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Hiring From Within: The Dos and Don’ts

Hiring from within Job interview for a business woman talking to the Female HR manager about the role or position. Sitting a desk with laptops open and sheets of paper.

In a time when companies are looking for ways to cut costs, hiring from within can help reduce recruiting expenses while increasing employee engagement. We’ll explain how to hire effectively when internal candidates are involved and reveal some common mistakes to avoid. 

Benefits of Hiring From Within

Reduced hiring costs

The cost of promoting or transferring an existing employee into an open role is much lower than finding and hiring an external candidate for the same job. It’s also a lot less risky since you’re already familiar with the candidate and they presumably have a successful track record.

Faster time to productivity

An internal candidate can get up and running more quickly than one who’s coming in with no prior knowledge. Existing employees are familiar with company policies and, if they’re being promoted on their current team, have a full understanding of that team’s workflows. 

Stronger culture fit

Since internal hires are already part of the fabric of the company, culture fit is less of a concern. They’re aware of the company’s values and likely already have a strong network of coworkers with whom they collaborate well. 

Higher morale

Hiring from within signals a company’s investment in its employees, which is a good thing for morale. Developing junior employees for more senior roles and then promoting them shows that the organization is committed to the continuing success of its staff, which in turn makes employees more interested in staying with the company. 

Dos and Don’ts of Hiring From Within to Help You Successfully Fill Your Open Position

Hiring from within can be a bit different from hiring externally. Oftentimes, your candidate pool will include a mix of both internal and external candidates, which requires navigating the process with dome dexterity. Follow these do’s and don’ts to hire internal candidates effectively. 

Do create a clear process

There are many different strategies for hiring from within. Some companies post all jobs publicly and require all candidates to complete the same standard application process, regardless of whether they’re internal or external. Other companies open positions to internal applicants first before making them public.

Whatever process you decide on, follow the same procedure each time and make it fair and transparent to employees. Not only do you want internal candidates to feel as though they’re getting fair (or more than fair) consideration, you want to cover all your bases from an HR standpoint if you do decide to hire externally instead of going with someone from inside. 

Do tap managers for referrals

Just because hiring from within can be quicker and less expensive, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily easier. You still need to pinpoint the right skills among your existing employee base. To do this, you’ll need to rely on the members of your management team, who know the strengths and weaknesses of their reports. 

When you have an open position you’d like to hire internally for, compile a list of the key skills the job requires. Circulate the list among managers to ask for recommendations. You can also offer a skills audit interested employees can complete, which will not only identify candidates but help with screening. 

Related: How to Make Your Employee Referral Program a Powerful Recruitment Tool

Do take the process seriously

Even if you give internal candidates priority, it shouldn’t be a given that they’ll get the job. Ultimately, your goal should be to hire the best person for the role, whether that means you can promote from within or you have to look elsewhere. 

Every hiring manager knows the cost of a bad hire, both in terms of money and morale, and it’s even more of a hit when that bad hire is one of your own. So, treat the interview process with the weight it deserves, asking internal candidates tough questions and making them prove their aptitude the same way they would if they were coming in from an external channel. 

Related: How to Conduct an Internal Interview

Do provide thorough feedback

Providing candidate feedback is typically viewed as optional. It’s more of a courtesy that hiring managers complete if they have time rather than standard practice. However, when internal candidates are in the running, it’s an important step in the post-interview process. 

If an internal candidate isn’t ultimately selected, it’s important for them to know why. Share feedback on the factors that drove your decision, like if the winning candidate had specialized expertise or a lot more experience. Give internal applications specific pointers on how they can strengthen their candidacy in the future. This is not only doing them a service professionally, but is crucial if you want to retain them as a happy, productive employee. 

Related: How to Give Your Candidate Interview Feedback (Positive or Negative)

Don’t rule out references

Think you can sidestep the tedious reference-checking process for internal candidates? Think again. In fact, references from other employees should be given even more consideration because they’re coming from someone with intimate knowledge of the company’s inner workings. 

At a minimum, speak to the candidate’s direct manager to learn about their work style and accomplishments. Consider also speaking with colleagues, former managers and outside references to get additional context. 

Related: Ace Your Reference Checks With These Sample Questions

Don’t leave internal candidates hanging

It’s never a good thing to ghost candidates, but it’s especially egregious if the candidate is your current employee. Not only does being left hanging create awkwardness as they continue working in their current role, but it’s a surefire way to make them feel disengaged with the company. 

So, take extra care to keep internal candidates in the loop on where the hiring process stands, even if it’s just to let them know the process is ongoing. 

Don’t reject second- or third-choice candidates too quickly

When your candidate pool includes a mix of both internal and external candidates and you decide to go with someone from outside, wait until your top choice has officially accepted the job before notifying other candidates they weren’t selected. This prevents an uncomfortable situation where you have to go back to an internal candidate you’ve rejected and hope they’ll take the position.  

Don’t fuel the rumor mill

A little bit of gossip is normal in pretty much every company. However, company leaders should do what they can to avoid stoking the rumor mill, especially when it comes to competitive internal jobs. 

Be forthcoming about where the job stands and who is being considered. The more open you can be with candidates, the more you’ll ensure colleagues can work together successfully even if they’re in the running for a job multiple people on the team want. 

By treating internal candidates with respect and giving them a transparent hiring experience, you’ll keep morale strong by building a highly skilled and engaged workforce.

Pete Newsome

About Pete Newsome

Pete Newsome is the President of 4 Corner Resources, the staffing and recruiting firm he founded in 2005. 4 Corner is a member of the American Staffing Association and TechServe Alliance, and the top-rated staffing company in Central Florida. Recent awards and recognition include being named to Forbes’ Best Recruiting Firms in America, The Seminole 100, and The Golden 100. Pete also founded zengig, to offer comprehensive career advice, tools, and resources for students and professionals. He hosts two podcasts, Hire Calling and Finding Career Zen, and is blazing new trails in recruitment marketing with the latest artificial intelligence (AI) technology. Connect with Pete on LinkedIn