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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

why do companies post positions when they end up hiring internally?

A reader writes:

Another question along the lines of job rejections. I have been applying to jobs at the company for which I used to work (I left to stay home with kids). I still have great references from colleagues and managers; they pass my resume and cover along with recommendations if they know the hiring manager. While this gets me in for interviews, the jobs are invariably given to internal candidates. In the most recent case, the hiring manager called to tell me, was very apologetic, offered to help connect me for future postings, asked to keep my resume. I gained a great contact, but no offer. I emailed to thank her for calling me personally and said I would take her up on her offer.

That said, I wonder why companies post positions externally if they need to hire internally? Is it to save the time it would take to post externally if no appropriate internal candidate applies? I understand the need to give the job to someone already within the ranks, but it is really frustrating to go through the process, get one’s hopes up after a great interview, only to be told that they went with someone from inside. Can you provide any insight?

It's true that sometimes a company plans to hire an internal candidate and is just going through the motions with others, often because their internal rules require that every job be posted, that a certain number of candidates be interviewed, etc.

But this is often not the case, and I've noticed that candidates -- the external ones -- tend to assume it's true even when they don't have reason to believe it is.

Often what happens is this: A job opens up. An internal candidate expresses interest. The employer welcomes their interest, but isn't ready to anoint them and genuinely wants to consider other candidates as well. In this case, the internal candidate is one of many candidates on relatively even footing. They may get the job, or they may not. But in cases where they do, it can look like that was the plan all along, even when it wasn't.

Other times, all the candidates aren't on even footing. The internal candidate is the first choice -- but the employer is truly open to finding someone better. It's just that the bar is high, because the internal candidate will have a shorter learning curve and is a known quantity. That bar can be beat, but it's a much higher jump than it would be without that candidate there.

In both these cases, the company isn't acting with no regard for your time; they're genuinely open to hiring you. 

Now, there's an argument to be made that companies should tell applicants when there's a strong internal candidate, so that people can factor that into their expectations. I've done that in the past and never had anyone withdraw their application.

By the way, the obvious assumption is that internal candidates have a leg up because they know the people, the work, the culture, and this is true. But they may also be at a disadvantage, because the employer knows them so well that they know whatever weaknesses they bring. I've turned down internal candidates because of weaknesses that I knew about only through working with them, stuff that never would have come out in the interview process. Now, smart managers balance that knowledge against the knowledge that external candidates have hidden weaknesses too, ones that we just don't know about yet, but you can't ignore what you know.

Anyway, the point is this: Yes, sometimes companies go through the motions with external candidates, when they know all along that they're likely to hire someone internal, and that's rude and inconsiderate. But it's often that's not what's happening; often they're truly considering you. And remember, you can go through the process, have a great interview, get your hopes up, and lose out to an external candidate too -- it's just that when it's an internal candidate, it's easy to think, "Well, they must have known this all along." But maybe they didn't.


Stacey said...

I had a really irritating experience recently when an HR person emailed me about coming in for an interview, and asked me when my availability was for the following Monday or Wednesday. I said that Monday sounded great and I was free to come in at their convenience. So I hadn't heard back by the end of the day (Friday) and sent a friendly email to check in. Nothing. I sent a curt email on Tuesday (my 3rd email back, by the way) asking if they would still like to conduct an interview and she FINALLY wrote back and said that the position had been filled internally but that they would "keep my information on file." So rude.

I don't normally like to burn bridges but in this case I wouldn't want to work for a company who treats people so carelessly anyway, so I wrote back and told her not to bother.

Anonymous said...

On the flip side, there are times that internal employees feel like they are given courtesy interviews when they know the managers want to go outside to hire. You may see the same internal people interviewed for the second, third, or fourth time for the same job.

cassie said...

For our organization, positions must be open to the public. You can't just say "I want to hire this person", without posting the job announcement, reviewing resumes, interviewing candidates, etc. Even when it's a highly technical position, they still have to solicit applicants.

On the other hand, I've seen some organizations (including our county) who has a list of job openings where anyone can apply, and then another list where only current employees can apply.

I think it's unfair for applicants who take the time and effort to apply and come in to interview, when the hiring managers already plan on hiring an internal candidate (who may not even be as qualified as other applicants). There must be a better way - though I don't know what.

