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Nov 29, 2012 by Patrick Icasas in Project Management 101 & Tools

The Politics of Internal Recruitment


Internal recruitment can be a great way to fill out holes in a project team. It increases both personal and career growth while encouraging internal ambition. It’s not all roses and sweet music, however. Internal recruitment has an ugly political side to it, one that can sour the relationship with both the newly-transferred employee and the rest of the company. It’s best to be aware of these risks before embarking on any internal recruitment initiative.

Career Campaigning

One of the problems with filling a position internally is that it can become a ruthless political campaign, especially if the position is high-profile with lots of competition. Candidates might start calling in favors or begin sucking up to the hiring manager. Or worse, they might take the offensive and start gossiping about competing co-workers in order to make them look less suitable for the post. Some unscrupulous candidates may even begin taking credit for other people’s work just to look good.

Although much of it will probably be out of your control, you should still take steps to squash this kind of behaviour as soon as you hear about it. Evaluate candidates based on merit and what you’ve personally observed rather than what “the grapevine” has to say. Also, make it clear that these kinds of actions will not be tolerated at the onset of the recruitment process, and take action if you see any signs of it.

Sore Losers Don’t Go Away

When a candidate gets hired from the outside, she doesn’t have to worry about what the other “losing” candidates are going to say behind her back. Not so with internal recruitment. Internal candidates that have been passed over for the position may take it upon themselves to let the company know what a “bad” decision they’ve made. It may even extend to active post-hire campaigning, where the jealous co-worker will constantly trumpet the new hire’s failures and weaknesses. This may result in a loss of respect and confidence from impressionable co-workers.

Again, you should take steps to protect your new hire and monitor any undue gossip or negative press about your new hire; but do so within the bounds of the organizational structure. Don’t approach the offender directly. Exercise good social skills and approach their manager instead, and let him know your concerns. Also, counter the bad press by publicly acknowledging your new hire’s contributions and vocally expressing your confidence in them. If possible, get your team in on it as well. The new hire is one of the team now, and they need to protect their own.

Availability, Not Skill

One of the biggest risks of hiring internally is that you’re selecting from a limited pool of candidates. These internal candidates may be available and willing to join your team, but you have to evaluate them based on how they perform and what they can contribute. It takes time and effort to train someone, even if they’re already familiar with the company’s process, and the ideal candidate has to have a good base of skills and knowledge if they are going to learn quickly.

Always keep your options open when filling a position. If none of your internal candidates are good enough, don’t compromise for the sake of sticking to internal options. Instead, hire from outside and invest in a truly qualified candidate. Even if it costs more, their expertise will pay off in much higher dividends in the long run.

Internal recruitment is always a delicate subject, so we would love to hear your input as well. Have you done any such recruiting? Have you been on the receiving end? Or, perhaps even more interestingly, have you been bypassed for a promotion in favour of another internal candidate? Chime in!

patrick-icasas
Patrick Icasas

Patrick Icasas is a former marketing project manager with 7 years of marketing and PR agency experience, managing creative projects for brands such as Nokia, Verizon Wireless, and Adobe. He now spends his time helping people make the most out of their project management software and entertaining his 5 year old daughter.

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