Are you struggling to find the perfect fit for your organization on short notice? Then, lateral hiring might just be the strategy that meets all your recruitment needs.

Let’s explore the ins and outs of this hiring strategy with valuable insights and a comprehensive understanding of its advantages and how to go about it. 

What is lateral hiring?

lateral hiring

Lateral hiring is a strategic approach to recruitment that involves seeking out and attracting experienced professionals from outside your organization rather than solely focusing on hiring entry-level candidates. It’s like broadening your horizons to discover hidden gems of talent who have already honed their skills and gained valuable industry experience.

Lateral hires bring a wealth of new skills, expertise, and fresh perspectives to your team, contributing to immediate impact and helping your company achieve its goals faster. By leveraging lateral hiring, you can tap into a vast talent pipeline of experienced professionals and instantly enhance your organization’s capabilities.

When should you consider lateral hiring?

1. When you’re in dire need of a fresh perspective

Lateral hiring becomes a powerful tool when your team seems stuck in a creative rut. By bringing in experienced professionals from diverse backgrounds, you inject new ideas and fresh perspectives into your organization. 

These individuals bring a wealth of knowledge and different experiences, challenging the status quo and driving innovation. Their unique insights can inspire your team to think outside the box, leading to breakthrough solutions and creative problem-solving.

2. When rivals covet your talent

If rival companies are courting your star performers, it’s time to take proactive measures. Lateral hiring allows you to protect your talent pool while simultaneously weakening your competitors. 

By attracting skilled professionals from other organizations, you acquire top-notch expertise and send a clear message that your company is a desirable destination for high-caliber talent. This strategy helps you maintain a competitive advantage and ensures your team remains strong and resilient.

3. When there’s a severe time crunch

If you’re running short on time, instead of investing valuable time and resources into training fresh graduates, you can bring in experienced individuals ready to hit the ground running. With their industry knowledge and refined skills, they can seamlessly integrate into your team and start making an immediate impact. 

Their ability to navigate complex tasks efficiently and deliver results in a shorter timeframe can be a game-changer for meeting tight deadlines and achieving rapid growth, enriching your workforce within the time constraints.

4. When specialized expertise is required

Use lateral hiring to tap into a pool of professionals with the qualifications and experience you seek. 

Whether it’s advanced technical knowledge, industry-specific practice areas, or niche skills, lateral hires can bring your team an added layer of specialization. This not only enhances your capabilities but also helps you stay ahead of the curve in a rapidly evolving market.

5. When you intend to prioritize cultural diversity

Building a diverse and inclusive workforce is a priority for many organizations. Lateral recruitment provides an opportunity to diversify your team by bringing in individuals from different backgrounds, cultures, and perspectives. 

This diversity can foster a rich and inclusive work environment, stimulating creativity, improving problem-solving, and promoting a broader understanding of your target market. Lateral hires with diverse experiences can contribute to a well-rounded team that thrives on collaboration and embraces a variety of viewpoints.

What are the pros & cons of lateral recruitment?

lateral hiring

1. Benefits of lateral hiring

  • Access to expertise

Lateral hires bring fresh perspectives and experience to your team, allowing for immediate impact. Their deep understanding of industry trends, best practices, and proven strategies can guide your company’s decision-making process and accelerate growth.

  • Fast-track results

Unlike fresh recruits who require time for training and skill development, lateral hires possess the necessary skills and experience to hit the ground running. As a result, they can quickly adapt to their roles, contribute effectively, and help your company achieve its goals faster.

  • Room for innovation

Lateral hires bring a foreign work culture to your organization, injecting new ideas and innovative thinking into your company. Their unique viewpoints can challenge existing practices, foster creativity, and lead to breakthrough solutions.

  • Knowledge transfer and mentorship

Experienced lateral hires can mentor and coach junior team members, transferring their knowledge and expertise within their skillset. This fosters a culture of continuous learning and development, enhancing your workforce’s overall capabilities and retention.

  • Competitive advantage

By attracting top talent from other organizations, lateral hiring enables you to gain a competitive edge. These experienced professionals bring valuable insights, networks, and industry connections that can give your company an advantage in the marketplace.

2. Cons of lateral hiring

  • Cultural fit challenges

Integrating external talent may pose challenges in terms of cultural fit. Differences in work styles, patterns, and values can create friction within the team. It requires effective onboarding and cultural adaptation efforts to ensure seamless integration.

  • Higher costs

Hiring experienced professionals often comes with higher salary expectations and additional perks. Budget considerations may limit the number of lateral hires you can bring, especially for smaller organizations or those with tight financial constraints.

  • Resistance to change

When lateral hires join the organization, existing team members may feel threatened or resistant to change. This can create internal tensions and disrupt team dynamics if not effectively managed.

  • Potential for inflated expectations

There is a risk that expectations of immediate impact and results from lateral hires may be set too high. While they bring experience, providing the necessary support and resources is essential to ensure they can thrive in their new roles and deliver the desired outcomes.

What are the steps of lateral hiring?

We are hiring sign for lateral hiring.

Here are eight steps to help you walk through the lateral hiring process with ease:

1. Identify the need

First, identify which positions require seasoned professionals and why. Then, be clear about the skills, experiences, and competencies you need that justify a lateral hire. 

When you properly identify your needs, you can precisely target suitable candidates.

2. Establish job specifications

Your next important step is to clarify the hiring needs and qualifications in your job description. In the case of lateral hiring, this may include specific skills, years of experience, industry exposure, leadership abilities, etc. 

The clearer these specifications, the more effectively you can communicate with potential hires and assess their fit.

