Blog Post

The 3 questions to consider when promoting internal candidates

Suzanne Lucas

Founder, Evil HR Lady

Is your business in the middle of the Great Resignation? If so, you probably want to stem the tide. You can offer your employees more money, more flexibility and better perks as a way to keep them engaged and satisfied at your organization. But another key area to look at? Internal hiring.

According to Harvard Business Review, an average of 10 internal candidates apply for every open position in large organizations. Those who don’t land the job are twice as likely to leave the company as their counterparts who didn’t apply for the new position. (People who get an interview with the hiring manager are less likely to leave but still leave at a higher rate than others.)

That can have a pretty serious impact on your business: the cost of even one employee leaving can set your company back by about a third of that person’s yearly salary. Faced with this high cost of too much turnover, organizations should consider three key questions in assessing candidates for open internal positions.

1) How should you accurately evaluate candidates for new internal roles?

The best first step is having a good job description.

If you use the same job description from the last time you posted the job, it might not accurately capture the skills needed to successfully perform all tasks. You can’t fairly evaluate candidates for the role if you aren’t measuring them against what you’re actually asking them to do.

And remember, you aren’t just evaluating people on what they have done in the past, but what they can do and will be able to do in the future. Take their previous growth paths, as well as any new skills or completed training, into consideration when evaluating internal candidates.

2) What do you need to consider besides capabilities when assessing if an internal hire is right for your open role?

Do you want to make a big change, especially a cultural change? Or maybe you’re building out a new area of your company and need someone with specific expertise to take the lead. In those cases, it’s probably best to look externally. But an internal candidate can often be the best option for your business. Consider the following:

  • How long will it take to train a new person on internal processes and systems?
  • Are you willing to train and mentor an internal person on the new skills they might need in this role?
  • Will you pay for and provide this training?
  • Are you willing to pay an internal candidate a fair market rate?

If you’re promoting someone from an individual contributor role to management, that person will likely need management training, while an external hire might be available who already has management experience. Are you willing to do the work?

Plenty of companies limit raises or feel they can get internal candidates for less than they would have to pay an external candidate. This is often true. But is it the right thing to do? If an external candidate comes with all the right experience, it might make sense to pay that person more than you would pay someone who needs to be trained and mentored. But if you are hiring internally, do you have a plan in place to bring the internal candidate’s pay up as they learn and grow?

3) How can you understand what skills already exist within your organization?

With a system that tracks skills, training and performance, you’re better equipped to know if the ideal candidate already works at your organization. And because there is such a negative impact for internal applicants who don’t ultimately get the job, there’s an advantage to having a clear understanding of if someone you’re considering internally is a realistic fit for the role you’re trying to fill.

In addition, using these tools can help you identify skills gaps in your organization before a position opens can save you turnover and stress. Establishing clear promotion paths can also help keep employees engaged while you train up your next level of leaders

Stay ahead of turnover with positive, clear communication

You want to cut your overall turnover, and you want to keep your best people. Looking at internal growth can help you stop an exodus from hitting your business. Talk with your employees about their career paths, your expectations and what it takes to succeed.

If someone applies for an internal position and you decide to move forward with another candidate, make sure you speak with that person about why the hiring manager did not choose them and what they need to do to take the next step with your organization. Create a real plan and follow it.

All of this is investing in your employees, and that investment will pay off with higher retention.

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