I do have to say that I've been in 2 instances where I was already "chosen" for the position - one was because I was the assistant and when the person left, I was the heir apparent. In the other case, it was a new position, but one that was created essentially for me. But I feel that I was qualified for those positions (because of my familiarity with the work), unlike other situations I've seen where people at lower job titles are hired at higher titles with the understanding that they will "grow" into that position.

I'm not sure about the details regarding job openings/announcements, but some postings are open for a couple of months, while others are open only for a couple of weeks. I think in the cases with shorter application periods, they may already know who they are hiring and are just going through the procedure.

Anonymous said...

At my organization it is supposedly a requirement that all jobs be posted internally for five days at a minimum prior to beginning the interview process (jobs may be posted externally as well, if the hiring manager so chooses). The reason for this is to allow any employee who feels they are qualified for an open position to apply and be considered.

Of course, just because an employee applies does not guarantee that they are actually qualified or that they will be interviewed, but at least it gives the hiring manager an opportunity to review the potential internal applicants that s/he may not have been aware of.

What I have a problem with is when the hiring manager already has someone picked out for the position (employee, friend, colleague, whatever) and just goes through the motions of having the position posted to fulfill the policy requirements. The reason for the policy is to give all employees who are qualified the opportunity to apply and at least be considered for the position, when the decision has been made before the job is even posted it means they are just blindly following the letter of the law without regard to the spirit of why it exists.

Revanche said...

I've been told I was up against an internal candidate and I appreciated the honesty. There was nothing I could do with the information and I put my best foot forward as I normally would have.

It was a bit intimidating but I still got the job.

It turns out that the internal candidate wasn't qualified at all, really, for the job description.

In the same job search, I was given a shot with an interview even though there were stronger internal candidates and the HM was honest with me when she turned me down as well. *shrug* Win some, lose some.

It's a frustrating process no matter who you're up against.

J.M. said...

I work for a Fortune 500 company where there are cases that I would actually like to higher someone internally (shorter training period, etc.) from a different department, but am forbidden to "raid" that other department. Therefore, even though I have multiple applicants from within the company, I'm forced to look at external candidates.

This policy has led some of my staff to question why they are never successful when posting for an internal decision, even if they have my support.

I guess sometimes the external candidate may actually have the advantage.

ImpureScience said...

Actually, there are organizations (universities, for instance) that are required by law to post jobs externally regardless of their intentions.

Anonymous said...

Let's discuss this scenario. I was laid off over a year ago. With 30 years of progressive and additional college training to enhance my career. I have applied for the same position and even lower salary positions. Sent out to date, 2,324 resumes on job boards, newspapers, etc. Called the next day as a follow up on each position and have had 3 phone interviews, only by the recruiters representing the companies that they have an alliance with. And have had 3 owners/HR/Hiring Managers set up a time to have a phone interview. Also, not one, that's right not one instance where I was called into the companies office for a face to face interview. Have had resume re-tooled many times for all positions applied to. I could have walked my neighborhood that 2,324 times I sent in resumes, and sold a broken vacuum cleaner at a new cost price at those odds. Here are several questions for you folks to respond to:

1. Why are jobs posted so long on job boards and the companies webite, and never, ever get filled, or the internal candidate is selected, or a friend is selected from an employee within the company (On one of the few times on an phone interview with a staffing firm recruiter, at a certain point during the discussion, the recruiter slip and said that they had a friend that may not qualify for this same position, and in the end the friend got the job that was not qualified for, as I knew this person)?
2. After you have submitted your resume, when you call to follow up to be proactive, the recruiters act as if you are bothering them. Why would they do that? It goes against all the grain, that job posting websites say, to be persistent.
3. I am 50 years old, can that be a proven factor? This one is touchy with a lot of folks.
4. I have been to many staffing firms, consultant firms, etc. and asked what it is that I am not doing right, or what can I do to ensure much better results to get a position. All of them, say this or that is what you should do, so they are paid for their services, and the knowledge that they gave me after paying them has never worked.

*** I will stop with this, and no ask for anymore questions at this time, although I have more. Just read and join in on the topic(s)

Anonymous said...

Quite honestly. Just typical company political responses. It looks good to say you are considering external candidates, but in actuality most jobs are more comfortable with internal because there is less training and less expense. That's how business works - it's is ultimately about dollars and cents.

Anonymous said...

Wal-Mart is the master of posting positions to external outlets with no intention of hiring externally.