Man documenting how to manage internal candidate applications

How to successfully manage internal candidate applications

Managing the processing of internal candidates, while also ensuring the relationship doesn’t sour, can be a balancing act.

The recruitment process for external candidates is a practice we talk through a lot. But it’s much trickier to appropriately manage internal candidate applications. Especially if the applicant will ultimately be unsuccessful.

The delicacy of handling internal candidate applications

Managing external candidates can be more straightforward, as it’s essentially a cold introduction to a business. But, managing the application and processing of internal candidates, while also ensuring the relationship doesn’t sour, can be a balancing act.

To successfully manage internal candidate applications, you will have to consider things like:

  • The internal candidate’s motivations – Will they be happy if they do not attain the new position?
  • Delivering feedback – How can that be communicated without affecting the existing relationship?
  • Privacy – How will you ensure the recruit remains confidential from their colleagues, especially in the event they are unsuccessful?

Managers discuss how to manage internal candidate applications

How to successfully manage internal candidate applications

  1. Treat external and internal applications the same

This one is obvious in theory but difficult in practice.

With an internal candidate, you know already that they will be a good culture fit and you may personally be aware of their work ethic, skills or experience. However, you can’t let this bias your judgement (read our blogs, How to avoid bias in the recruitment process and How to reduce hiring bias when virtually recruiting).

Don’t skip any steps in your recruitment process and do due diligence in looking at all candidates fairly. Fresh eyes, like a Recruitment Consultant, can help eliminate unconscious bias.

  1. Provide timely and constructive feedback

It’s always important to provide feedback as soon as possible. When providing feedback, make it useful. If they lack experience or skill, let the candidate know so that they work on this area. If their interview faltered at a particular question, let them know how they could have improved upon it. Set clear timelines on when you will deliver this feedback, so all parties feel clear on the process.

You have to be delicate when you manage internal candidate applications

  1. Acknowledge their interest

The very fact that they chose to apply for an internal position speaks volumes about their commitment to the company. It also shows shared values, culture and fit. It goes a long way to acknowledge their interest and how much this means to have employees like the internal candidate in the company.

  1. Manage unsuccessful candidates with respect and honesty

The internal candidate may have all the skills and experience for the role, and still, be unsuccessful in securing the position.

Delivering this feedback requires a face-to-face conversation (or phone call, at minimum) to explain why another candidate was chosen and potential areas they could improve. Don’t soften the blow by saying things like, “it’s a no for now” unless you truly mean it. It’s fine to keep their CV on file if you will reconsider their application, however, if they do not meet your criteria, don’t make false promises.


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