Hiring Leaders: Look Inside or Outside?

An opening on the leadership team is more than just an open headcount to fill. It’s a potential tipping point for the organization. Before you post that job req, think through the impact this hire will have on the organization. The decision to promote from within or hire externally should really come down to what the organization needs.

When it’s time for a breath of fresh air, hire external. Nothing shakes things up like an external hire.

  • A new leader to the organization can break the pattern of negative or counterproductive behaviors.
  • They can raise the bar, change expectations, and challenge cultural norms.
  • But above all, they ask questions. While they’re just seeking to understand how things are done and why, often those questions uncover gaps, redundancies, waste, and lack of strategy.

An external hire also brings more diverse experience to your team. At their previous employer, they built a skill set that was unique to that organization. Those skills may or may not be lacking on your current team. The leader was also exposed to different technologies, processes, reporting styles, thinking styles, strategy, and evaluation. Some of those past experiences and processes may be exactly what your team has been missing all along.

But, if what your team needs is stability and someone who doesn’t rock the boat, an internal hire may be the best way to go. When you promote from within, you acknowledge the talent within your organization and reaffirm that you believe in creating careers, not just hourly jobs. An internal hire usually has a much shorter learning curve, already knows internal stakeholders, understands organizational politics, and embraces the current culture.

  • In addition to saving money due to reduced ramp up time, internal promotions are typically less expensive than hiring externally.
  • They’re also more predictable. A current employee has a proven track record that can be measured and trusted more than the positive spin all external candidates put on their past experiences.

Each type of candidate has advantages and disadvantages. The main takeaway is you must first analyze exactly what your company needs. But, if you look across your current talent pool and can’t identify at least one potential candidate for promotion, then you have a bigger problem on your hands than this one leadership opening. You have a training, development, coaching and succession planning issue that must be addressed immediately.

You may still decide that you need to hire an external candidate, but you never want that to be your only option because you’ve failed to groom any high potentials.