Why You Should Interview Internal Candidates Who Apply for a Job
Senior executives are always looking for ways to save time. So when an internal candidate applies for a job for which they are obviously not qualified, it can be tempting to skip scheduling an interview with them. It feels like a total waste of time.
That's a serious mistake.
Give your full and fair consideration to current employees. You're not "wasting an hour" on a mere courtesy. You're investing in their future productivity.
If you skip an internal candidate’s interview, or dismiss their qualifications out of hand, they might think you don’t value the work issue nearest and dearest to their heart — their own career. And if they feel you don’t care, they might pay that back in kind — with declining work quality. If you take the time to give them honest consideration, they're more likely to stay engaged in their work.
It also benefits you to take the time to speak with them. But the key is to schedule the internal candidates' interviews at the end of the day, only after you have met with the external candidates. By that time, you’ll have an excellent, refined perspective on what each person can bring to the job. Interviewing a slate of external candidates informs and improves your judgment about the internal candidates. It gives you perspective.
It's far easier to explain why you ultimately selected someone else if the employee who was "passed over for promotion" also sat across from you and answered the same tough questions. They may also be more supportive of your new hire because you have concrete reasons why you made the decision.
Business guru Peter Drucker captured the essence of this dilemma perfectly in his 1967 business classic "The Effective Executive":
“To spend a few minutes with people is simply not productive. If one wants to get anything across, one has to spend a fairly large minimum quantum of time. The manager who thinks that he can discuss the plans, direction, and performance of one of his subordinates in 15 minutes — and many managers believe this — is just deceiving himself... “This leisurely exchange is needed equally in a government agency and in a business, in a research lab and in an army staff. Without it, the knowledge people either lose enthusiasm and become time-servers, or they direct their energies toward their specialty and away from the opportunities and needs of the organization. But such a session takes a great deal of time, especially as it should be unhurried and relaxed. People must feel that “we have all the time in the world.” This actually means that one gets a great deal done fast. But it means also that one has to make available a good deal of time in one chunk and without too much interruption... “Wherever knowledge workers perform well in large organizations, senior executives take time out, on a regular schedule, to sit down with them, sometimes all the way down to green juniors, and ask: “What should we at the head of this organization know about your work? What do you want to tell me regarding this organization? Where do you see opportunities we do not exploit? Where do you see dangers to which we are still blind?”
If even Drucker cannot convince you to spend an hour of your time with an employee, then you have a whole different issue to consider. You’ve probably given up on that employee, and if you have, you owe it to yourself and the employee to cut them loose. Perhaps instead of scheduling the interview, you should take that time to chat with HR about a graceful way to part company with them. To help clarify your thinking, download our 2 minute assessment.
If you'd like to stop wasting your time on the irrelevant, superficial aspects of interviewing, and start understanding the deeper elements of what really predicts success a new hire, read our post on How to Conduct a Job Interview so Top Performers Actually Want to Take Your Job. And, if you prefer all that research and information pulled together into one attractive document you can easily share with others, download our Employer Guide to Interviewing.