The Internal Candidate Conundrum

The Pros and Pitfalls of Hiring from Within

Most organizations post openings internally as well as externally. Doing so sends a great message to employees on potential career paths within the organization and can greatly benefit employee retention.  However, an internal candidate comes with pros and pitfalls.  Here’s what to consider when an internal candidate is in the mix.

Pros of Considering an Internal Candidate

internal candidateThere are many advantages to an internal candidate securing that next great opportunity within your organization.

  • They already know the ins and the outs of your organizational culture—one of the toughest aspects of acclimating to a new employer.
  • They understand the nuances of your team’s chemistry. Having prior knowledge of dynamics between team members, both personal and professional, definitely gives the internal candidate a leg up.
  • They are already part of the “fabric” of your organization. You know first-hand how their contributions make a difference (or not) and whether or not they help or hinder your team’s success.
  • You can immediately check off giving them the employee handbook. The internal candidate already knows the logistics, policies, and procedures in place at your organization.
  • Essentially, hiring the internal candidate –and the “institutional knowledge” that accompanies them, expedites many aspects of the onboarding process. That can alleviate a huge amount of stress and anxiety for everyone involved.

Pitfalls of Considering an Internal Candidate

There are also quite a few pitfalls that swirl around the consideration of an internal candidate for the new job.

  • Let’s get to the worst first: What happens if the internal candidate is not selected? The answer all depends on the internal candidate. For some, it’s business as usual. Others might feel embarrassed by not being selected, especially if many team members knew they applied for the job. While we all know that the internal candidate has nothing to be embarrassed by, I think we can all relate to that feeling. This embarrassment can snowball, leading to…
  • …the internal candidate seeking opportunity elsewhere after getting passed over, OR—
  • …tension on the team – depending on who knows what. This can disrupt team chemistry for sure.
  • It can be difficult for the internal candidate to work for or with the selected candidate. The internal candidate has probably been thinking of ways to improve the team and organization. Ideally, the selected candidate will thoughtfully consider their suggestions and see the internal candidate as an important ally. But it doesn’t always quite work out that way.
  • If the internal candidate is selected, you have another opening to fill. That can be good—or not.

Considerations Beyond Pros and Pitfalls

  • It is imperative that the interview process for the internal candidate be as rigorous as someone who might be new to the organization. Do not take interviewing shortcuts just because you know the candidate.
  • If the internal candidate is a greatly valued member of your team and does not get the job, you may want to consider offering a “retention package” to retain the employee. The retention package might include extra vacation time, a small bump in salary, or even a bonus of some sort. The point of the package is to communicate “you are valued.”
  • Whether or not the internal candidate gets the job, it is crucial that you offer feedback. Share the pros and cons of hiring them. Don’t be afraid to point out areas of growth. Thank them for being part of the process.
  • And, if the internal candidate is the successful candidate, do not skimp on onboarding! Since parts of onboarding can be expedited with the internal candidate, use that extra time for the training and information needed to set up success.

Last, when an internal candidate is in the mix and we have been retained to fill the position, we are often asked whether or not the candidate should be put through our 4C recruiting process. The answer is yes and goes back to be sure to thoroughly vet the internal candidate.


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