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Internal vs External Recruitment: Weighing up the Pros and Cons

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Alastair Brown – Chief Technical Officer at Bright HR. His opinions are his own.

Are you looking for your next employee? Sometimes the process can seem endless, can’t it? For every two or three great candidates you interview in the final stages, you can recall the scores of resumes and cover letters that you’ve dropped into shredders.

Some of those candidates missed your shortlist only marginally. Others possessed none of the essential criteria for the vacant position. And let’s not talk about the candidates whose carelessness liberated spelling and grammatical errors to wreak havoc across the white and black landscape of their resume.

It’s easy to blame the tools–your external recruitment methods (and your internal ones, for that matter). The job board didn’t lure the talented candidates the way it advertised… There were no viable leads at the careers event you blew a chunk of marketing budget on….

Sometimes, the handful of promising applicants among the roughage never presents itself, and you take the metaphorical high road–rather than risk hiring someone whose credentials leave you with a cautious gnawing in your gut, you restart the search. You refresh your job board listing, or post a new Hot Job! update.

And the same people apply.

That’s when it’s time to try a new external recruitment method.

It’s rare that a business can say with certitude that they’ve exhausted all available recruitment methods. We are creatures of habit. If one recruitment tactic is working, why change?

If another gave us a bad experience, we might be wary of using it again.

But of course, being wary is not good recruitment. Nor is never adapting. It’s not forward-thinking recruitment. It’s not aggressive. It’s defensive–it’s the relying on sturdy, known ground to fall back to when you meet difficulty.

We can never be sure that our single, reliable tactic is giving us the best candidates out there, can we? Reliable is good, but we use reliable to describe the worn car in the driveway that we’ve driven for ten years. It’s gurgling when we start it up, and long drives aren’t worth the discomfort anymore, but it’s never broken down. It’s reliable.

Reliability infects us with a sense of sentimentality–and that’s a dangerous feeling to have when there’s a world of alternative just outside, waiting for us to embrace change.

So in this post I’m going to talk about a host of recruitment methods you can use–internal and external–and about which of these methods are best. You probably use one or more of these already–but that one that you’re not using might be the one that leads you to the ideal candidate.

Internal recruitment methods

Sometimes you don’t need to use an external recruitment method. The ideal candidate is already in your employ. Recruiting from within can save you money, and occasionally time, too.

Promoting an existing employee

Promoting an existing employee to a higher role shows that your business supports the concept of career progression in a business. By promoting someone, you’re placing trust in the growth of their skill set and their acquired experience.

But are they ready for the responsibility of moving one step up the chain of command? You might not know the skill set of every employee inside out–that’s why line managers and supervisors exist, and you can look to the insight of these team leaders to ascertain whether an employee’s ready to progress their career to the next level.

Recruiting internally can raise morale and results

When you advertise a position through internal channels–via email or company intranet, for example, you’re presenting your staff with the opportunity to increase their job prospects, earn a higher salary, and prove they’re a capable asset to the company.

Many people accept a job knowing there’s a chance to develop personally and professionally if they work hard, with lucrative pay-rises in the picture, too. If you gift your employees this opportunity, you can measure their ambition. You’ll learn who wants to embrace the challenge; who thinks they’re not ready yet; and who is comfortable in their current state–for now.

Moving an employee from temp to perm

Upgrading an employee from temporary to permanent is a common method of recruiting from within. Your temp might prove over time that they’ve got the skills and the toughness for the role on a more intense, full-time basis.

Hire a retired employee

Employers often overlook this tactic. They shouldn’t. If you’re looking to build an extension on your house, would you ignore the opinion of your friend who’s been in the house extension industry for years? No, you’d take as much knowledge from them as you could to ensure you build the best extension possible. Retired and mature employees come with a wealth of experience and can be great for consultancy roles where you’re taking advantage of their knowledge and experience to reveal blindspots.

Sounds like internal is the way forward!

Your employees know how your company operates, sure. They already fit into the culture. Tasks and projects are familiar to them. They’ve formed relationships with colleagues.

Internal recruitment can reduce the time it takes for somebody to assimilate a business.

However, of course, internal recruitment methods are problematic for two critical reasons. First of all, there’s a limited pool of candidates. Even if you’re a 3,000-person firm, there are more potential candidates outside your company than inside it.

Second, your business doesn’t grow if you don’t hire from the outside.

External recruitment methods

I shall now explore the external recruitment methods available to you. It’s worth noting quickly, though, that embracing these methods doesn’t mean forsaking career progression of your employees.

Even recruitment agencies use recruitment agencies

They call it rec2rec! Where one recruitment agency specialises in sourcing seafarers and another agency can find you digital marketers in hours, there are recruitment companies whose expertise is in finding other recruitment consultants.

The beauty of using a recruitment agency is that they do much of the hard work for you–that’s why you pay them a fee once you’ve hired your new employee.

They gather applications, they create the shortlist of promising talent, they screen the talent with phone interviews, and then they send you a run-down of whom they believe to be the most suitable. All you have to do is conduct interviews and make your decision. You’ve saved time that you can invest in strengthening your business.

Job boards

Job boards are the number one source for sourcing candidates–they simply have the volume like no other recruitment method does.

LinkedIn is a great example of an innovative job board combined with social media. People call it the professional’s Facebook. Most users decorate their profile to appeal to prospective employers. It’s a place to show off your certificates, your work experience, testimonials about you, and you can post status updates too.

Of course, there are plenty of other job boards, many tailored to certain regions or industries. Do your research–some workers sign up to popular job boards, others stick to niche, industry-focused ones. You need to research which tactics will lead you to the best candidates.

The printed word is still alive and well

We all have our preference of newspaper, magazine, journal, book, and so on. Some people still turn to newspapers and industry journals to find jobs. They circle the job ad in red as the camera focuses on the job title and number to call; often the circle is more an oval, and then there’s a short scene where they’re standing by the window looking out at the busy passersby on the sidewalk, as we the audience listen to one end of an important phone call…

Or that’s how it is in the movies, anyway. Nevertheless, if you’re not printing your job ad in a publication, you’re missing a portion of candidates.

In addition, these publications all have websites, and those websites likely have a section for jobs. In this way, it’s another job board.

Careers events

Careers events at universities, colleges, and high schools often, by design, lure candidates who’re at the start of their career search. These events are crawling with enthusiastic and talented people who want to know more about your industry and your business; but most importantly, they want to tell you about what they can offer you.

Each instance of networking you do at an event like this is a chance to informally interview somebody to gauge their knowledge and their personality. In the current climate, where a job is a gig and the driven people are getting after it at 5am every morning, exposing yourself to the next generation of talent is pivotal if you’re going to understand how to entice them to work for your business.

Which methods are best?

External recruitment methods have more to offer. That’s the cut and dry of it.

You might have to pay to use them, and you will definitely experience your fair share of chaff before you come across wheat. However, you will reach a wider audience, your company name will be out in the ether, gaining traction, and the person you hire might possess outside experience that can innovate your company.

But that’s not to say don’t try all methods. You now know, if you didn’t already, that internal hiring has its benefits too.

Alastair Brown

Alastair Brown is the chief technical officer at Bright HR - Alastair is responsible for driving forward BrightHR’s expansion plans and the management of the businesses technological needs.

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