The official blog of Abacus Group — a place to share our knowledge and thoughts on trends in recruiting

October 04, 2012

A Checklist for Hiring Internal Candidates

When Human Resources professionals and hiring managers exercise poor judgment in candidate selection, the consequences are always detrimental to businesses.  The hasty hires or dismissals of internal candidates are no exception. HR personnel and hiring managers often struggle considerably in formulating substantial criticisms of applicants who come from within the organization. The internal candidate is equipped with advantages like familiarity with the company’s culture, strategies, and difficulties. He or she can also easily conduct research by reviewing internal documents or directly speaking with other employees prior to an interview. On the other hand, HR and/or the hiring manager may preemptively reject a talented and qualified employee who is interested in the job. In such a case, the team with the vacant position, as well as the company as a whole, is deprived of a potentially beneficial opportunity. Whatever the opinion of the internal candidate is, the corresponding hiring decisions can be challenging. When a current employee submits his or her resume for consideration for an internal position, those involved in the hiring process should adhere to the following six guidelines to eliminate bias and choose the most promising candidate:

Don’t offer the candidate an interview out of courtesy if he or she is legitimately unprepared to fulfill the position. Doing so deducts time from more valuable candidates and unfairly misleads the employee.  Carefully select a group of top candidates to be interviewed without giving heavy consideration to whether they come from inside or outside of the organization. If a particular employee applies and does not the cut for further consideration, a polite memo explaining that another professional has been chosen will suffice. If the hiring manager knows the candidate on a more personal basis, he or she can potentially encourage other internal roles that would be a better fit.  A fellow employee deserves an honest and respectful approach, rather than false hope created by an undeserved interview.

Ask very specific questions about the candidate’s challenges in his or her current role because the responses can be easily verified. Instead of asking general, hypothetical interview questions – such as “How do you handle conflicts in the workplace?” – instigate a more detailed conversation about company-, department- or division-wide problems the employee has faced in his or her current position.  Perhaps the organization’s Accounting Support employees recently switched to a more complex billing software or the Financial Analysis team was entirely restructured.  In these types of cases, the interviewer likely has a basic awareness of the changes and should ask the candidate for an explanation of his or her contributions. In this way, the hiring manager or HR professional incorporates familiar internal changes to facilitate a discussion of the candidate’s past approaches to real challenges within the firm.

Don’t diminish the quality of the interview just because of automatic assumptions that the candidate is the best choice for the position. Even if the employee, for example, devised a brilliant cost-saving plan or received glowing recommendations from his or her current supervisor, the choice should never be made so quickly. An impressive professional reputation in one position does not always translate to the competency required for another.

Make sure that the candidate can actually articulate why he or she wants to make an internal career move. Unlike meetings with external applicants, the standard question, “Why do you want to work with our organization?” is not applicable. Instead, focus on the candidate’s desire to change responsibilities within the same company and find out what he or she likes about already being there. Use the discussion to determine if the application is the result of legitimate, well-supported ambition to progress or a shallower, compensation-driven pursuit.

Emphasize the firm’s necessity to conduct the candidate search externally as well as internally. The employee may presume that coming from directly within the organization guarantees his or her selection. While the odds may be in the individual’s favor because of demonstrated success and competency for the new role, the internal candidate, like all applicants, deserves a fair account of HR’s decision-making process. Of course, total transparency is never appropriate, but the employee should be given some information about the status of his or her candidacy.

Seriously evaluate the employee’s importance to the firm if the decision has been made that the internal candidate will not be offered the position.  Quite likely, the candidate is exploring external opportunities as well. To encourage the employee to remain in the current role, prompt a conversation about his or her career objectives and contribution to the company. Ideally, a positive discussion of the employee’s strong standing in his or her present position will defer a resignation.

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