train.
3. When you go in for interviews and such... pitch the entire time why you are the best candidate for the position. If you can't sit there and think of reason after reason and have examples to back them up right now... then you probably aren't ready for the position, or someone else is going to appear to be the better candidate.
If you view your department of having any credit then most likely the good ole boy system is probably not as prevalent as you may think. Procedures are put in place to prevent a lot of the old school ways of promoting people from reoccurring.
OR... call your local news paper and have them look into it. Once you are deemed eligible to enter the promotional process your records become public records and they can do their own investigation as to whether the best choice for the position was really picked.
The easiest way around the "good ol' boy system" is to simply study your butt off. Write the highest written score, make sure your practical portion is flawless and make sure your interview process blows their socks off! The last promotion exam I took my evaluation was significantly less that what it should have been, I simply used that as motivation. I went from studying 3 hours a day to literally becoming obsessed about the the whole thing and after the eval came out I started studying 10 hours a day! Needless to say that resulted in top written score and top practical score for the MPO exam. I literally took that "Good ol' boy system" and removed any possibility of them using it right out of their hands. There's no better satisfaction than doing that.....
How do you get around this part of the good ol' boy system. Our last promotions had an assessment center for several officers. Because of the promotion of the officers (which included some good ol' boys), that left a vacancy for another senior position on a shift. That vacancy was also supposed to be filled from the assessment center, as it has been in the past. This was not the case this time. With no reason given, a candidate that was not allowed to even be a part of the assessment center because "they were not ready to promote" magically was named to this senior position with no additional testing, assessment, or interviews for him or anyone else. Baring in mind also that this candidate has less training that all that went through the assessment center doesn't help things. Thats the unfortunate part of having a small department (32 paid, 3 stations), it is hard to just hide these things and cover them up.
Here's a situation for you: A guy gets promoted without even going through the assessment center. --This pretty well negates a lot of things mentioned about being prepared for the assessment center and such from above. We had a position open up for which we had to apply then interview for. From the interviews, only the better candidates advanced to the assessment center (as it should be). Then, when the assessment center was done, one promotion was made from the assessment center and then the second promotion was given to someone who wasn't allowed to be a part of the assessment center--that's right, someone who didn't even make the cut to get to the assessment center got promoted over everyone else who did participate. To make it worse, this guy can't even pass the classes required for the position that other candidates have already passed and exceeded the requirements for the position. This was kicked morale in the rear end! It is rewarding mediocrity at its best!
Some people have the "birthright" to certain positions.
Recently applied for a county 911/corrections officer position. Had prior fire service dispatching, military service and corrections experience. No typing test or civil service test.
I am also a partially disabled vet and applied under our state statute defined veterans preference laws.
No dice. Position awarded to elected official's daughter-in-law. She was not a veteran and no emergency services experience.
Had the state vets officer check out situation and pretty much ruled in my favor. County cut me a for a portion of a years salary. Not much left over, after paying an attorney for 40% of settlement.
Nepotism in county hiring, if I ever knew it. State Vet Rep was very disappointed, too. Didn't want the money. Wanted the job.
Is there nepostisn, buddy-buddy, etc. hiring? Yes there is.
You said one needed "department involvement" to be successful. I think I know what you meant, but would you please clarify that.
In theory, an assessment center utilizing assessors (of equal or higher rank than the rank be evaluated) is a great idea. The issues that arise include: 1) departmental involvement, 2) the assessors themselves, and 3) candidate preparation.
Departmental involvement is needed to ensure accurate and realistic scenarios that measure what is expected of a person testing for the assessed rank. If someone with little or no knowledge of what is expected of a particular organization's members develops the assessment scenarios, we've done nothing but create a "dog & pony show" that wastes everyone's time.
The assessors themselves are another key issue. This involves every aspect of their participation but especially their training to enable them to evaluate candidates of a particular jurisdiction. What is expected in the "assessed" town may not be the norm in the assessor's town which could lead to bias (both intentional and unintentional). Another issue that arises is the motivation for a particular assessor's participation. Some want to help ensure capable candidates are promoted while others have agendas based on politics such as racial, gender, or other issues.
Candidate preparation is key to successful assessment process. Many times, it appears that promotional processes exist for the people running the process (instead of identifying the best candidates). Candidates must be given CLEAR instructions about "what" must be done to be a successful. Likewise, they must be given constructive feedback afterwards to ensure they know why they did well (or not so well) for personal development. Keeping the process (expectations, evaluation, and feedback) a big secret does nothing but frustrate people and ruin morale.
It is has been said that the assessment process is a big "act" and you must become both an actor and a salesman to be successful at playing the "game". If that is truly the mindset in developing an assessment process, it is doomed for failure from the onset.