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Talent Assessment | 6 Min Read

Step-By-Step Guide to Lateral Hiring


Lateral recruitment is an exercise of sourcing and hiring competent candidates from an external talent pool for an organizational position (niche, executive or specialized). It is considered to be a specialized hiring process that involves recruiting an expert for the job that needs to be filled. The strategy focuses on recruiting someone with some work experience rather than someone with no experience.

Through the process of lateral hiring, organizations aim to recruit experienced professionals who possess interpersonal, cognitive and leadership skills required by your organization. It is often challenging for HRs as the candidates wishing to make a career move are looking for additional benefits and the commensurate compensation to further their growth. Lateral hiring is different from mainstream hiring as typically the hires bring with them certain work experience. This implies that the candidates being considered for the positions already possess the requisite skills and expertise. They wish for a workplace that offers them the opportunities to further their career growth along with the flexibility to thrive. In such a case, it is crucial for hiring managers to understand the reason behind the candidates’ decision to leave their current organization, their aspirations and how your organization aligns with them. Having a strong employer brand that values employees, allows them to voice their concerns, and provides the opportunities for their learning and development to keep them engaged, becomes critical in the lateral hiring process. This creates favorable circumstances for attracting the desired talent, someone who would be associated with the organization for a longer duration.

In addition to the employer’s brand, employee benefits also play a significant role in onboarding the best talent. Employee benefit is one of the most critical perks sought by lateral hires while making their career move. People from different generations, gender, and experience want distinct things from their organization.


Mercer’s Global Talent Trends (GTT) 2019 shows a distinction between the wants of the different generations of employees. While Baby Boomers prioritize job security, Gen X wants flexible working hours, and Gen Y wishes the most for professional development. Attracting and retaining talent has become difficult for employers, especially when accounting for the varied needs of the workforce. Understanding the employees’ asks will help to hire managers to determine their plan of action in the lateral hiring process, which is crucial in making hiring decisions. Organizations should be accommodative to the varied needs of employees and provide a value proposition that is accepted by different kinds of people to make the right lateral hire.

Challenges Faced by HRs in Lateral Hiring 


What do Hiring Managers Really Want to Know About a Candidate Before Making a Hiring Decision?

GTT suggests how hiring managers wish to hire talent that has the potential to take up leadership roles, someone with the expertise in the domain and an agile learner. However, hiring managers are often confronted with challenges to find the right talent. To understand the pain points of HRs better, we interviewed heads of talent acquisitions and came up with the following problems:

Challenges in the process

0_ Lack of EfficiencyThe Lack of Efficiency

Companies that follow the traditional approach to hiring tend to lack efficiency in the process. Mere shortlisting of resumes, followed by face-to-face interviews, does not necessarily ensure that the shortlisted candidate is the perfect match for a particular job opening. Scheduling interviews as per the mutually convenient availability of the hiring manager, team manager, and the candidate is a challenge. Additionally, if the process does not weed out irrelevant profiles, it often escalates the cost and timeline of the recruitment cycle. Since lateral recruitment is generally intended to hire for a role that requires experienced candidates, companies need a stringent filtration process to seek the right match.

0_Lack of ClarityThe Lack of Clarity

CHROs and hiring managers have much to attend to on a daily basis. In such a case, it is highly inconvenient for them to also closely track the ongoing recruitment. Often, communication becomes a barrier, and the leaders are unable to get real-time updates. There seems to be a lack of visibility in the overall lateral recruitment process, as all the stakeholders involved are not aligned as needed.

People’s Challenges

0_Lack of Behavioral AssessmentLack of Behavioral Assessment

If there is no means to analyze the personality and behavioral attributes of prospective employees, HRs end up making decisions based on their vibe,  which may also be susceptible to different kinds of bias. Candidates that do not align with the company’s culture and values are highly likely to leave the organization within a short period, thus increasing the recruitment cost as well. This puts the hiring decision in a bad light as employers don’t have the means to hire candidates who are the right cultural fit for their organization.

0_Lack of Means to Measure Domain KnowledgeLack of Means to Measure Domain Knowledge

Candidates applying for lateral hiring come with certain experiences. Even as their past projects are clearly stated on the resume, it is usually highly subjective for HRs to analyze the domain understanding of the candidate being interviewed. Mere pen-and-paper aptitude tests would not suffice in ensuring the quality of your hire. Employers do not have the right means to measure the technical know-how of candidates, which becomes another roadblock to the lateral hiring process.


How Can HRs Streamline Lateral Hiring ?

As enumerated above, HRs face numerous challenges while making lateral hires, in addition to not having a structured process. Structuring your lateral hiring process ensures cutting down the hiring cost and improving the efficacy of the hiring process. So, we have come up with a short and simple process to help you streamline your lateral hiring process.

0_GET CANDIDATES’ BASIC INFORMATIONi) Get Candidates’ Basic Information

Pre-screening entails shortlisting candidates from a pool of resumes as per the job role. To automate this repetitive and manual job, HR bots are simplifying one of the most time-consuming aspects of talent acquisition and increasingly incorporating analytics to predict the candidate fit and quality. Bots can replicate an HRs job, thus saving a lot of time that can be utilized by HRs to complete their day-to-day work. Similarly, Bots work as a boon for candidates who no longer have to wait for phone calls to get any job-related updates. The availability of the chatbot, around the clock, saves significant time too.


