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Internal Candidate

Nurturing Internal Candidates for In-House Talent Acquisition


Looking to hire some new employees? The best place to look might be on your own payroll! Nurturing internal candidates is a hidden goldmine within your organization — not only because they are a known entity who already know their way around your business, but also because promoting and developing internal candidates within your company increases employee tenure and sends a message that your company is a great place to work and grow!

Nurturing internal candidates is about recognizing the potential in your own backyard before venturing out into the wilds of the job market. Internal candidates already understand the company playbook, and by helping them to advance within your company you can be sure you’re keeping that intellectual capital in-house. 

Because they’re internal candidates they don’t need to be newly onboarded to the organization. They can hit the ground running when it comes to your culture. That said, you’ll want to make sure you’re onboarding them to their new role or team in a way that sets them up for success!

In this post, we explore internal candidates’ differences from external ones, the unique benefits they bring, the challenges they might pose, and, ultimately, how you can cultivate a thriving environment that encourages internal growth and mobility.

Internal vs. External Candidates

An internal candidate is someone already employed within your organization who’s eyeing a leap into a new role, whether it’s a step up, a lateral move, or even a creative shuffle across departments. They’re known quantities, embedded within your culture and workflows, making waves and eyeing growth opportunities from within.  

In contrast, an external candidate is an outsider, freshly introduced to the scene, bringing new perspectives and perhaps a sprinkle of spice from beyond your corporate borders. They’re the wild cards, the unknowns, the fresh eyes that might spot what’s been overlooked.  

While both types of candidates can enrich your team, they do so in distinct ways. Internal candidates offer continuity and reassuring predictability; they know the ropes, the people, and the core values that drive your company. Their journey within the organization means less time spent on basic training and more on advancing strategic goals. External candidates can inject fresh energy and potentially disruptive ideas that challenge the status quo, driving innovation and change. They come with diverse experiences and potentially broader skill sets that haven’t been shaped (or confined) by your company’s ways of doing things.

Understanding these distinctions is crucial as it helps tailor your recruitment strategy to align with organizational goals, ensuring that you not only fill positions but also foster an environment of growth, sustainability, and continuous improvement. 

Benefits and Challenges of Hiring Internal Candidates

Benefits of Hiring Internal Candidates

Hiring does help you fill a position quickly — but it’s also about capitalizing on investment in your team. Because they are already hip to your company culture, internal candidates  have a very different candidate experience. They are more likely to embody the values and behaviors that matter to you. That’s because they’ve been around the culture block with you, they like you enough to still be there,  they know the unspoken rules, and they understand what success looks like. This makes the transition into a new role a lot smoother and less likely to result in churn.

Reduced training and onboarding time is another significant perk. Internal candidates require less time to become fully operational in their new roles, which not only speeds up productivity but also reduces costs associated with lengthy training periods. Speaking of costs, the overall recruitment expenses also drop hugely when hiring internally. That’s due to a whole lot less spending on advertising, interviewing, vetting, and onboarding newcomers from outside.

Internal hires usually adapt to their new roles faster than external hires. That’s because they have an established network of human connections within the company and a deeper understanding of its strategic goals. This can lead to increased morale and motivation across the team, as it demonstrates a pathway for growth and advancement within the company, boosting overall employee engagement and satisfaction.

And finally, internal candidates are a known quantity. You have a transparent view of their work ethic and performance history. There’s no need to predict how they’ll handle stress or manage workflows—they’ve shown what they are all about, already!

Challenges of Hiring Internal Candidates

That isn’t to say the road to promoting internally isn’t without its bumps. For one, you might be lowering the expectations bar just a little in order to give an existing employee a shot — and that comes with risks, like compromising on certain skills or experiences that might be more readily available in the external job market. 

There’s also the risk of becoming too inward-looking and overlooking external talent who could bring fresh perspectives and innovations into the organization. When you move an employee into the next stage of their employee lifecycle, it often creates a vacancy behind them that needs to be filled. That isn’t such a big problem if you’ve got great recruiting and solid, connected onboarding — but you need to be prepared.

Lastly, there’s a potential perception of favoritism or bias. If not every employee feels they have the same opportunities for growth, it could lead to dissatisfaction and disengagement. It’s important to maintain fairness and transparency unless you want to undermine the very culture you are trying to boost — which may mean posting internal jobs so every employee has a fair shot.

Things to Consider in Your Internal Candidate Selection Process

Here are six things to keep in mind as you go through the process of evaluating and choosing an internal hire. 

