How to Support Internal Candidates When They Don't Get the Job

How to Support Internal Candidates When They Don't Get the Job

Internal Mobility and Professional Growth are Key Retention Tools

Good companies strive to support internal candidates and employee growth. But when push comes to shove, many organizations fall short in seeing this mission through. 

In a recent Deloitte survey, almost 60% of employees polled said it’s easier to find a new role at another company than it is to change roles at their current employer. 

According to Randstad’s 2021 career mobility report, “Employees aren’t optimistic about getting promoted within their company, with 43.2% saying they don’t have enough opportunities for internal mobility.” 

Even when there are opportunities for internal mobility, talent teams still face inevitable challenges. A few of the hardest questions for HR leaders to grapple with are: 

  • How should we respond when internal candidates are turned down for another role within our organization? 
  • Is there any chance of retaining them after that—and if so, what does that process look like?
  • What’s the experience like for employees? Do they feel they’ve broadcast their desire to leave their current role? 

To answer these questions, Hired’s Rob Stevenson sat down with Comcast’s Director of Talent Acquisition, Keith Friant, on the Talk Talent to Me podcast. Read on to learn the top insights from their conversation. Finally, we’ll explore an innovative approach to retention and internal mobility that went viral on LinkedIn.

How Comcast Supports Engagement in Internal Candidates

Expert: Comcast Director of Talent Acquisition, Keith Friant

Focus on providing clear feedback

A cookie-cutter rejection email is the last thing internal candidates want to see after applying for an open role. 

Rather, they want clear and actionable feedback that sets them on a path of continuous improvement.

“What’s the next step in your process, outside of candidates just getting a standard disposition email?” asked Friant. “It can really feel a little deflating if that’s the only type of communication they’re getting after investing time into the interview process.” 

That’s why Comcast prioritizes providing internal candidates with personalized feedback when they aren’t chosen for a job. 

“Feedback is really valuable,” said Friant. “That population is looking to grow and move into something different. We all clearly want to care for them, which is why it’s so important that they get timely and meaningful feedback.”

Offer learning and development opportunities

As a next step, Friant suggests asking questions like:

  • What were the candidate’s skill gaps?
  • How can we help them grow in these key areas? 
  • Can we put them on any stretch assignments?

Stretch assignments have been especially instrumental to driving employee growth and engagement at Comcast. 

“We’ve adopted this gig concept where employees participate in short-term or longer-term projects when another team needs help, someone is going out on paternity leave, or anything along those lines,” explained Friant. 

Actions like this go a long way in making employees feel seen and supported. By offering learning and development opportunities, companies can encourage ongoing employee growth—and keep engagement high even after someone isn’t selected for the job they wanted. 


Related: Survey data from the 2022 State of Software Engineers report revealed the number one reason software developers enter the field is for the opportunity to continuously learn and tackle new challenges. More than half said it’s important to them that their employer provide professional development opportunities. 

In the 2021 State of Tech Salaries, tech talent listed benefits such as tuition reimbursement in their top 10 of compelling company benefits. Younger, more junior employees ranked this higher than senior talent. 


Manage employee expectations

Picture this: your company posts an open marketing manager role. Someone on the sales team sees the job post and submits an application, excited by the prospect of pursuing horizontal growth within your organization. 

However, the job post disappears only days later—and the role goes to a marketing associate who had already been on a promotion track. The interested internal candidate never even got a chance to interview for the role, and got their hopes up for nothing.

Disappointing, right?

To avoid scenarios like this, Comcast takes a careful approach to sharing job posts. “We really only try to post jobs that are viable and open,” said Friant. 

“If someone left the team and we know we just want to inline promote another team member into that role, we can do that without having to post the job and put everyone else through a process that wastes a lot of people’s time and energy.” 

Listen to the full episode

Why Transparency is Important to Support Internal Candidates

Does your process call for roles to be posted internally or externally for a certain period of time? If a manager intends to hire or promote a specific candidate, is the rule still applied? 

If candidates see a non-viable role, or worse, go through the interview process for the sake of checkboxes, it often leads to distrust in the organization. This ultimately damages the employer brand. 

What If We Did Something Completely Off the Wall?

It’s often jarring to lose employees with only the standard two weeks notice. It can take weeks or months to fill the role and onboard new hires. According to SHRM, the cost of a vacancy is reportedly three to four times the position’s salary.