0_BUILD COMPETENCY FRAMEWORKii) Build Competency Framework

A well thought-out competency framework enables organizations to assess employee performance in addition to building a healthy and transparent work culture. However, before creating a competency framework, HRs must have a clear job description that enlists all the job details. If you face problems in building frameworks for different job roles, you can seek expert guidance. After an in-depth discussion with the line manager, a subject matter expert comes up with a framework that incorporates a mix of behavioral attributes, cognitive ability, and domain expertise. Together, these three forms the pillars of a competency framework.


0_ASSESS FOR THE RIGHT SKILLSiii) Assess for the Right Skills

Simulators play an important role in gauging the skills and knowledge of candidates, which further aids in building an understanding of the nature of work. They save a lot of time and manual effort as they have the capability of auto-complete features and enable hiring managers to mark candidates on a list of predefined parameters. Coding simulators simulate a coding challenge to assess coders’ potential, their way of comprehending a problem, and hands-on experience in a specific language. You can either choose from a library of pre-built tests or customize one that suits your requirements. Additionally, case study simulators present real-world business situations in a virtual environment to candidates. The aim is to measure candidates’ approach to the problem and the conclusion drawn by them based on various assumptions along with decision-making skills.

0_STRUCTURE YOUR INTERVIEWSiv) Structure Your Interviews

A structured interview process is crucial in lateral hiring. It provides a sense of clarity and direction to different stakeholders by highlighting the funnel of interviewees at different states of the selection and recruitment cycle.  Video interview tools, integrated coding and case study simulators further remove the logistical hassle of in-person interviews, reduce the turnaround time, saves time and cost. When followed by competency-based interviews, structured interviews prove to be more effective. Hiring managers can easily enlist the competencies, set the weightage, put across questions based on behavioral indicators and mark candidates accordingly. Since interview questions are mapped to the required competencies, there are fewer chances of making biased or subjective decisions.


0_DATA-BACKED HIRING DECISIONv) Data-Backed Hiring Decision

Data-backed hiring decisions have increased the reach of employers. Not only do employers have access to the best talent, but they also have access to a rich talent pool that can be used at a later stage. Data analysis helps in having a more targeted approach to recruitment and selection. Predictive analysis has the potential to lay plausible outcomes of a particular situation, thus giving more visibility to hiring managers. SMEs can assist in continually building better understanding of lateral hiring data. Once an industry benchmark has been set, the performance of candidates on various assessments can be rated based on the time taken and performance in different sections of the assessment.



How Can Mercer Mettl Help ?

Mercer | Mettl helps you at every step of your lateral hiring process. Our extensive range of solutions helps in streamlining, enhancing and scaling your overall lateral hiring cycle. Mercer | Mettl’s HR chatbot RITA saves the hiring manager’s time during the pre-screening process by serving as a means to collect all the required basic information of a candidate before the interview. It seamlessly automates your pre-screening process. With close to ten years’ expertise in the assessment domain, our SMEs understand organizational requirements in detail to develop frameworks that align with the organization’s ideology. This, in turn, enables organizations to develop competency frameworks at the organizational and the job-role level.

Once HRs have built a relevant talent pool, they can roll out assessments for various job roles. Mercer | Mettl’s assessment battery provides a range of scientifically validated assessments to suit your organizational needs. Personality Test helps in assessing the behavioral aspect of candidates. It determines whether the candidate will fit into the company’s culture. Meanwhile, Aptitude Test assesses a candidate’s critical thinking and problem-solving skills along with verbal reasoning and numerical ability needed to perform the task. To gain a deeper understanding of the skills possessed by candidates, Domain Assessments assist in ascertaining the domain knowledge.

For streamlining lateral hiring for leadership roles, Mercer | Mettl provides Virtual Assessment and Development Centers (ADCs) that replicate traditional assessment centers in a simulated environment. Additionally, our Blended ADCs provide a mix of both offline and online mode in the presence of an assessor. The exercises are curated to understand how top talent performs when confronted with various challenges at work. The assessment battery thus acts as an excellent filtration process in your lateral hiring process.

Given the diverse needs of various industries, Mercer | Mettl SMEs have curated simulators to test the technical know-how of potential hires. Coding Simulators enable HRs to grade candidates on predefined parameters and test the coding expertise of candidates. Meanwhile, case study simulators test how candidates would perform if met with a challenging situation at work. Candidates are marked based on their assumptions and approach to solving the case given to them.

Furthermore, our Structured Interview platform assists HRs in making the lateral hiring process seamless, engaging, and user-friendly. It allows faster hiring and scheduling of interviews, provides competency-based questions and lets organizations make data-backed decisions. Interviewers no longer need to travel to a remote location for in-person interviews or pen-and-paper tests as our video interviews have inbuilt simulators to assess a candidate’s skillset. Our structured hiring platform collects and analyses data into actionable insights for the hiring manager to make hiring decisions more comprehensive.

Originally published March 27 2020, Updated August 23 2021

Written by

A writer at heart, Megha has been in the content industry for 4 years. Starting her career from print, her journey spans across IT, legal and consulting industries. She has been associated with Mercer | Mettl as Assistant Manager, Content Marketing for 2 years.

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