Hire from the outside or promote from within? It’s a question best answered with a qualifier: it depends.
I’m a big believer of the adage, “numbers don’t lie.” But studies aren’t always clear cut and that’s because there are legitimate pros and cons. Still, after 20 years of hiring, it’s easy to draw some basic conclusions.
1. If you want to increase your odds, go with the internal candidate. You should already know the individual’s strengths and weaknesses, cultural fit and moral compass. What you won’t know immediately is whether they can reach the next level. We have all seen exceptional “hourlies” that just can’t make the jump to a “leadership” role.
2. An external candidate may be the perfect solution if your team and culture has become stale and rigid and needs an outsider’s view. In fact, a new perspective is one of the main reasons I like to bring in outside candidates.
3. Be prepared to be wrong, no matter who you hire. Even after hiring “leaders” for two decades, I still sometimes feel it’s a toss up. Anyone who tells you differently is just not that honest.
Personally, I will always tip the scale for the internal candidate. If you can’t hire or promote from within, essentially you’re admitting that your culture/bench is simply not that strong.