Your Guide to Encouraging Employees to Apply for Internal Jobs

Hiring internally isn’t just a money saver.

Encouraging your current employees to pursue internal job opportunities helps boost morale, foster a culture of learning, and keep vital talent on board. According to recent HR statistics, 1 in 5 job seekers say they’re looking for work because they want better career growth opportunities.  

Despite the significant benefits of lifting up existing employees, some managers struggle to drum up enthusiasm when an internal vacancy opens up. The pushback can be for various reasons:

  • Lack of awareness about available positions
  • Fear of internal competition
  • Uncertainty regarding the application process
  • Reluctance to leave a comfortable role for a more challenging one 

Still, overcoming these obstacles is key to the long-term health of any department. So here are eight strategies that’ll help you motivate your existing employees and increase interest in your internal job opportunities.  

1. Establish clear lines of communication 

Insufficient information about an internal opportunity can result in the best candidates missing out on the chance to apply.

Ensure that all internal job postings are communicated through multiple channels. Email newsletters, team meetings, and internal networks like Slack are good places to start. If you’re part of a larger organization, consider setting up a dedicated communications channel for announcing whenever a vacancy opens up. 

And remember that communication is a two-way street.

Previous internal hires can be a valuable resource for understanding what worked (and what didn’t work) about your previous communication efforts. Get concise yet valuable insights by asking targeted questions that address key points of your internal hiring strategy, such as: 

  • “Through which channel did you first learn about the internal job opportunity (e.g., email, intranet, manager)?”
  • “What motivated you to apply for an internal position?”
  • “Did you feel encouraged by your manager or other leaders to apply? How can we improve in this area?”
  • “How clear and straightforward was the application process? Were there any points of confusion?”

2. Inspire a culture of internal mobility

Promoting internal movement highlights your organization’s support for career development, encouraging existing employees to consider how they can advance their own careers.

Regularly share stories of employees who have successfully moved up through the company, highlighting their journeys and the opportunities that internal movement has given them access to. Additionally, call out and congratulate any employees who are picked for promotions and lateral moves.

Consistently applying these strategies will create the sense that your organization is one where employees can quickly climb to more exciting, senior positions.

3. Open up clear opportunity pathways

In addition to championing successful workers, make sure junior employees understand how they can advance professionally.

Share career maps and progression ladders that highlight career paths and the skills or experiences required to pursue them.

For example, Deloitte provides clear descriptions of the roles and expectations at each rung of the career ladder, as well as career success stories that illustrate the steps employees should take to advance professionally.

4. Provide career development resources

Implement an upskilling framework to empower your workforce and open new pathways for career mobility.

Develop a curated approach by using competency mapping to identify your organization’s needs and identify any skills gaps that might be preventing your current employees from rising through the ranks.

Use this information to develop an open curriculum that addresses your needs, as well as any development channels that your employees might be interested in.

This strategy doesn’t need to be highly sophisticated, either.

Open access to learning platforms like Udemy or Coursera can often be enough to motivate your employees to think about how they can advance professionally. Suggest courses and certifications they can take to advance with their organization — or provide more comprehensive training for junior employees that have the base knowledge to advance into technical roles.

For example, you could offer to give junior Business Analysts and Operations Specialists access to management accounting training — allowing them to access a valuable (and often inaccessible) certification while building up experience at your company.

5. Remove barriers to application

Illusive opportunities, unclear application processes, and concern about pushback from managers and coworkers can significantly reduce the number of internal candidates for a role.  

Clear up any confusion by creating an internal job board or portal where employees can find all the information they need in one place. Share this board regularly in your company newsletter and other internal communication channels to ensure employees are aware of its accessibility and frequent updates. 

Help your employees feel more confident when opportunities do open up by having managers discuss career aspirations with their team members regularly. Encouraging employees to think about career progression will build good faith with team leads, nudging them to consider how they can grow within your organization.

6. Streamline the process

Applying for jobs takes time, so it’s important to make the process as simple and seamless as possible.

Consider creating a standardized internal application form so employees don’t have to create a tailored application every time an opportunity arises. To make things even easier for your employees, allow them to save their portfolios, resumes, and applications on an internal system so they’re ready for future opportunities as they arise.

You should review your internal application process frequently. Look for opportunities to reduce the amount of paperwork required and encourage employees to make informal expressions of initial interest, such as a brief conversation with HR before applying.

7. Recognize and reward initiative

Reward employees who seek out challenges beyond the day-to-day responsibilities of their job, perhaps by factoring this trait into your employee evaluation framework.

Extend public praise and acknowledgment not just to those who apply for internal jobs but also to those who go beyond what is expected of them. Make it clear that you reward initiative so employees have a reason to feel engaged and connected at work.  

8. Give constructive feedback to unsuccessful applicants

Failing to land an exciting internal position can be disheartening. Take time to explain your reasoning when an internal applicant isn’t selected.

Offer constructive feedback on how they can improve or highlight strengths they can further refine in order to succeed at your organization. Lay out any skills gaps that you might be looking to address in the future and point them toward learning opportunities that will help them turn those gaps into opportunities.

Keep the lines of communication open, and encourage employees to continue seeking opportunities and growth within your organization.

Key takeaways

Internal hiring is a goldmine of growth opportunities for both you and your team members.

To foster a culture of internal mobility, you’ll need to closely examine any barriers — lack of awareness, fear of competition, and structural ambiguity, to name a few.

You and your managers will first need effective leadership skills to address these challenges in a meaningful way. But by offering transparent career paths, valuable development resources, and simple application processes, you can boost internal engagement, retain talent, and enhance the overall employee experience by rewarding growth and initiative.   

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