Ironically at a time when companies are scrambling to fill vacancies and many jobs are going unfilled many employers still remain fixated on filling senior roles with external hires. This realization came home to me recently when one of my clients openly shared his career frustrations.
All that Glitters Isn’t Gold
My client described his employer’s hiring philosophy as a “fixation on the brightest, shiniest object in the room”. I prefer to use a line from Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice” (Act II, Scene VII):
“All that glitters is not gold
Often have you heard that told
Many a man his life hath sold
But my outsides to behold
Gilded tombs do worms enfold”
Too often, managers lack sufficient insights into the skills, talents and abilities of their team members. In a previous blog in April 2021 I spoke about this problem, and provided a list of remedies that managers and supervisors could use to ensure they know their team (https://competitiveedgecoaching.com/know-your-team-or-risk-losing-them/). In spite of this many managers still prefer to hire externally. Why?
Go Big and Go Outside
Here are some thoughts on why high calibre internal candidates often get by-passed in favour of external recruits:
1) The Grass is Greener on the Other Side: Too often supervisors believe that external candidates have better education, skills and capabilities than existing employees.
2) The Recency Effect: Many supervisors are dazzled by the last thing they see. If they interact with a promising, capable applicant they may presuppose that this individual has more potential than their current team members.
3) Younger is Better: If you or your co-workers are long-service employees then your supervisor may believe that younger applicants have more current skills or qualifications.
4) External Applicants are More Ambitious: Those seeking new opportunities are naturally perceived as being more ambitious and career focused. Perhaps your supervisor is impressed by an external candidate who is eager to work in your organization.
5) External Applicants Have a Broader Perspective: External candidates with varied work experience in different organizations are perceived as having a more varied profile. Like travel, work experience acquired in different companies is seen as expansive and broadening.
6) External Applicants Will Work Harder: Some supervisors believe that those seeking employment are inherently more resourceful and committed. The theory here is that someone who is ambitiously seeking a new job will leverage that energy and commitment in their new role.
7) External Applicants Have More Current Skills: This is a variation on the “Younger is Better” theme. The theory here is that a recent MBA grad has more awareness of current techniques and methodologies than an MBA who has been in the workplace for fifteen years.
8) Potential Realized: A major reason existing candidates get by-passed for promotional opportunities is that their manager or supervisor lacks confidence in their abilities. Perhaps you undertook a work project that didn’t go well. Maybe your level of job enthusiasm has waned as a result of long tenure in your current role. Whatever the reason may be perhaps your supervisor’s confidence in your potential has been compromised as a consequence of less than stellar performance or a job setback.
The Worst Recruitment Decision Ever
As a Human Resources professional with nearly forty years in the field I’ve witnessed many changes and evolutions that have had a beneficial impact on organizations. However, the worst development I’ve seen has been the propensity of companies and organizations to post jobs externally at the same time they post them internally. The theory is that it saves time while allowing an employer to compare external talent with the skills and abilities of internal candidates.
Unfortunately, the message it also sends is that senior management isn’t convinced that existing employees have the capabilities to do the job. It tells long service employees that rather than rewarding service or promoting a proven performer, senior management prefers to “hedge their bets”.
My advice to employers is that your job posting system needs to be clear, transparent and honest. If you insist on simultaneously posting openings internally and externally then ensure that fair and adequate consideration is given to both sets of applicants. If you decide to hire an external candidate then have the courtesy to meet with your internal applicants and openly share the reasons for your decision based on bona fide reasons and not “gut instinct”. Explain what they need to do to improve. Offer practical ideas and suggestions on how they can get better. Where possible, facilitate introductions to those who can assist them to grow, or provide opportunities to enable them to develop the skills they are lacking. Don’t just communicate a decision in an e-mail and expect that all is well.
A Final Thought…
One of the workplace realities in a post-pandemic world is that employees are exhausted, stressed and burned out. More than ever they are dissatisfied at work and looking to make a change. Some are leaving the workplace entirely.
If supervisors don’t start heeding employees, and that includes learning about, recognizing and valuing their qualifications, experience and ambitions, then they had best ramp up and dig in for a prolonged recruitment campaign. The war for talent is about to get a whole lot tougher.