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Maternity cover | Employee asked to be on interview panel…for job they want to apply for

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Sophie Parrott Press Releases, AMANDA WATSON, News...

In the workplace, it isn’t uncommon for internal job opportunities to crop up from time to time, whether this is for a position in a different department or to temporarily cover a colleague going on maternity leave for example.

Yet, in a recent post on Mumsnet, one user – writing under the name of Thickhead – explained that they had been asked to sit on the interview panel for a role that they wanted to apply for themselves.

The user wrote: “My line manager is going on maternity leave soon, and I was thinking of having a crack at applying for her cover. There are only 3 of us in my department – my big boss, my line manager and me.

“My big boss has said we can advertise for my line manager’s cover now, and that we need to decide who will be on the interview panel. He said that he wants it to be the three of us in the team.

“This is a bit awkward. How do I say: ‘erm, I was going to apply for the job, so won’t be able to commit to being on the panel (unless you don’t think I have a hope in hell of getting through shortlisting?)’.”

Elsewhere in the post, the Mumsnet user said they were worried the top boss would “assume I won’t apply because I don’t stand a chance of getting it (sic)”.

This Mumsnet post garnered a wealth of comments from other forum users who agreed that the employee was ‘overthinking it’ and encouraged the employee to tell the boss that they wanted to apply for the maternity cover position.

Another forum user, writing under the username of FTMF30, said that it was a positive thing that the employee was asked to sit on the interview panel in the first place as it proves “your judgment would be valued and that you know a bit about your role”.

One other forum user suggested that perhaps the boss hadn’t given it much thought “other than it's important that you rate the person who covers the maternity leave because if you don't it could cause problems”.

User ProtectedPeas said that the problem could be that they would have to recruit for the line manager’s role as well that of the employee. However, they encouraged the employee to “sow the seed” anyway.

Recruitment expert weighs in

Mandy Watson, Director of Ambitions Personnel, told HR Grapevine:

"The issue presented here is that, in addition to maternity cover, the boss would then have to also find temporary cover for the role of the worker who is covering the senior role.

“As this is only a short-term situation, this would incur a loss of time and resources for the business, only for the worker to return to their original role.   

"This could also cause further disruption and tension down the line when colleagues return from maternity leave and they have to return to their old role,” Watson added.

While the role in question in this instance is relative maternity cover, it is possible that other employees have experienced events of a similar nature in their careers, but how should they approach them?

Watson went on to explain that if the employee is genuinely interested in the role, they should “put a case forward about how their current role could be covered and assure their boss that they are happy to return to their previous role when the maternity leave is over”.

The recruitment expert added that having a “frank and honest exploratory conversation" is sometimes all that is required to tackle some of the most complex workplace situations.

Did the employee decide to contact the boss?

Following the employee’s original post, they went on to explain that they decided to email their boss directly about wanting to apply for the role.

A few weeks later, the user updated the Mumsnet thread explaining that they had actually bagged the job, highlighting the importance of honest and open communication with bosses, particularly when it comes to situations like this.