There are no rules in employment law which state that an employer must advertise internally before they try external sources to fill a vacant post. This is purely a management decision and if you feel that there are good reasons to use external recruitment as a first route then there is nothing directly stopping you.
However, it is good practice to advertise internally and there are a couple of reasons for this.
First, whilst you say that you do not believe you have the right person internally, your current staff may not have made their full skills complement known to you in the role that they currently undertake. It might take the awareness of a promotion to give them the kick they need to show you their full potential and ambition. This means that you could have the prime candidate already on your doorstep who could save you the time, effort and money it takes to advertise outside of the organisation.
The second is to eradicate any notion of discriminatory behaviour. Although there would likely be no allegation of direct discrimination possible from a refusal to search for internal candidates, there may potentially be scope for your existing staff to claim indirect discrimination on one of several grounds. For example, if the workforce is made up wholly of females, a refusal to consider any existing staff may be seen as an indication of a strong desire to have a man join the organisation. This could leave you open to a claim of sex discrimination.
Add that to the fact that they already know the organisation, its practices, processes and staff so an existing staff member would avoid the first few weeks of uncertainty with new staff, where they are trying to find their feet and are unsure of their surroundings.
However, there may be reasons why bypassing internal recruitment is a good idea. For example, if you are recruiting for a highly sensitive post which you do not think could be impartially undertaken by someone who is already in the business, advertising externally only may be useful.
External and internal recruitment campaigns do not have to be run separately, so you can have both running at the same time. Internal interviews do not have to be concluded before external interviews take place so it isn’t necessarily the case that you are prolonging the process by allowing internal candidates to apply.
Dealing with a couple of internal candidates, and so keeping them happy, is a small price to pay compared to the disharmony it could cause if you deliberately take action to freeze them out. And you might just find that your ideal candidate has been there all along.
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