Article main image
Dec 4, 2013

It was announced this week that the University of Southern California had hired the University of Washington’s head football coach, and former USC assistant, Steve Sarkisian.

It has been an up-and-down season for USC, who fired head football coach Lane Kiffin after starting the season 3 -2. Kiffin was replaced by current assistant coach Ed Orgeron, who then took the team and went 6-2 the rest of the season after taking over for Kiffin.

The players wanted Orgeron to get the head coaching job. USC’s athletic director decided to go outside the program to find his next head coach, despite Orgeron’s success.

I know, I know; you thought you were coming here to read about HR stuff. Well you are – kind of!

Why do external hires seem sexier?

Doesn’t this sound familiar to you? Not the coaching and football stuff, but how the decision was made to hire from the outside?

Here you have someone internally who has been loyal and successful, and instead of giving that person the promotion, the organization decides that an external person, who really hasn’t proven anything (in this case, Sarkisian has been marginally successful at the University of Washington) is the one to go with.

This just doesn’t happen with football coaches at big universities; this happens at every level of organizations all over the world!

The fact of the matter is, external hires are sexier!

It’s a weird organization dynamic that takes place. Internal people become idiots, external people are geniuses. Why do you think your organization pays big bucks to bring in consultants to basically tell you to do things you already knew you needed to do, and have been trying to get your organization to do?

It’s because you’ve hit “idiot” status in your organization — which means, you’ve been there over a year and are no longer considered an external genius!

2 ways to handle the external “genius” problem

I see it constantly when I go and consult in the Talent Acquisition field. I’ll go and talk with the rank and file workers who are doing the work each and every day. Then I’ll go and talk to the executives.

The rank and file know what needs to be done, the executives don’t think their people have a clue, and the big miss is usually the executive who is unwilling to give his or her team the resources needed to make the change.

That is, until I tell them that is what is needed, then all of sudden “my ideas” —  the very same ideas the team already knew needed to be done — are “genius!”

How do you combat this phenomenon? You have two routes:

1. Quit every 12 months and move to a new company to regain your sexy status.


2. Don’t make your ideas your own.

We get caught up in wanting “our” ideas to be what we do. But if you know you’ve reached “idiot” status in your organization, this will work against you because your ideas will be considered worthless.

Using the influence of  a sexy new hire

So, show your executives who else in the industry have tried this and how it went. Give examples of companies outside your industry having success with it. Best of all, show how your competition has had success with something like it. You need to make your idea someone else’s idea — someone a lot sexier than you!

Remember, you’re not alone in feeling this way. It’s very common for organizations to believe external hires, and thus their ideas and beliefs, are much sexier and better than you.

It doesn’t mean you need to give into this belief; you just need to show you can be more savvy about how you move things through your organization.

Also, be positive about using the influence a sexy new hire has. They have this brief window of being a genius, so find ways to work with them to use this fading power!

Yes, soon they’ll be an idiot, just like you.

This originally appeared on the blog  The Tim Sackett Project.