Five Steps to a Great Internal Hire

Article by:

Kristen Harris
EO Columbus
Kristen Harris - EO Columbus

You’re only as good as your team. As the owner of a recruiting and staffing firm, that statement rings true, especially when it comes time to getting the right people in the right positions. Lately, we’ve been doing a lot of internal candidate interviews. Even though we’re in the business of assessing talent for our clients, doing it for ourselves can still prove difficult. We’re more personally invested, and it’s harder to be objective when we’re interviewing people we already know. Here are five steps that have helped us conduct better interviews and retain quality employees:

1. Clarify Values: First, we had to get very clear about who we are and what we stand for. Our leadership team took a critical look at the company’s internal values and mission, and while they were nice, they didn’t spell out defined behaviors that our team could point to. We worked together to identify “Passion,” “Growth,” “Drive,” “Excellence” and “Accountability” as inherent to our company. This wasn’t a change from who we were; we just identified what really matters to us. Having this level of clarity continues to give us a solid benchmark to work from when we assess both internal and external candidates.

2. Develop More Thoughtful Questions: We created a set of interview questions that help us assess a candidate’s perspective against our values. For example, we ask questions like, “What does excellence mean to you?” or “Describe a past failure and what you learned from the experience.” I think asking questions that focus on difficult experiences are important because often, a person’s true character shines through when things don’t go as planned. By using the same open-ended questions for every candidate, we gave each of them the opportunity to talk about things we care about and could evaluate them consistently.

3. Interview for Values: Our leadership team does a values interview with each final candidate (internal or external), where they ask more in-depth, experience-based questions. The hiring manager has already assessed skills, background and other requirements of the job. At this point, we are looking for more clues as to how well this person truly fits within our culture and expectations. There’s definitely a difference between an employee knowing how a company operates and actually operating within a company’s values.

4. Be Exclusive: We value the closeness, worth and trust that’s been built within our internal team. This has taken valuable time, so we treat employment as an exclusive club with strict requirements for entry. We know one bad fit can tip the delicate balance, so the candidate needs to be just the right person to be invited in. While there aren’t any right or wrong answers to our open-ended questions, we do look for “red flags” that might signal something different than the candidate is trying to portray.

5. Leverage Your Network: We do ask candidates for references, but I always assume those are carefully chosen people who are sure to say good things. In this interconnected world, it’s not hard to find someone who knows the person I’m interviewing. I always reach out to a few trusted people to get their perspective on the candidate. These connections have no vested interest, but I do know they wish the best for me and my business. It’s helped us find wonderful people and avoid potential hires that wouldn’t have fit well with us in the future.

To me, there’s nothing worse than hiring the wrong person, whether it’s for our client or for us. No hiring process is perfect or foolproof, but this values-based interview approach has given us a better way to assess whether or not a candidate is the best fit for our team.

Kristen Harris is a member of EO Columbus, as well as the COO and co-founder of Portfolio Creative, the nation’s fastest-growing recruiting and staffing firm focused solely on the creative sector. Contact Kristen at kristen@portfoliocreative.com.

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