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The Great Debate: Internal or External Hires

A new vacancy has opened up on your team and you face the decision of where to hire from. The good news? If you’ve been assessing and developing your leadership bench as we’ve shared in previous emails, this process should be more successful and significantly less painful. It starts with a question.

What does your organization need accomplished in this position?

Don’t be fooled into focusing on job descriptions and resumes too early. Instead, consider what your organization hopes to realize from this addition.

  • Are you hoping to build off of current momentum and continue incremental growth? If so, focus on internal promotions. Internal hires will be familiar with your organizational culture, expectations and norms. This minimises disruptions inherent in leadership transitions. Additionally, the overall hiring process will be more streamlined compared to that of an external hire.


  • Are you hoping to significantly change the culture or direction of your organization? Pivoting positions or making significant changes to your speed or process of business will be best served by an external hire. Most people expect big cultural changes with an external hire, which works to your advantage as you reposition your organization.

A quick note on external hires as you go through the interview process. You likely choose an external hire because of their power to disrupt. However, finding the right fit is crucial if you’re to fully harness this power to shift your organization. Plan to take the time for multiple interviews, varying the style, so you can form a more holistic understanding of what they bring to the table.

Additionally, including your team in feedback loops can really help you assess each candidate. You can do this by scheduling time for each candidate to spend time with the team outside of the presence of senior management. You’ll gain valuable insight, and may help smooth the transition by encouraging team buy-in before a decision is made.

Whether you’re hoping to harness the power of disruption or capitalize on current growth, identifying the organizational needs for your hiring process allows you to narrow down candidates with confidence. By tailoring the process to each type of hire, you’ll gain keen insight that will help set both your new hire and organization up for long term success.

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