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Should You Hire From Within or Look Outside?

Ask The Expert

By Barbara Mitchell

Q: I like to promote from within, but I also want the best for my association. I have a hard time determining when I should go outside the organization to fill a position. Do you have any tips for making that decision?

A: Like you, I think promoting from within is a great idea, and it should always be considered. Promoting an employee provides a morale boost for your team, and because you already know the person, you can accurately assess how well he or she would fit the role. If an inside candidate has all the required skills, moving that person to the open position will likely save time and recruitment costs.

But internal candidates who do not have the right skills may need costly training. That’s when an outside hire with the skills you need can be appealing: In addition to the right skill set, he or she will bring new ideas and valuable outside experience. On the other hand, an outsider will need time to learn your organization and adapt to its culture.

So, what to do? Start by posting the open position internally and see who applies. Unless you know the qualifications of everyone you work with, odds are that you will be surprised to see who comes forward. Interview each qualified internal candidate using the same criteria you would use for an external applicant. Then, if no one matches your requirements, go outside to get candidates.

Your staff should know that internal candidates get the first crack at job openings in the organization but that your goal is to hire the best-qualified person for the job.

In some cases, if you end up hiring from outside the organization, it’s a good idea to let the new hire know that there were internal candidates for the job. Especially if an internal candidate was seeking a promotion but did not get the job and will instead be managed by the successful external applicant, this information can be helpful to the new hire in building a team. I would certainly want to know if one of my direct reports applied for the job I got, so that I could let that person know he or she was valued and that I looked forward to working together for the good of the organization.

Also, be sure you close the loop with your internal candidates. They need to know why they weren’t selected and what they can do to be more successful the next time a new opportunity arises.

As always, transparency is critical. Your staff should know that internal candidates get the first crack at job openings in the organization but that your goal is to hire the best-qualified person for the job, whether he or she comes from inside or outside your current team.

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR and The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook. Do you have a question you’d like her to answer in “Ask the Expert”? Send it to [email protected].


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