Interviewing Internal Candidates
Newsletter volume 1 number 6
Many companies today are downsizing and restructuring, and new positions are being filled with internal candidates. This so-called "inplacement" is occurring more frequently and taking on importance in many companies. It has come to our attention as we bring diversity interviewer training into more organizations across the country. This behavioral interviewing program gives managers skills to respond to diversity within their own company as well as in the marketplace. Some people may say, "We're not hiring from the outside. Who needs interviewing training when it is our own people we're hiring?" The answer – you need it more than anyone else.
"Inplacement" calls for consideration of internal candidates who have been displaced from their current positions, but have not been fired from the company. Many of these candidates have received little mentoring or coaching from their managers. They don't know how to present themselves as slickly or persuasively in an interview as do outsiders. Managers must compensate for this by using the right questioning techniques to draw out their own employees.
The internal interview is a very different type of interview. The internal manager with the job opening may be the first person to tell the internal candidate the truth about the candidate's need for additional education or training. This can result in frustration and anger that may spill out in the interview. Managers should be coached on how to handle this situation.
Internal candidates have a visible internal track record. This means their strengths and weaknesses are already known. The outside candidate may seem better suited for the job because his or her weaknesses are not known and will be covered over by slick resumés and skillful interviewing. Managers need to be aware of this and keep their objective.
The historically high rate of turnover among women and minorities in large organizations might be reduced by more effective consideration of internal candidates. If people in these groups are kept informed of internal interviewing opportunities, they may reconsider their decision to leave the company. Managers need training in order to keep from losing these people.
Interviewing co-workers, especially those who are friends, is very difficult. It's hard to be objective and is an awkward situation at best. Managers need to know how to address their friends' previous work experience and stay objective about their qualifications. And it is important to remember that an internal candidate may still be seen on a daily basis whether they get the job or not. This is not an issue with outside candidates.
Inplacement provides a great opportunity to increase diversity within departments. One of the most common problems our clients report when downsizing is departmental resistance to hiring internal candidates from other departments. HR managers quote their line managers as making such comments as, "Oh, he's from engineering services. There's no way he can perform for us." Untested assumptions and cross-department bias need to be avoided. Internal, cross-departmental hiring can promote diversity, insight and camaraderie among all your employees.
Finally, research in California last year showed that 92 percent of all employment/interview related law suits were filed by current employees of the organization. Many of these suits sited bias against promoting candidates within their own company. Hiring and employment laws must be practiced and enforced.
So as you downsize or restructure, remember the advantage of inplacement and consider training your managers to handle this unique and potentially beneficial opportunity. "We're not hiring," does not mean, "We're not interviewing."