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5 issues to consider when recruiting internally

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Recruiting Internally

We all know recruitment can be something of a minefield. There’s so much to consider – is your process reliable and fair? How are you supporting diversity? How are you addressing unconscious bias? Are you hiring the right person for the job? Is the process efficient yet also human?

Promoting a person internally into your vacant role is so much simpler, right? After all, your candidates know the company already.

But there are many pitfalls and issues to consider when it comes to recruiting internally. Issues that need to be thought through thoroughly in advance of any activity.

Here are 5 issues you should think about.

1. To sift or not to sift, that is the question

How will you handle applications for the role in question? Will you be open to applications from both internal and external candidates?

Will you meet everyone who applies face-to-face? Or will you conduct some sort of sift first?

Clearly, if you’re expecting lots of interest then meeting everyone face-to-face could be time-consuming. In this case you may wish to consider sifting applications so that you only interview those best placed to fulfil the role – a much more efficient use of time. But how do you do this fairly with people applying for a role internally?

There’s a huge variety of tests available, from reasoning to values to personality tests. You’ll need to consider which is right for your circumstances, as it depends on what you’re trying to measure and what you’re trying to achieve.

But you’ll also need to think about what happens if your internal candidates don’t pass these tests? How are you going to manage the fallout if some of your current employees don’t pass, for example, an intelligence test? Could this affect their current role in your company? Could this affect their confidence?

2. Involving line managers

When an employee applies for a role internally – is the line manager part of the decision or are they excluded and more senior execs make the promotion decision?

You would hope the line manager knows this candidate well. They know their areas of weakness, their development needs as well as their strengths. That’s if they have a good managerial relationship with them. So surely it would seem perverse not to ask them for their opinion.

But how can you be sure their opinion is valid or that they know them as well as you assume? They could be biased, they may not want to lose a good worker from their team. Their opinion might be negatively influenced by mistakes the candidate made in the past – mistakes that they’ve learnt from which actually make them stronger candidates.

And if you are open to applications from both internal and external candidates – is it fair to include this or is it unwise to ignore their track record?

3. What about those you don’t promote?

Let’s say you’re undertaking a recruitment exercise for team manager roles in a call centre. There are five roles available and 20 people apply, of which 10 are already customer service advisors in your company so for them it’s a promotion.

When you add everyone’s scores together you identify the five who are best suited to the role. What do you say to the other 15? “You’re not as good as the five we chose”? How will this be received by internal candidates?

What if, instead of scoring people in this way, you set a standard that potential team managers need to meet in order to be considered? What happens if everyone meets this standard – do you hire them all? What if no one does – do you leave the role vacant?

Perhaps you create a development pool – prioritising the remaining 15 in order of merit and hiring them in that order as vacancies arise. How long is that list valid? How do additional candidates get added to that list? What do you do with people who don’t meet the criteria for this list?

4. Tackling the rumour mill

People talk. They’ll share information with each other. They’ll help out fellow candidates – even when competing for the same job. It’s human nature.

How can you avoid this to make the process fair for everyone?

You could try to speed the process up. Could everyone sit the assessment centre in the same day? That way there’s no time to spread rumours about what’s involved. But this might be logistically impossible.

Or you could try being entirely open and transparent about the process. Tell them the competencies you’re assessing them against, tell them the types of exercises they’re going to face. You don’t have to tell them how they’ll be scored. That way, there are no ‘insider secrets’ they can share with each other.

5. Do those who work for you already know too much?

Sometimes internal candidates fair quite badly against external candidates because they know the expected list of ‘behaviours’, such as the company competency framework, a little too well. They may know all the right words to use but may struggle to provide meaningful personal insight into how they demonstrate these in their work. They make assumptions the interviewers know them well too and often fail to explain the obvious – but what is unsaid can’t be scored.

You’ll need to encourage them to be explicit, to give detailed answers around their experience and skills, making no assumptions about what the interviewer knows and, as the interviewer, be careful not to assume you know what they mean by ‘team-working’ etc.

But it’s equally true that you shouldn’t assume that because they work for you that they already know about the job. They may have formed a false impression about what’s involved.

So those are my top five things you need to consider when recruiting internally. Do you have any others? How do you go about recruiting internally ? I’d be interested to know.

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