Should HR Be In the Hiring Business?

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Recently, Nick Corcodilos of http://www.asktheheadhunger.com, answered this question and answered with a resounding “No”. You can read what he had to say here, http://www.pbs.org/newshour/businessdesk/2013/04/ask-the-headhunter-the-talent.html. He provides three reasons for his thinking:

1) HR Professionals (clerks, he calls us) don’t have the knowledge of the jobs for which we are hiring.
2) Hiring is too critical a function for a manager to delegate it to HR.
3) HR has no “skin in the game,” because they are not held accountable for who they hire.

I’m not sure which HR departments Mr. Corcodilos was referring to, but they sure weren’t any of the ones for which I’ve worked. He paints a picture of HR as some monolithic bureaucracy straight out of the movie Brazil, mindless administrators sitting appearing to be busy at our computers. All we’re missing are the vacuum tubes.

If this description is accurate, then Mr. Corcodilos is right – HR has no business hiring. But this doesn’t describe HR – just bad HR. Good HR partners with others in the organization to find the best candidates. They don’t take care of the hiring process from start to finish, without any input from the hiring manager. It’s not as if one day, HR plops a complete stranger into an empty seat and then says to the manager, here you go, he’s all yours.

Good HR works with the hiring manager to help that hiring manager find the best person for the position. In my current workplace, we start by discussing the requirements for the position, and adjusting the job description accordingly. HR then creates a job posting based on this description and coordinate recruiting strategies with the manager. Especially when looking for highly skilled employees, this involves the manager actively recruiting candidates through his or her own network.

The hiring manager sees all resumes. We do not do a keyword search to narrow the field (I agree with Mr. Corcodilos that this is a bad practice, which I discuss in a previous post, From the Great State(s) of Winnesota http://wp.me/p3ovkQ-l). The hiring manager provides HR with a list of candidates to screen.

Mr. Corcodilos believes that the hiring manager should make the first contact. That would be great in an ideal world. However, managers are busy. They may find nine or ten candidates who, judging by their applications and resumes, are worth talking to, but in actuality, are not a fit for the position. We used to have candidates come in and interview with the manager without the HR screening. Too many times, we found that the candidate was not right because, regardless of what the application said, they were not willing to work the hours we needed, wanted too much money, had poor communication or interpersonal skills, or didn’t share the organization’s values. A twenty minute phone screening eliminates these candidates, leaving managers with the three to five candidates who are actually worth an interview. Also, a good HR Professional takes the time to understand the position, at least on a cursory level. I used to go out to job fairs to talk with engineers looking for new positions. After talking to them a few minutes, they would often ask, What type of engineer are you?

I’d give a standard response: I’m not an engineer. I just play one on TV.

The manager conducts the in-person interview in order to determine who is the best candidate. HR trains the managers in how to conduct an interview and write interview questions that will help them make an informed decision. Afterwards, we often act as a sounding board to talk through the final decision with the manager. We also conduct all the necessary background checks and provide guidance on compensation. When making the offer, we make sure that the candidate understands our benefits and pay packages, and answer any questions regarding these issues.

Keep in mind that this process is not always the same. It may change to meet the needs of the hiring manager or the position. We are internal consultants. HR is there to help, not to dictate.

And what if we weren’t involved? Let me give you two examples from previous employers:

1) One of my first days on a job, I was asked to sit in on a round of interviews. Being new, I let the hiring manager run the interviews. After talking to six different candidates, he asked me what I thought. I told him I had no idea. He spent most of the time talking, never asking the candidates a substantial question.

2) When I started another position, I went into New Employee Orientation with five other new hires. After six months, only two of us were still employed with the organization. At that time, HR was only involved in the hiring process to ensure legal compliance. For example, they reviewed interview questions, but only to make sure managers weren’t asking anything inappropriate. Managers were hiring to fill positions, without any training or guidance. A revolving door had been created, costing both time and money.

Mr. Corcodilos last point, that HR is not held accountable for hires, is a problem with organizational structure, not with HR. In my organization, I am measured against factors such as turnover rates, customer satisfaction and sales performance. If I don’t help get the right people in place, those measurements will suffer, and it will show up in my compensation. In addition, if an employee turns out to be a bad hire, who do you think the manager calls to help solve the problem? That’s right, me, HR guy. So it only creates more work for me in the long run.

If you still don’t believe that good HR should be in the hiring business, ask managers. I did. The response was unanimous.

I don’t think I need to tell you what their answer was.

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