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The Empuls Glossary

Glossary of Human Resources Management and Employee Benefit Terms

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Lateral hiring, also known as lateral recruitment or lateral hiring, refers to the process of hiring candidates from outside the organization to fill positions at similar levels or with comparable experience.  

Lateral hires are typically brought in to fulfill specific roles or address immediate needs within the organization, such as filling high-level or specialized positions, expanding into new markets, or addressing skill gaps.  

What is lateral hiring?

Lateral hiring is a process of finding and recruiting professionals who are already employed in a similar position to the one your company is looking to fill. These professionals, often referred to as passive candidates, are not actively searching for a new job but have experience, skills, reputation, and a network in their field of expertise.  

Recruiting through lateral hiring can offer significant advantages to the company, including saving time and resources on training, fulfilling high-level or specialized roles, and enhancing the overall effectiveness of the organization.  

Lateral hires typically bring valuable interpersonal skills and additional expertise to the table, which can serve as an asset to the company. This approach to hiring is strategic and focuses on bringing in experienced and skilled talent that can contribute to the company's long-term success.

Listen, recognize, award, and retain your employees with our Employee engagement software  

Why do companies opt for lateral hiring?

The reasons why companies opt for lateral hiring are:

  • Immediate impact: Lateral hires bring existing skills, expertise, and experience to the organization, allowing them to make an immediate impact in their roles. This is particularly beneficial for filling high-level or specialized positions where immediate contributions are essential.
  • Filling skill gaps: Lateral hiring helps companies address specific skill gaps or shortages within the organization by recruiting candidates with specialized knowledge or expertise in areas where internal talent may be lacking.
  • Access to external talent: Lateral hiring enables companies to tap into external talent pools and access individuals with diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences. This can bring fresh ideas, innovation, and industry knowledge to the organization.
  • Meeting business needs: Companies may opt for lateral hiring to meet evolving business needs, such as expanding into new markets, launching new products or services, or implementing strategic initiatives that require specific expertise or leadership.
  • Reduced training costs: Lateral hires typically require less training and onboarding compared to entry-level hires, saving time and resources on training and development initiatives. This is particularly advantageous for companies with limited resources or tight deadlines.
  • Faster recruitment process: Lateral hiring often involves a faster recruitment process compared to traditional hiring methods, as candidates are selected based on their existing qualifications and experience. This allows companies to fill critical roles more quickly and efficiently.
  • Competitive advantage: Hiring top talent from competitors or other industries through lateral hiring can provide companies with a competitive advantage, as they gain access to individuals with proven track records of success and industry knowledge.
  • Leadership development: Lateral hiring can support leadership development and succession planning initiatives by bringing in experienced leaders who can mentor and develop internal talent, groom future leaders, and drive organizational growth.

Who are the candidates for lateral hiring?  

Candidates for lateral hiring typically include individuals who possess relevant skills, experience, and expertise that align with the specific requirements of the position being filled. These candidates may come from a variety of backgrounds and may include:

  • Experienced professionals: Individuals with several years of relevant work experience in their field, including those who have held similar roles in other companies or organizations.
  • Industry experts: Candidates who have specialized knowledge and expertise in a particular industry or sector, such as finance, technology, healthcare, or engineering.
  • Functional specialists: Professionals with specialized skills or qualifications in specific functional areas, such as marketing, sales, finance, human resources, operations, or IT.
  • Leadership talent: Candidates who have demonstrated leadership abilities and have experience managing teams, projects, or departments. This may include managers, directors, or executives from other organizations.
  • Technical experts: Individuals with technical expertise or certifications relevant to the position, such as software developers, engineers, scientists, or technical specialists.
  • Problem-solvers: Individuals who are skilled at identifying and solving complex problems, whether they are related to operations, customer service, process improvement, or other areas of the business.
  • Entrepreneurs or start-up professionals: Individuals who have experience working in start-ups or entrepreneurial ventures and have a track record of innovation, creativity, and adaptability.

What are the challenges in lateral hiring?

Some of the common challenges include:

1. Limited talent pool

Finding qualified candidates with the right skills, experience, and expertise can be challenging, particularly for specialized or niche roles. The pool of available talent may be limited, making it difficult to identify suitable candidates.

2. Competition for talent

Organizations may face stiff competition from other employers vying for the same pool of experienced candidates. Highly skilled professionals may receive multiple job offers, leading to increased competition and making it harder to attract top talent.

3. Salary expectations

Experienced candidates may have higher salary expectations based on their level of expertise and previous compensation. Meeting these salary expectations while remaining competitive within the market can be a challenge for organizations, especially if they have budget constraints.

4. Cultural fit

Ensuring that lateral hires are a good cultural fit for the organization can be challenging. Candidates may come from different organizational cultures or backgrounds, and assessing cultural fit during the hiring process can be subjective and difficult to gauge.

5. Integration and onboarding

Integrating lateral hires into the organization and facilitating their onboarding process can be challenging, particularly if they are joining at a senior level or have specialized roles. Providing adequate support, resources, and training to help new hires acclimatize to their roles and the company culture is essential for their success.

6. Transition period

Lateral hires may require a transition period to familiarize themselves with the organization, its processes, and its systems. During this period, productivity may be lower as new hires get up to speed, which can impact team performance and output.

