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Internal Recruitment

The perfect candidate for that hard to fill role may be closer than you think — they may already be in your organization. Today we will take a look at internal recruiting and get a better understanding of when this may be the right option for your company and how to successfully recruit internally.

What Is Internal Recruitment?

Internal recruiting is the process of filling a new job opening or backfilling a vacancy with someone who is already in your workforce.

Depending on the role being filled and your existing company culture you may already have an internal recruitment policy and process in place. If you don’t have a policy in place, or even if you do, this guide will help you successfully fill a role internally.

Internal Versus External Recruiting

Internal and external recruiting processes should mirror each other. The only difference that should exist between an internal and external recruiting process is the pool from which you are looking to fill the role.

Should You Recruit Internally?

In order to answer the question “should you recruit internally,” you first have to answer another question: what direction are you looking to go?

If you are looking to go in a direction your company has never gone before, then you may want to look externally. External candidates will bring in outside experience and may be a better fit to take your team in a different direction.

If your team is growing, or if someone needs to be backfilled, and you need your team to continue in the same direction they have been heading, then recruiting internally may be the right fit. Since your employees already know the company culture and are already aware of the goals and needs of the company, internal candidates are often great candidates if you need more of the same.

The best practice to determine the direction you need to go is to meet with the hiring manager and other stakeholders to conduct a skillset audit. Determine exactly what experience, skills and abilities are required for an applicant to be the right fit for the open role. Be specific and list the measures and milestones that will be used to determine success in this role. Once you have clearly defined how this role will be measured and what success will look like, you can then begin to search your current workforce for a potential right fit.

One more thing to consider: how long has this role been open?

If you have been trying to fill a role for six or more months then you may want to recruit internally. Considering that the team or department has been running for over six months without an external person it’s usually a good rule of thumb that you already have the right people in place and filling that role internally will probably provide a good boost to the team.

How quickly can you replace the person who may be filling your role internally?

If you do decide to fill a role internally, then you will have a new opening to fill from wherever that person came from. How quickly can you fill that role? Please, however, do not fall into the trap of deciding to go with an external candidate over an internal candidate because you simply don’t know what you would do if that internal candidate moved out of their role. It’s not fair to hold a great internal candidate back from career growth just because you feel they are irreplaceable in their current position.

If you do have an internal candidate who you feel is irreplaceable, that is a strong sign that internal recruiting is the right move to make. In this situation you usually have two options: allow the irreplaceable member of your team to grow within your organization or lose them to a competitor who may be willing to take a chance on your top performer.

Advantages of Internal Recruitment

Internal recruitment has some serious advantages that can give an easy boost to your organization and add real power in driving toward your hiring goals.

  • Decreased Cost. Hiring talent is expensive. If you can fill a role internally you can save your organization a lot of money in recruiting expenses.
  • Company Culture and Morale Boost. Nothing is more satisfying than seeing your team succeed and do well. We all want to succeed and we all want those around us to succeed. When someone is promoted or moved into a role they are a better fit for, it’s not just their morale that’s boosted, usually the entire team’s morale is boosted.
  • Decreased Time to Fill. Hiring talent takes time, and the longer it takes to fill a role the more likely it is that your organization will suffer in some way. Since internal candidates are already working within the organization they can be interviewed and hired very quickly.
  • Decreased Onboarding Time. One of the costliest parts of hiring additional or backfill talent comes from the time and resources required to onboard and ramp up a new employee to productivity. Internal recruits leapfrog past much of the onboarding and training times required for external candidates because they are already familiar with the organization, the roles and culture of the company.
  • Increased Diversity and Inclusion. Your organization likely places a high value on increasing their diversity and inclusion but may not have a large budget to do so. Internal recruitment is an extremely inexpensive way to begin increasing your company’s diversity and inclusion because the diverse talent you are looking for is likely, at least in part, already inside of your organization. Internal recruitment yields fast ROI for diversity and inclusion initiatives. Internal recruitment will allow your team to transform your diversity and inclusion initiatives from a lofty ideal to a reality. While internal recruitment alone will not provide all of the diversity and inclusion your company is looking for, it will certainly make many groups feel more included.
  • Career Pathing. Internal recruitment provides a path forward for your current workforce. When you utilize internal recruitment, career pathing does not have to be limited to a single linear career path. Promotions are the most common method of career pathing, but sometimes a promotion is not the right move. Career pathing can also include role changes and reorganizations which will allow your workforce to travel in the direction that best suits and utilizes their unique skillsets.