In the spring of 2022, a member of the recruiting team at Zapier had an epiphany after losing several teammates. Her LinkedIn post about it drew more than 16K reactions. 

Bonnie Dilber asked the question, what if “we normalized letting our managers know we wanted to explore new roles? What if managers helped team members with resumes and interview prep, beside them, helping land the next role? It’s a win-win,” Dilber wrote. “The employee has a better experience, is more set up for success, and the manager and company have a better opportunity to prepare for departures.”

Dilber originally posed her question internally in a Slack group. Then a few weeks later, she commented in a public forum that she wanted the recruiting team to provide this support for anyone needing it for internal or external opportunities. 

What Happened Next to Support Internal Candidates

A few people stepped forward. 

  • Employee A was considering leaving, but the recruiting team identified roles opening in a few months that would be perfect. Instead of working on a resume for an external search, Employee A and the recruiting team collaborated on colleagues to speak to and experiences to gain to be competitive for the role when it opened. 
  • Dissatisfied, Employee B worked with the recruiting team to identify why and map out a strategy to resolve their issues. Employee B is now on a path to greater contentment with their current role.
  • Employee C worked with the team to upgrade their resume with clear metrics displaying their impact. “I don’t know if or when they’ll start looking,” said Dilber. “But I’m glad they felt supported even though it might take them away in the future.”

Dilber goes on to extol the virtues of retention and professional growth. “Recruiting teams shouldn’t be used solely to fill roles. We can and should be true partners in retaining and growing our talent.” 

After formally launching the program, Dilber admits, this may mean they help people plan an exit strategy but is okay with that.

“I think it:

  • makes our recruiting team better partners to the departments we support.
  • will help us to retain our people in the long-run.
  • opens the door to more honest conversations across teams to plan for attrition and support our people to go farther faster.
  • makes Zapier a better place to work.” 

Historically, dissatisfied employees lived a “double life,” working on resumes at night, checking personal emails or LinkedIn messages on the sly. What would it mean to retention efforts to have the psychologically safe environment to explore new roles – internally or externally? 

Internal Mobility is a Smart Retention Tool

More companies are exploring Web 3.0 initiatives but finding there are few engineers with specific Web 3.0 experience. Hired CTO Dave Walters offers this advice for companies planning these or any emerging technology projects: 

“Rather than exclusively looking for candidates with Web 3.0 experience [for example], why not support internal candidates and potential new hires with the requisite foundational skills to make the transition.” 

“Invest in a strong training and mentorship program. Find engineers with transferable skills such as security principles, peer-to-peer networks/distributed systems, and understanding of smart contracts. Source engineers with these Web 3.0 relevant skills for a significant competitive advantage.”

Upskilling and new projects are great ways to retain talent, support internal candidates, inspire loyalty, and provide professional growth. 

Related: Help current employees upskill with Hired partners like General Assembly, Educative, Blockchain Training Alliance, 2U, Sales Impact Academy, and more.

What Would Greater Transparency Mean for Your Employer Brand?

In Hired’s 2021 List of Top Employers Winning Tech Talent, takeaways included ‘strengthening the post-employee experience.’

In summary, when an employee is ready to leave, or recently departed, don’t write them off. Invest in your employer brand and:

  • Coach managers and teams to support them and respond positively. You helped them grow and they’re graduating to something new. They may even be taking a position of influence to use your product or service. 
  • Build and engage an active employee alumni network.
  • Turn former employees into brand ambassadors by celebrating their wins and supporting them. They’ll tell others about their amazing experiences, share your open positions, and recommend your company as a great place to work. 

Want More Talent Insights to Support Internal Candidates and other Topics?

Tune into Hired’s podcast, Talk Talent to Me, to learn about the strategies, techniques, and trends shaping the recruitment industry—straight from top experts themselves.

Need Help with Employer Branding? 

We cover several examples of how to do this in recent eBooks for enterprise-level businesses and for SMBs and Mid-market companies

One way is to host an event, virtual or in-person. Hired helps companies with a variety of events designed to help recruit talent with specific skills, like coding challenges. 

Panel or “fireside chat” type events showcase members of your team discussing a certain industry topic or simply what it’s like to work for your company. These foster general brand awareness, of course, as well as boost recruitment marketing efforts. 

Request a demo of event options with a member of our specialized team.