Is HR in Your Middle?

I hear this story again and again. A hiring manager can't find the right candidate.

Why? You would think it would be easier to find great candidates, because so many people are out of work or are looking for better jobs. But that's exactly why it's so hard for hiring managers to find people–there are too many great candidates out there. That leads to looking for perfection. But eventually, if you decide you really need to fill a job, you decide it's time to use a recruiter.

And, for many people that means HR is firmly in the middle. HR decides which recruiters you can and cannot use. HR does all the negotiation with the recruiter. HR provides the recruiter a job description. HR does a first pass reviewing resumes, looking for buzzwords or keywords. HR does the initial phone screen (and I'm not talking about the dirt-bag phone screen). HR sets up the interview. HR decides when to have a followup meeting to discuss the interview, and HR extends the offer.

But that's not the best way to use a recruiter. Hiring managers need to work with the recruiters. I suggest HR has a real role: in selecting and negotiating with recruiters, in helping the hiring manager and the interviewing team make good decisions about how to hire and who to hire. If your HR person is an internal recruiter who knows your group and how they work, maybe that person can help. But too often, the HR person is not an internal recruiter, but an HR generalist. And, HR generalists have no business being in the middle of the recruiting and interviewing work.

For those of you in HR, I suspect this feels like a slap in the face. But here's the reason I feel so strongly about this: as an HR generalist, you have too much to do to do a great job at recruiting. You not only recruit, you do the health care negotiation with vendors. You make sure the corporate policies keep the organization away from lawyer's offices, and especially out of court. You make training decisions. You may even conduct interview training or management training. You certainly conduct new hire training.

If you wanted to be a full-time contract recruiter, you would be. Being a full-time contract recruiter means you network with candidates, that you build relationships around the local area, and maybe around the world. If you are in HR in an organization, it's a formidable task to develop all those relationships and still do your HR job. I don't see how you do it. (It's just barely possible if you are an internal recruiter and you never touch the rest of the HR jobs.)

A contract recruiter needs to build a trusting relationship with a hiring manager. Every time a hiring manager rejects a candidate (even just reviewing resumes), the hiring manager needs to explain why to the recruiter. The whys are myriad: You explain how the job works, the corporate culture, what you are looking for, all the quirks of how things work for this position. The more the recruiter learns, the better the recruiter can source the candidates for this job.

When you allow HR to be in the middle, HR takes control of the transaction. That means delays. It certainly means someone else is playing telephone with your job description and analysis. Is that what you want?

Yes, it's more work for the hiring manager, as you learn about recruiters and how they can help you. And, over time, you work with those recruiters and you build that relationship. It's to the hiring manager's benefit to build those relationships and make it work.

If you have internal recruiters, take the time to get to know them, and have them get to know you. Explain your group's culture. Review resumes with them. But if you don't have an internal recruiter, don't let HR get in the middle of the sourcing process.

One Reply to “Is HR in Your Middle?”

  1. “As an HR generalist, you have too much to do to do a great job at recruiting. You not only recruit, you do the health care negotiation with vendors. You make sure the corporate policies keep the organization away from lawyer’s offices, and especially out of court. You make training decisions. You may even conduct interview training or management training. You certainly conduct new hire training.”

    It’s interesting to note that in all of these other roles, the HR generalist is expected to be doing clerical work; work following a clearly defined process, with exepected inputs and predictable, “correct” outputs.

    But recruiting doesn’t work like that. It starts with a vague and ambiguous problem “Bill Quit” or “We need to expand the SysAdmin team because John and Bob and Suzie are overloaded.” From their, the problem-solver needs to figure out what it exactly was that Bill did, or what John and Bob do. They need to look at what competencies are involved, what the pay rate is — and if it’s the right pay rate (maybe it isn’t, maybe that is why Bill quit) — and how much is reasonable to scrunch into a forty-hour work week. They’ll need to look at ops tempo, company culture, other teams … a lot of things, and compare them to whatever is written down wherever it is written down.

    These are general systems thinking skills, not clerical work. Being unable to serve two masters, the person will tend to either try to make the recruiting work clerical (by creating job descriptions, templates and process flows, thus creating sub-optimal results) or try to make the clerical work systems work — which generally makes the big boss /really/ uncomfortable and can create some amount of organizational risk.

    So yes, I agree, Johanna, that asking an HR generalist to take on recruiting isn’t a very good fit — I just wanted to add a different perspective on why that might be.

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