When you’re looking to fill an open position, sometimes it makes sense to start with internal employees. There are advantages to an internal hire: They already know the company culture, they’re likely to know a good number of their teammates and they have a proven track record at their current job. However, it isn’t as easy as it might seem. Internal interviews are incredibly important and are key to determining whether an employee is ready to take on a new role.

Why Recruit Internally?

Why do companies use internal recruitment? There are a number of advantages to it, for the employee, the manager and the company.

  • Lower Risk: An internal employee has a history of work you can study, previous performance management reviews that can be shared and coworkers who can give opinions. Compared to an unknown hire, there’s a distinct advantage in knowing someone and how they work.

  • Less Expensive: The recruiting and hiring processes cost the company a lot of money. If the spot can be filled by an internal candidate, there’s no budget needed for travel, and HR saves valuable time reviewing resumes. 

  • Fast Filling: Moving an internal candidate into a new position will be quicker than transitioning a new hire. You also save valuable time on training, since an internal candidate will already be familiar with the workplace. 

  • Employee Retention: Employees who move into new internal positions are more likely to stay with the company. They feel invested in their career and are more likely to feel favorably about the company as a whole.

  • Employee Development: Talented employees can further develop their skill sets with a focus on moving into a new position. It’s a great way to motivate employees to continue to improve their work skills.

Disadvantages of Internal Hiring

The key to a successful internal hire is to avoid the disadvantages that can come along with the choice. The first thing to consider is that internal employees who are already used to the company culture are less likely to drive change and bring new ideas than an outside hire. Depending on the position, this might be an important part of the job.

The other key point to remember is that an employee who excels at one job may not be suited for another; for example, an employee might have great technical skills but won’t do well in management. It’s important to look at past performance, but also consider the employee’s strengths in the context of the new position. This is, in fact, why the internal interview process is so important.

The Internal Hiring Process

It’s important to make sure that all employees in the company that potentially qualify for the job have an equal chance to apply. This lets you avoid rumors about favoritism and can potentially find candidates you may not have originally considered for the position.

Most companies create an internal job board where open positions are posted and allow current employees to apply as they see fit. It’s important to encourage employees to consider new positions; let them know when a specific spot opens that might fit their skills. Having a manager invested in their career development can help an employee feel appreciated.

Vetting Internal Applicants

Once the job is posted, you may end up with a large number of applicants. You’ll need to carefully consider how you’ll approach candidates that aren’t qualified or aren’t suitable; they’ll need to be rejected in a way that still makes them feel valuable to the company in their current role.

This is something Human Resources can help with. Employee negativity can be an issue with internal hiring if other employees feel jealous, overlooked or unappreciated. You’ll need to have a way to manage these feelings.

How to Successfully Hire Internally

After you’ve selected the internal candidates you’re interested in interviewing, you’ll need to set up the interview process. This should include multiple stakeholders — usually other managers — and needs to be just as rigorous as an interview for an external candidate, although you’ll focus on different things. Make sure to consider the needs of the open position, and confirm that each employee could be successful in the new job.

After interviewing, review the results with the interview team and decide on a path forward for each candidate. Remember that you don’t have to hire an internal candidate. If no one fits the job, it’s time to look outside. If an employee is a good fit, then congratulations — you’re done. You’ll again have to carefully manage the rejection of other candidates and make a fair announcement regarding the new position.

Internal Interview Questions

A successful internal hire depends a lot on the interview process. The key is to make sure you’re asking the right questions. Here are some things to consider when developing your internal interview process:

  • Ask the employee why they are applying, and why they think they would be a good choice for this position. Often internal candidates will assume that a promotion or position move is an automatic thing that happens after a certain time or event. Make it clear that you’re looking for the right candidate, and have the employee tell you why it should be them.

  • Examine the employee’s past work. Ask them why they think they are successful in their current position, and encourage them to share details about challenging projects and notable successes. This is where you’ll want to ask questions that give you concrete examples of the candidate’s ability to communicate, collaborate and execute. Also, ask for examples of times the candidate felt they could have done better in hindsight, and how they’ve worked to improve going forward. 

  • Review their past work with regards to the open position. If this is a move into a management or leadership spot, you’ll want to ask about previous experience they have leading teams or projects, which can transfer over to the new skill set. 

Internal Interview Questions for Promotion

Some additional internal interview questions to ask employees include the following:

  • Inquire whether they’ve worked with any different departments that would be relevant to the new job. Understanding the company’s hierarchy is an important skill, and teamwork across disciplines is valuable.

  • Ask what they like about the workplace, and what they might change about it if they had the chance. An internal candidate’s approach to company culture is important; some jobs may require the teammate to make massive changes, whereas other positions might expect smooth sailing with the status quo. Consider what the position needs, and interview accordingly.

Teams for Interviewing

You’ll want to have an interview team to approach candidates with. This team should include the manager of the open position, as well as other managers whose departments will interact with the open position.

Sometimes it’s suitable to include the employee’s current manager in the interview process, but it isn’t always necessary. Make sure the team is prepared with targeted questions that will help fill in all of the gaps mentioned above and encourage them to use follow-up questions to dig into the candidate’s answers.

If you can find a good fit internally, it can make a lot of sense to promote from within. Keep in mind, though, that moving a current employee to a new role will leave that current role open, and you’ll have to consider a new pool of candidates for that spot.