Disadvantages of Internal Recruitment

Even though internal recruitment provides many advantages, there are some circumstances where it may be disadvantageous or even detrimental to your team’s success. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Diminished Diversity and Inclusion. If you don’t have a diverse workforce to begin with, then recruiting internally will only perpetuate your lack of diversity and inclusion.
  • No Net Skills Added. One of the advantages of external recruiting and where it is typically used is when you need a specific skill or experience that doesn’t currently exist within your workforce to take your organization to the next level. When your organization is lacking the skills needed to be successful, internal recruiting can put your team at a disadvantage.
  • Wrong Metrics Rewarded. Sometimes an employee is promoted or moved into a new role because of their tenure and not because of their skills. Just because someone has put in a certain amount of time with a company does not mean they are automatically qualified for a new role. Giving preference to internal candidates does not always ensure getting the best hire.

Types of Internal Recruitment

There are several different ways to recruit talent internally. Each type of internal recruitment fulfills a different niche where you may need additional or new talent.

1. Promotions

A promotion involves giving an employee an upward change in responsibilities. Promotions usually involve a new title and may include additional or new responsibilities. Promotions often include a pay raise but not always.

Promotions are part of a larger culture initiative to drive engagement and job satisfaction. Promotions provide career pathing and keep teams motivated to do and be their best.

When promoting someone on a team, be careful to make sure that others who wanted that promotion do not feel slighted or pitted against one another.

Be aware that promotions also usually involve a need for additional upskilling and training. When someone is promoted, they will be stretched beyond their comfort zone and may be stretched outside of their current skillset. It is likely they will need additional training to be successful in their new promotion.

2: Transfers

A transfer is a geographic relocation of talent. In a transfer, an employee will retain the same role but will transition to another location.

Transfers are great retention tools because they help keep employees when life changes happen.

An example of a transfer could be an employee moved from one city to another. Instead of having that employee continue to make a commute that may no longer be possible, it could be of great benefit to transfer that employee to a closer location (if one exists).

Transfers are also used when new offices open. If your company is growing, there is great value in transferring part of your existing workforce to the new location to bring in some tenure and experience.

3: Reorganizations

A reorganization is when someone is moved into a different role with different responsibilities as part of a company reorganization.

A common example in HR would be a payroll specialist being reorganized into an HR generalist of HR specialist role.

As companies change and streamline their processes, reorganizations often follow, which makes it one of the most common types of internal recruitments.

4: Role Changes

A role change is when you put someone in a new role where they will be fulfilling different responsibilities. Sometimes a role change includes a promotion and sometimes it is a lateral change.

Role changes allow your organization to better distribute and utilize their already existing talent. Role changes are best used in redistributing talent proficiencies. Sometimes an employee will get into a role and realize they are actually a better fit for a different role. A few examples of this could be someone moving from a sales role over to a marketing role, or moving from an administrative position over to the orders and acquisitions team.

Role changes allow your organization to keep a strong internal knowledge library while also keeping your organization agile and adaptable.

How To Get Started Recruiting Internally

In order to get the most out of your internal recruitment efforts, follow this step-by-step guide.

Step 1. Determine if You Will Recruit Internally

Although this may seem intuitive, it is important to define what you will be looking for in applicants for your open role and determine whether or not recruiting internally for the role will benefit your company.

Step 2. Post Your Job Internally

Clearly define what experience, skills and contributions will be required to be successful in this role so that you can set clear expectations in your internal job post regarding who in your organization will be eligible to apply.

Step 3. Conduct a Skill and Interest Audit

This is a fun step where you get to partner with your frontline managers as well as senior leaders to scope out your current workforce for the people who are qualified and interested in your internal job posting.