7. Employee morale

Existing employees may feel overlooked or undervalued if lateral hires are brought in from outside the organization instead of promoted from within. Managing employee morale and addressing concerns about career advancement opportunities is important to maintain a positive work environment.

8. Risk of misalignment

There is a risk that lateral hires may not fully align with the organization's goals, values, or expectations, leading to potential conflicts or mismatches in job performance. Ensuring clear communication and alignment between the organization and new hires is crucial to mitigate this risk.

9. Retention challenges

Lateral hires may face challenges in adjusting to their new roles or may not feel fully integrated into the organization, which could impact their job satisfaction and retention. Retaining top talent acquired through lateral hiring requires ongoing support, development opportunities, and recognition of their contributions.

10. Assessment of skills

Assessing the skills, competencies, and capabilities of lateral hires during the recruitment process can be challenging, especially if they have complex or specialized skill sets. Developing effective assessment methods and tools to evaluate candidate qualifications is essential for making informed hiring decisions.

Where can companies find resources for lateral hiring?

Companies can find suitable candidates for lateral hiring through various channels and methods. Some common avenues for sourcing candidates include:

  • Professional networking: Networking within industry associations, professional organizations, and alumni networks can help companies identify qualified candidates who are actively engaged in their field.
  • Employee referrals: Encouraging employees to refer qualified candidates from their professional networks can be an effective way to identify potential hires who are already vetted by trusted sources.
  • Recruitment agencies: Working with recruitment agencies or headhunters specializing in the industry or field of expertise can help companies access a broader pool of candidates and streamline the hiring process.
  • Online job boards: Posting job openings on online job boards, such as LinkedIn, indeed, Glassdoor, and specialized industry-specific job boards, can attract candidates actively seeking new opportunities.
  • Social media platforms: Leveraging social media platforms, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, to promote job openings and engage with potential candidates can help companies reach passive job seekers and tap into hidden talent pools.
  • Industry events and conferences: Attending industry events, conferences, seminars, and trade shows provides opportunities to network with professionals in the field and identify potential candidates who are actively involved in the industry.
  • Professional associations: Engaging with professional associations, industry groups, and forums related to the field can help companies connect with experienced professionals and thought leaders who may be suitable for lateral hiring.
  • University career centers: Collaborating with university career centers or alumni networks to connect with recent graduates or alumni who have gained relevant experience in their careers can be a valuable source of talent.
  • Talent pipelining: Proactively building relationships with potential candidates through talent pipelining initiatives, such as talent communities, talent pools, and passive candidate engagement, can help companies cultivate a pool of qualified candidates for future hiring needs.

How does lateral hiring differ from traditional hiring methods?

Lateral hiring differs from traditional hiring methods in several keyways:

1. Targeted candidates

Lateral hiring specifically targets candidates with existing experience, skills, and expertise in a particular field or industry, often at similar or higher levels within their careers. In contrast, traditional hiring methods may focus on recruiting entry-level or junior candidates with less experience.

2. Immediate contribution

Lateral hires are expected to make an immediate contribution to the organization, leveraging their existing skills and expertise to fulfill specific roles or address immediate needs. Traditional hiring methods may involve hiring candidates with the potential to grow and develop within the organization over time.

3. Specialized positions

Lateral hiring is commonly used to fill high-level or specialized positions within the organization, such as leadership roles, technical positions, or roles requiring specific industry expertise. Traditional hiring methods may be more focused on filling generalist roles or entry-level positions.

4. External talent pool

Lateral hiring often involves recruiting candidates from outside the organization, tapping into external talent pools to access individuals with diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences. Traditional hiring methods may primarily focus on internal candidates or recent graduates from academic institutions.

5. Faster recruitment process

Lateral hiring typically involves a faster recruitment process compared to traditional hiring methods, as candidates are selected based on their existing qualifications and experience rather than potential for development. This can help organizations address immediate staffing needs more quickly.

6. Higher expectations

Lateral hires are often expected to hit the ground running and deliver results quickly, given their existing expertise and experience. In contrast, candidates hired through traditional methods may undergo training and development to build their skills and capabilities over time.

Employee pulse surveys:

These are short surveys that can be sent frequently to check what your employees think about an issue quickly. The survey comprises fewer questions (not more than 10) to get the information quickly. These can be administered at regular intervals (monthly/weekly/quarterly).

One-on-one meetings:

Having periodic, hour-long meetings for an informal chat with every team member is an excellent way to get a true sense of what’s happening with them. Since it is a safe and private conversation, it helps you get better details about an issue.


eNPS (employee Net Promoter score) is one of the simplest yet effective ways to assess your employee's opinion of your company. It includes one intriguing question that gauges loyalty. An example of eNPS questions include: How likely are you to recommend our company to others? Employees respond to the eNPS survey on a scale of 1-10, where 10 denotes they are ‘highly likely’ to recommend the company and 1 signifies they are ‘highly unlikely’ to recommend it.

Based on the responses, employees can be placed in three different categories:

  • Promoters
    Employees who have responded positively or agreed.
  • Detractors
    Employees who have reacted negatively or disagreed.
  • Passives
    Employees who have stayed neutral with their responses.

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