  • Assessing Skill Set and Experience: Pay some attention to whether an internal candidate’s skills and experience align with the demands of the open position. Yes, familiarity with the company’s processes is a plus — and you want to give an internal candidate the benefit of the doubt — but understand what your dealmakers and dealbreakers are, and ensure that your internal candidate also brings the necessary technical skills or the capability to quickly acquire them. Don’t just fit a person into a role; consider how their career trajectory and experiences prepare them for the responsibilities they will take on.


  • Performance History: Don’t fall victim to assumptions or cognitive bias. Review the candidate’s performance history to gauge their consistency and growth. Have they met their KPIs? How have they contributed to their teams? Past performance can be a reliable indicator of future success, but it’s important to analyze it in the context of the new role’s specific demands.


  • Career Aspirations: Align the role with the candidate’s career aspirations. This alignment not only ensures that the candidate is motivated and engaged but also aids in retaining top talent. Understand their professional goals during one-on-one discussions and consider how these align with the trajectory of the position offered.


  • Cultural Fit and Impact on Team Dynamics: While internal candidates are familiar with the company culture, assess how their transition will impact team dynamics. Consider how their leadership style or work approach will mesh with the new team or department. This alignment—or lack thereof—can significantly influence team performance and morale.


  • Development Opportunities: Consider how the role serves as a development opportunity for the candidate. Will it challenge them? Does it require new skills or higher levels of responsibility? Providing opportunities for growth not only benefits the candidate but also helps your organization cultivate a more skilled workforce.


  • Fairness and Transparency: Maintain transparency and fairness throughout the selection process to ensure good morale and trust across the teams involved. Clear communication about the selection criteria, the decision-making process, and feedback for those not selected are essential to avoid internal conflict and perceptions of bias. This approach fosters a positive workplace culture, encouraging all employees to aspire to internal opportunities.

How to Onboard Internal Hires

Yes, even your internal candidates need a robust onboarding process when transitioning into new roles! It’s a common misconception that shifting roles within the same company is straightforward—far from it. Onboarding internal hires is crucial to help them adjust to new responsibilities and dynamics effectively.

First, craft a detailed onboarding or transition plan tailored to the nuances of the new position. This should go beyond mere administrative setups to include deep dives into new role expectations and success metrics. (Be sure to check out our 4Cs of onboarding, which are just as applicable for internal moves.)  Connect movers with key teammates and stakeholders early on to foster essential relationships and align their objectives with broader team goals.

Equally important is connecting them to vital information and organizational resources. This might include access to new tools, systems, or even training sessions specific to their new duties. Ensure there’s a structured system to gradually hand over their former responsibilities. This dual focus prevents them from juggling two roles and allows them to commit fully to their new position.

How to Create a Culture of Internal Mobility

If you want people to apply to advance within your company — instead of bouncing to another employer to advance — you’ll need to create an environment where continuous development and support matter.  Taking a proactive approach will protect employee retention and also boost satisfaction and feelings of affinity.

But how can you help people think positively about internal mobility? Start by growing real human connections not only within but across departments. Encourage employees from different teams to collaborate on projects or participate in mixed departmental gatherings. This not only broadens their understanding of the company but also dissipates any silos that might form.

Another way you can encourage people to become internal candidates is to put some emphasis on professional development and mutual support within the team dynamics. Start up mentorship programs, where more experienced employees guide newer or less experienced ones, facilitating knowledge transfer and leadership development. Encourage managers to actively support their team members’ growth by providing them with opportunities to take on new challenges. Make sure everyone knows what positions are open or opening up across the organization — and what skills they require.

You’re also going to want to put the ki-bosh on “talent hoarding,” where managers inhibit staff from moving to different parts of the company to keep strong performers in their team. Instead, reward managers who champion employee growth across the organization, reinforcing a culture that values long-term career development over short-term gains.

By embedding these principles into your corporate culture, you create a dynamic environment where everyone sees growth opportunities and feels genuinely supported in their career aspirations.

Fuel Your Talent Strategy: Leverage Internal Candidates

By effectively onboarding internal hires and fostering a culture of internal mobility, you ensure that your employees are continuously engaged, highly productive, and deeply connected to your company’s mission and values.

Are you ready to enhance your internal mobility strategy and see your organization thrive from within? Reach out to us at Enboarder, for a few best-practice workflows that can help you to hit the ground running on internal moves. Let us help you make every internal move a stepping stone to greater success!