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Hiring Externally vs. Promoting Internally

Building A Team

21 July, 2021

Sameer Khanna
Sameer Khanna

SVP of Engineering at Pager

Sameer Khanna, Senior Vice President of Engineering at Pager, is always thinking about ways to find the most deserving candidate for the job, whether from outside or within.


Deciding whether to promote internally or to hire from outside of your company is always a really interesting topic; I can speak to both sides of the coin. Many managers have trouble deciding when faced with this question.

The challenge involves the needs of the business as a whole. You have a difficult role to fill and you begin to look around. Where is your vacancy? What skills will be required to do this job? No matter who you’re hiring, you know that it’s going to take a lot of time and hands-on training to get this new person up to speed. What other factors are there to consider?

Actions taken

Training a new employee takes a lot of time and bandwidth, which is something to consider when weighing your options. If your needs are urgent, however, this initial investment may be well worth the time and the effort that it takes. You may be interested in finding senior-level professionals from the outside in order to mentor the juniors who are already a part of the company, for example. Consider what this new person will bring to your team.

Another thing to keep in mind is that simply promoting a current employee will not be enough to prepare them for this higher-level opportunity. It takes plenty of bandwidth to train any new manager, even one already familiar with the way that your company operates. If you don’t have the time or resources to support this person fully, the transition will be much more difficult for them to manage on their own.

If you’re trying to grow your team very quickly, the need to find talent outside of the organization is undeniable. This is doubly true for a newer company, or one experiencing an unusual period of growth. The first place that you should be looking for this missing link should be within your own ranks, however.

You should try to develop a sense for when an employee is going above and beyond; when you notice one who is, begin planning a path forward for them. This jump can be from junior to senior; perhaps it will entail a leap to something different, like a position in architecture. If you have an employee who is interested in transitioning from IC to manager, this is a great opportunity for them to grow into those shoes. Use these junctures to motivate and incentivize, to show your team that their ambition is something realistic and worthy of pursuit.

It’s always going to be a combination of these two sources of talent. It all depends on where you happen to be as a company. Look from within first. If the need for expertise in a specific area is dire enough, however, you may need to look for talent elsewhere. As a manager, you always have to think about what the consequences of the decisions that you make will be in the future.

Lessons learned

  • When you’re still a relatively small company, you can’t just promote everybody. When you promote somebody, you disturb the stability of the team. You may be taking an employee away from a role that only they are able to fill competently. They will be leaving a vacancy behind them that will need to be filled. When you promote somebody, who are you losing? Who will step up to the plate?
  • If you do choose to promote internally, you will be responsible for setting this person up for success. You can pair them with somebody who has experience in the role. It should not be an abrupt transition; allow them to relinquish their previous responsibilities gradually as they grow.
  • When a leader gives you a chance, you remember them for the rest of your life. Having that belief in an employee may give them the confidence and the validation to do things that they never thought that they would be capable of. The risk turns into a reward for everybody.

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