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How NOT to Manage the Internal Hiring Process: Steer Clear of these Promotion Pitfalls


1/18/2011 5:10:50 AM

You’ve just received word that a supervisory position in your organization will be opening up in the next few weeks. Although you’ve got your eye on a few high-potential employees who have expressed interest in the managerial track, all of them have a few skill gaps, and you’re still not fully convinced that any of the candidates are ready to move up. What should you do?

In a few rare cases, promotions are a snap to manage. If you’ve already got a superstar on staff who is more than ready to take it to the next level, the internal hiring process can be as easy as 1-2-3. Unfortunately, as most personnel managers and HR professionals would surely attest, the promotion process rarely goes that smoothly.

Avoid These All-Too-Common Blunders

Ultimately, the success of the next promotion you oversee will depend on dozens of different factors. There’s no way to guarantee in advance that the candidate you select will be able to make a smooth transition to the new position and, once installed there, flourish. In fact, in most cases, all you can do is to make the best decision you can with the information and resources at your disposal -- and then cross your fingers and wait.

But what you can do to improve the chances that your next promotion will be a successful one is to make sure you’re avoiding some of the most common mistakes that can befall -- and befoul -- the internal hiring process. Here are a few friendly reminders about how NOT to promote from within the ranks.

Don’t play favorites.

Of course, it goes without saying that you shouldn’t advance your friends, relatives, or workplace buddies over other qualified candidates. But even though most managers would never stoop to outright nepotism, you’ve got to take it one step further than that to make sure you’re being completely fair. Ask yourself whether you might have a personal affinity or preference for one of the promotion candidates that might hinder your ability to be objective.

Remember, good employees don’t always make good supervisors.

Skill and experience are both important qualifications, but they’re not sufficient on their own to guarantee success in a higher-ranking position. Your best server may not be able to last a single shift as a floor supervisor. Likewise, some employees who don’t excel at frontline customer service might shine when it comes to overseeing their peers or managing behind-the-scenes operations. When it comes to promotions, look for leadership ability, rather than relying on experience and seniority as your only guides.

Don’t rely solely on your gut instinct.

Many managers claim to have an intuitive sixth sense that helps them identify employees who have promotion potential. There’s nothing wrong with working on a hunch, but try to back up your gut instinct with some tangible evidence of your protégé’s potential. Give them time to build up a solid record of achievement before you take a chance on offering a promotion.

Avoid ‘mercy’ promotions.

If you advance an employee who isn’t really cut out for a leadership position simply because they’ve been on staff for years or because you happen to know that they’re going through a tough time personally, things aren’t likely to end well. Even if your heart’s in the right place, you could be putting your entire operation at risk – and setting your employee up for a confidence-crushing failure. Instead of opting for the “sink or swim” method of promotion, you can help floundering employees develop an action plan to achieve the training and experience necessary to help them ease into a leadership position.

Don’t make a final decision without a pre-promotion interview.

Managers often assume that each and every employee on staff would be honored to be considered for a promotion, but in reality, that’s not always true. Before you make your final selection, schedule sit-down chats with each of the candidates to discuss the particulars of the new position. This will help you make a more informed assessment of each finalist’s willingness and suitability to transition into a leadership role.

Handling the promotion process effectively can be a tricky and delicate business, but if you can steer clear of these promotion “don’ts,” you’ve already won half the battle. Good luck!

Check out the latest Inside Recruiter eNewsletter - January 19, 2011.

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