Talent: Hire from Outside or Look Within

March 2, 2015

By: Melissa Knowles Gym HQ

This month SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) touched on a question that is continuously being asked by ownership across all industries: Is it better to build from within or “buy” from the external job market?

The answer is not absolute. To be successful, an owner will have to do both. It’s about figuring out which conditions you build or buy. Here’s a quick guide to follow when faced with your next hiring decision.

Look Outside


Tough corporate turnarounds or strategy shifts are needed or underway. If your organization needs big changes or reform, you generally will not get there with the exact same squad you currently have.

Succession planning and performance information is inconsistent, absent, or hard to access. Have no clue who would fill that vacant GM position? Never really considered when or how to promote your current team? Planning at the point of need is not ideal.

Specific skills are needed that are not readily available within the organization. If you’ve lost you HR Manager (who held a recognized certification and had 10 years of experience), you don’t want to replace him/her with your admin assistant. Certain skilled position require specific training, much of which takes education outside the workplace and commands months or years to develop.

The organizational culture welcomes multiple perspectives. Is your team open to learning? Taking cues from proven leaders outside the core group?

Processes are in place that support job training and full integration into the position. Can you find outside talent and seamlessly integrate them into your systems? Will they be set-up for success?

Look Within


An organization is thriving. Have a solid roster who is performing at the highest level? Then reward it by giving a deserving member a promotion. This is key to engagement.

Succession planning and performance reviews are consistent and transparent. You already know who you’re considering for your key role replacements. You’ve discussed it during reviews. You’ve worked on the leadership development needed for each team member to be promotable.

An abundance of firm- or industry-specific skills are required for the job. Need a fitness industry vet but the market in your area is bone dry? You may be forced to look within your organization for a less seasoned candidate who possesses industry-specific experience.

A unique and strong organizational culture may be hard to understand or fit in with. Would you be able to welcome an external hire? Or would they struggle to become part of the team? Ability to integrate is important for every level of hire.

No or few processes are in place to support job training and integration into a position. Would a key hire from the outside be set-up for success in your organization or would they be left to simply “figure it out”. If it’s the later, you may be better off giving the nod a current team member even it their skill set is inferior.

A few more take-aways.

Start with succession planning. What talent do you currently have? Are you developing a pipe line?

Recognize biases. Are you making a hire under pressure? Does it feel safer to hirer from within than take a chance on a highly qualified external candidate?

Understand what is unique about the role and the organization.

Commit to integration.

Can parts of the job function(s) be outsourced to a team of experts so your team can focus on their strengths?
Sometimes freeing up your superstars from the tasks assigned to them but not within their “wheel house” allows them to perform to their true potential. A GM focused on member retention and new sales and not payroll/collections/bookkeeping has the advantage. Clear focus on key tasks allows for better performance.

For most organizations, a solid combination of external and internal talent gets the job done most effectively. What’s key is having a system and a plan in place.

Melissa Knowles serves as the CEO for Gym HQ.  With over a decade of industry experience, her knowledge spans many areas:  strategic operations, development of staff training materials and programs, cost savings analysis, reporting development and implementation, fitness department overhaul, client retention systems, and corporate management.  She’s especially well versed in all operational and HR focused areas; and she holds an HR certification through SHRM.  What makes her uniquely qualified as an industry leader is her time spent “in the trenches”.  Melissa is a graduate of the University of West Florida and holds an MS in Exercise Science and a BS in Sports Medicine.