3. Source candidates

Unlike entry-level positions, candidates for lateral hiring are usually sourced from various channels. These could include professional networking sites, industry events, niche job boards, or recruitment agencies specializing in mid-level to senior hires. 

Remember, you can always consider internal candidates or existing employees who could be ready for a step-up. Employee referrals are also an excellent idea for sourcing relevant new job seekers.

4. Screen and shortlist

Screening for lateral hiring may require additional elements compared to entry-level hires. Besides qualifications and experience, consider the candidate’s culture fit, leadership style, and potential to grow within the organization. 

Shortlist candidates who meet the set criteria for further assessment.

5. Assess and interview

In-depth interviews, either panel or one-on-one, become crucial at this stage. Include situational and behavioral interview questions to understand the candidate’s decision-making, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills. 

If you’re hiring for an executive-level role, you can consider presentations, role-specific tests, or even psychographics to gauge their expertise.

6. Reference checks

Given the experienced nature of lateral hires and the responsibilities they will shoulder, it’s vital to conduct thorough reference checks

Speak to previous employers, colleagues, or subordinates to better understand the candidate’s work ethic, competency, and professional behavior. Understanding their track record will help your organization understand the pattern qualified candidates will follow once hired.

7. Make an offer

When you’ve finally found the perfect candidates, it’s time to prepare a job offer. This is not just about competitive remuneration; consider aspects like career development, work-life balance, company culture, and opportunities for impact. 

A compelling job offer can sway seasoned professionals toward your organization, so be mindful of how you position the organization and employer. 

8. Onboarding and integration

While lateral hires come with experience, providing them with a comprehensive onboarding process is essential. This includes understanding the company culture, internal systems, team dynamics, and expectations. 

A well-planned onboarding ensures new hires integrate quickly and smoothly into their roles.

6 common lateral hiring challenges

lateral hiring challenges

1. Attracting the right talent

In lateral hiring, your target demographic is seasoned professionals who are often comfortable in their current roles. 

Convincing these individuals to consider a switch requires huge efforts and compelling value propositions, which include promising growth opportunities, an inspiring company culture, or impactful projects.

2. Negotiating competitive compensation

Experienced professionals often come with higher salary expectations. 

Ensuring your compensation packages are competitive without significantly impacting your budget can be challenging. 

3. Assessing culture fit

Lateral hires typically have established work styles and habits. Determining whether they’ll align with your company’s culture and values is crucial but takes time and effort.

4. Verifying past performance

While experienced candidates bring impressive resumes, verifying their achievements can be challenging. Rigorous reference checks and assessments are necessary to ensure the credibility of their claimed skills and experiences.

5. Mitigating overqualification issues

Some lateral hires may need to be more qualified for their new roles, leading to potential dissatisfaction and disengagement. This challenge requires careful job design and clear communication about growth opportunities.

6. Managing internal resistance

Existing team members may perceive lateral hires as threats, particularly those filling leadership positions. This could lead to resistance or conflict. Managing such perceptions and fostering cooperation is a delicate task.

5 tips for effective lateral hiring

lateral hiring

1. Utilize the value of social media

Make use of social recruiting in your hiring process. Leverage social media platforms, especially LinkedIn and niche job boards, to connect with potential candidates directly. 

Engage with industry professionals, participate in relevant online communities, and showcase your company’s culture and values to attract passive candidates.

2. Craft an attractive job description

A generic job description won’t catch the attention of top talent. Create compelling, detailed descriptions highlighting the exciting opportunities, challenges, and growth prospects that come with the role. 

Be specific about the impact the candidate can make in your organization.

3. Personalize the recruitment process

Tailor your approach to each candidate. Make them feel valued and show that you’ve done your research. 

Highlight how their specific skills, experiences, and achievements align with your organization’s goals.

4. Collaborate with existing employees

Involve your current employees in the lateral hiring process. Arrange meet-and-greet sessions, team lunches, or even collaborative projects to allow candidates to interact with potential teammates. 

This not only helps assess cultural fit but also helps in building your employer brand.

5. Emphasize work-life balance

Work-life balance is becoming increasingly important for working professionals in the job market.

Highlight your organization’s policies and initiatives that support work-life balance, such as flexible work arrangements, remote work options, or wellness programs. Show that you prioritize the well-being of your new employees.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

1. What is the difference between vertical hiring and lateral hiring?

Vertical hiring refers to filling positions within an organization by promoting or advancing current employees to higher-level roles. It focuses on internal talent development and providing growth opportunities to existing staff members. 

On the other hand, lateral hiring involves recruiting candidates from external sources or other organizations to fill positions at a similar level or in a different department or function. Lateral hiring aims to infuse fresh perspectives, skills, and expertise into an organization.

2. What are the trends and future outlook for lateral hiring?

  1. Data-driven hiring decisions: Data analytics and technology are more prominent in lateral hiring processes. This approach can help optimize recruitment processes, reduce bias, and improve hiring outcomes.
  2. Focus on diversity and inclusion: Organizations are emphasizing diversity and inclusion more. For example, lateral hiring provides an opportunity to bring in candidates from underrepresented groups, ensuring a more diverse workforce that fosters innovation, creativity, and a broader range of perspectives.

3. What are the critical factors when negotiating compensation for lateral hires?

  1. Performance-based compensation: Incorporate performance-based components into the compensation package. This can include bonuses, incentives, or profit-sharing arrangements tied to specific goals and objectives. 
  2. Internal equity and pay structure: Ensure that the compensation package for the lateral hire aligns with your organization’s internal equity and pay structure. Evaluate the impact on the overall compensation framework and how it compares to the compensation of existing employees in similar roles to maintain fairness and consistency.