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When to Hire or Promote From Within

Both strategies have their plus sides. But which choice is the right choice for your team? By ICPAS Staff | Digital Exclusive

Promote or Hire

So, you have a management-level finance/accounting position to fill. You have employees vying for the job, but you want to see what the outside talent pool has to offer. Which strategy is the right strategy: Promoting from within or hiring from without?

Promote From Within

Promoting from within makes the best use of an existing talent pool, and virtually ensures that the new recruit has at least some knowledge of the position, its responsibilities and company or firm expectations—not to mention having the comfort of knowing this person will be a good cultural fit. It’s also less expensive than hiring someone new, and creates a sense of consistency within the organization.

Wait, there's more. Promoting from within serves as a great motivational tool for current employees, who see that their employer takes an aggressive stance on pushing team members up the ladder whenever possible. Existing employees then have something to work for, knowing that they may be considered for a promotion when a position eventually opens up. That alone can help to strengthen loyalty.

For small to mid-sized accounting firms, hiring techniques often become an exercise in succession planning, with each new promotion helping to build a secure future in the marketplace. However, you need to be careful to avoid resentment among employees when one is picked for the job over another.

Also, when looking internally for candidates, remember that accounting skills differ from managerial skills. Just because someone is a superb accountant doesn't necessarily make that person a fabulous manager. The latter takes communication, team-building and motivational skills, for example, that an accountant may not have experience with or be comfortable with.

Hire From Without

However, if you’re after something other than the same old point of view or cultural orientation, then it might be better to hire from the outside. Sometimes you want to shake things up, and you do that by carefully selecting someone not associated with the organization.

By looking beyond your own four walls for new employees, you’re able to increase competencies, boost diversity and potentially expand or improve the services you offer your client base. It also brings someone into the mix who can objectively evaluate the business’ internal systems and suggest areas for improvement. What's more, it sends a message to the marketplace that “this enterprise is growing.”

From a succession standpoint, if your current team hasn't offered up an obvious star or two to potentially groom as your organization's future leader, then creating a checklist of the qualities you're looking for, and going out into the marketplace to find them, may be the strategy you really need.

Whether promoting from within or hiring from without, it’s imperative that current employees are aware of the process, and given a fair opportunity to raise their hands and interview when a position opens up. Clearly relate the important criteria you’re looking for, and realize that not everyone wants to be promoted—some people are quite happy where they are.

If you do end up going with an external hire, make the time to personally meet with each of your internal candidates, explaining why the decision was made to hire from outside the company. Ensure that your new hire will be welcomed and accepted by your team, and give them as much information as you can about the unique skill set and approach this new hire will offer.

There is no wrong or right strategy; the goal is simply to hire just the right person for the job. Look both inside and outside your company, evaluate honestly, and make the most informed choice you possibly can.