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3 Strategies for Hiring Promotable Entry-Level Talent Beating a tough labor market is easier when you can promote from within. And the easiest way to have a promotable workforce is by setting up a pipeline of eager, entry-level workers.

By Rashan Dixon Edited by Maria Bailey

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Beating a tough labor market is easier when you can promote from within. And the easiest way to have a promotable workforce is by setting up a pipeline of eager, entry-level workers.

Companies that hire from within do better than those that focus on promoting outsiders. Case in point: A University of Massachusetts Global deep dive shows that internal hires cost about 18% less than their external counterparts. They require limited sourcing efforts, too, which can lead to more savings. But that doesn't mean you can just pull from the rank and file and start filling positions. Being able to hire from within starts with a consistently replenished entry-level talent pool pipeline. If you're not being strategic about bringing in high-performing, entry-level newcomers, you can't get the benefits of internal hiring.

A 2021 Joblist survey showed just how much of an advantage it could be to promote current employees when possible. Out of the 1,000 workers asked, nearly two-thirds said they'd rather be led by someone from within the company. Seven out of 10 felt the practice was important for their employer's growth potential. More than 55% said it led to heightened morale and lowered training costs.

LinkedIn's 2020 Global Talent Trends report reflected similar findings. The report found a 41% uptick in how long workers stuck around at companies that hired from within. Plus, it reveals that almost three-quarters of hiring professionals are in favor of inside recruiting.

Related: 7 Ways to Make Sure Your Employee Knows How to Get Promoted

The message is clear: Internal promotions can accelerate employee engagement, trim onboarding timeframes and attack attrition. And the simplest way to have internal job candidates is to bring rising talent into the fold. By regularly pulling in strong, entry-level employees, you can create a funnel that pushes future leaders up the corporate ladder.

The following strategies will help you attract eager entry-level applicants to your organization. That way, you can choose the right ones to start constructing an enviable — and internally promotable — workforce.

1. Interview for both hard and soft skills

Most jobs require some type of basic technical know-how, even if it's just being comfortable with general word processing or spreadsheets. However, employers are discovering more often that it's soft skills that make certain employees stand out. And a stand-out employee is one who may be interested in moving around the company.

According to recent data gathered by a High Point University poll in 2022, companies put a higher value on soft skills than hard ones. The poll of 500 leaders from enterprise-size organizations identified employee motivation and coachability as markers of future success. Three-quarters of poll participants said it was easier to teach technical aptitude than motivation. Seven out of 10 felt the same way about technical expertise versus the ability to accept constructive feedback.

How can you determine someone's soft skills based on resumes or initial conversations? One method is to ask candidates to answer situational "What would you do if…?" questions. Another is to have prospective workers talk about challenges and failures and how they faced them. Just be sure you're asking the same questions to all applicants. You'll reduce interviewing bias and be able to compare interviewees' soft-skill responses objectively.

Related: Why Soft Skills Are More Important Than Hard Cash for Your Acquisition's Long-Term Growth

2. Make career pathing part of your onboarding and ongoing training

Career pathing involves helping your employees create roadmaps to move through your organization. For example, a career path will show the routes an employee can take to get from job A to job B to job C, and so on. Most entry-level workers haven't been in the workforce long enough to understand how to construct career paths. You can assist them by introducing them to career pathing during onboarding and making it part of their employee experience.

Having a group of employees who have constructed realistic, doable career paths can improve your internal hiring. Deloitte's Talent 2020 report notes that 42% of employees looking for different employment are leaving because they're not using their talents. 37% said they were unsatisfied with their career progress. Dynamic professional development support and career pathing can ease those challenges.

Remember that you can't just set up career paths and let them gather dust. Teach supervisors how to encourage their team members to identify training areas using their career paths as guides. Be sure to set aside resources for upskilling, too.

Related: 4 Reasons Employees See a Bleak Career Path and Quit

3. Treat your internship programs as feeder opportunities

Information culled in 2020 by Chegg Internship suggests that around 70% of all internships turn into job offers. Of those interns offered a position, 80% accept. This means that for every 10 interns you bring into your organization, you could end up with around five or six new employees. Those employees would already be familiar with your culture — and buoyed by a chance to start working.

Even if you have an internship program in place, take a harder look at it. See how you might be able to make it more of a feeder into a bigger succession plan. For instance, should you be broadening your current pipeline and accepting interns from more disciplines? Could you use interns in more departments than you normally do? These are all questions worth asking.

Interns who feel their time with your company was well-spent may become members of your C-suite someday. At the very least, they'll be more likely to join your company if you extend a job offer after they graduate. So look for ways to boost the real and perceived value of your internships. Don't be afraid to survey current and past internships so you can continuously improve your internship experiences.

The Great Resignation has shown how tough it can be for employers to find candidates. When you can hire from within, you have more choices. You also reduce downtime associated with empty seats. So start (and keep) bringing entry-level workers into the fold. They'll become your competitive advantage.

Rashan Dixon

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Co-founder of Techincon and Senior Business Consultant for Microsoft

Rashan Dixon is a senior business systems analyst at Microsoft, entrepreneur and a writer for various business and technology publications.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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