Let your leadership teams do some of the groundwork for you. They are closer to the workforce and will often have a better feel for what team members are ready for a new role.

Step 4. Communicate the Job Opening Internally

Go beyond just posting your job internally. Collaborate with the rest of your HR team and the hiring manager to develop a plan for communicating the job opening and the application requirements.

Depending on your workspace, you could print out a notification and place it around high traffic areas in the office. In today’s workforce, email communication is a staple. Send an email out in addition to the job posting. You can also partner with frontline managers to have them relay the opening in person to their teams. Your internal communications team may also be able to send a company-wide message out via official internal communication channels.

Step 5. Communicate Application Eligibility Requirements

Many companies have eligibility rules in place for internal candidates. Some rules include certain tenure, satisfactory job standing or geographic location.

Whatever your specific eligibility requirements, make sure to communicate them early and clearly to avoid disgruntled employees who feel like they should be considered but aren’t.

Step 6. Respond to Every Internal Candidate

In most circumstances, more people are going to apply for an open role than will actually get the position and some people who are not qualified will apply. In order to create a positive candidate experience and keep your workforce engaged, you will need to respond to everyone who applies.

If you decide not to consider a candidate then you should have a plan in place for someone either in HR or in their leadership vertical to sit down with them and have a constructive conversation about why they are not being considered and what steps they can take to be qualified in the future.

Step 7. Update Every Internal Candidate

Recruiting usually moves at blurring speeds and you’re probably also being pulled in a dozen different directions in addition to filling this role. It will feel very necessary to skip this step but don’t.

In the long run, providing updates along the way is going to keep your applicants engaged in their current roles and keep their productivity high. Waiting to hear back from a job is stressful. If you take the time and really go above and beyond to update everyone who has applied to your internal posting, then you will build a strong company culture.

Step 8. Provide Feedback to Every Internal Candidate

Eventually you will find the right person and you will extend the job offer. Now you have to let everyone else know they were not selected for the position.

Too often hiring teams also skip this step. When they skip this step they damage their company culture and lose the trust of their employees.

Even though these will be uncomfortable conversations it is possible to “deliver cold water warmly,” as the saying goes. Even though you will be delivering bad news in these conversations, you can convey it in a way that inspires and motivates those who didn’t get the role to double down on investing in themselves.

Similar to the conversations you will have with the candidates who were not considered for interviews, you can have a similar conversation with everyone who interviewed and was not selected where you discuss what they can work on to be more prepared in the future. These conversations can be hugely motivating when they are conducted with empathy and genuine care for the individual.

How to Make Employees Aware of Internal Opportunities That You’re Recruiting For

Communicate, communicate, communicate.

Posting your job on your internal career site is a good step, but it is not sufficient to adequately make your employees aware of the job opening. Just because something is posted, does not mean your employees will see it.

Too often someone is promoted or an external candidate is hired and someone who would have been interested and perhaps qualified for that role says they never knew there was an opportunity available.

Here are a few additional steps you can take to make sure employees are aware of an open opportunity:

  1. Post the job internally.
  2. Send an email out that you posted the job internally.
  3. Partner with managers to communicate the opening to their teams.
  4. Reach out to the hiring manager or key stakeholders to see if they have any internal candidates already on their radar.
  5. Ask to make an announcement at your team’s next stand up meeting or whatever type of team meeting may exist in your organization.

Questions You’ve Asked Us About Internal Recruitment

Should I use our typical formal application and interview process for an internal hire?
You should always use the same formal application and interview process for an internal hire to avoid some of the disadvantages of internal recruitment. When an internal member of a team fills a role within the organization, there is the possibility that others will be jealous, your leaders will be accused of favoritism or the team will feel pitted against each other. You can avoid most of this by simply following your standard application and interview process. By following your typical application and interview process you will show that you are dedicated to putting the right person in the right role at the right time with equity and integrity.
Tyler Fisher

Tyler Fisher

Empowering Recruiters, HR business leaders, and key stake holders to develop and execute talent acquisition strategies. Igniting the talent acquisition process through: developing an engaging employer brand, driving creative talent sourcing, and fine-tuning recruiting team effectiveness.

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