April 12, 2010

Readers’ Forum: Spanking HR

Filed under: Hiring, Readers' Forum, Recruiting

Discussion: April 13, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

In today’s Q&A: (Well, it’s not a Q&A!) This week I printed comments about the corporate Human Resources function that bear thinking about. A seasoned HR manager says HR should get out of the business of hiring and recruiting and go back to making sure paychecks have the right amount of money in them.

I agree. I think HR has no business handling recruiting and hiring. In fact, I think HR has a conflict of interest.

What do you think? Can companies get by with managers doing their own recruiting and hiring? Would these functions be better served if HR stopped doing them? Is HR actually doing companies a disservice by mucking around in the hiring process of corporate business units?

I’d like to know what you think. (The full article from today’s newsletter is here: Time for HR to exit the hiring business.)

.

50 Comments on “Readers’ Forum: Spanking HR”
By H
April 13, 2010 at 12:54 am

I agree wholeheartedly with getting HR out of the equation!

My best jobs as a Masrer’s Degree nurse practitioner were one-to-one talks with the administrators of large medical care networks such as Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic, and Intermountain Health Care.
They saw me as a valuable asset for the organization rather than fitting into some job position numbered 29086!

That has changed in many health organizations and EVERYTHING is handled online thorugh HR. So forget those companies and go to the ones who are looking for a “few good people.” (Sorry Marines!)
The higher up in the company the better!

By H
April 13, 2010 at 1:00 am

Addendum: One time while talking with an administrator I brought up the need for a medical clinic in a Nevada casino town that had no health care. The townspeople were sewing wounds up with fishing lines and needles.
He said “Could you set one up?” I said “Sure!” I was out there the next day and the clinic/ER was functioning within a week.
That NEVER would have happened from HR. And Intermountain Health Care just keeps getting bigger AND more important, better!

By Rick M
April 13, 2010 at 2:14 am

In 40 years of working, I have had exactly two HR hiring professionals out of a potential population of over 100. Those two were competent for our engineering departments because they embedded themselves within our departments under special projects, and one of them had actually been a competent engineer at one time. They were invaluable. The only other qualified candidates I ever found, I found when we put the managers on planes and went looking for them ourselves.

Out of five different companies, only one hired me thru a placement group, and that company had one of those competent HR personnel specialists. It was also a very long time ago. All of my other positions came via direct interface with hiring managers who I met one way or another, and who shunted around any HR business prevention obstacles to hire me!

By joanne
April 13, 2010 at 3:02 am

Couldn’t agree more!. It stuns me to hear companies complain about a lack of qualified people when unemployment is at an all time high.

I know many incredibly qualified individuals who have had a hard time getting past HR gatekeepers. In my recent experience I’ve seen new hires that leave me scratching my head and wondering how on earth someone decided they were qualified for the position. There is a huge disconnect.

Another symptom of the problem is some of the job posts. I’ve seen some that make me wonder who in their right mind actually thinks there is an individual that meets their requirements. There is a lot of emphasis on what software packages you have used, but there doesn’t seem to be as much interest in your depth of understnding of the core competency needed to really perform the job. A new software package can be learned very quickly, but 10 years of experience is invaluable. In the HR world, they seem to have the same weight.

I wonder how long it will take for business to wake up and smell the coffee.

By G
April 13, 2010 at 7:52 am

Some of the HR dominance of hiring is due to lazy managers not taking responsibility. When I was a manager I always did my own reference checks but most managers in the company let HR do them. They missed out on really knowing whether a reference was enthusiastically positive or just not negative.

By John Zabrenski
April 13, 2010 at 7:53 am

Nick,
The intellectual de-evoloution of HR reminds me of the state of society in the movie “Idiocracy”. Our only hope is that the Chinese comptetition is even more bureaucratic and brain dead.

By Neva
April 13, 2010 at 7:54 am

Absolutely, unreservedly, yes: HR should get out of the business of hiring. Nothing more needs to be said.

By Anonymous
April 13, 2010 at 8:31 am

I wanted to take a moment to add to this very interesting comment and I do so anonymously strictly because I currently rely on this field to hire me (even if I seek out higher – Hire ups) further up the food chain I get passed on down to these buffoons.

The first commenter the nurse practitioner with a Masters degree…..you hit the money right on the head…..and this is why those organizations in healthcare are so highly rated…they have as an organization (Both of them) one of the finest cultures in organizational history. Their main tenet is patients first everyone else second….but second comes first when looking for talent…..amazing. It is not about profits…..I was always told growing up that if you mind your pennies the dollars take care of themselves. This is rather analogous in this matter; to which we are pennies, and the organizations mind us, and the profits become readily apparent.

Secondly, I have in the past been a part of the HR function – however was never allowed to penetrate fully because (my opinion) I like to observe what doesn’t work and then fix it) for example…..I was with an organization that had a very large turnover rate for coincidentally enough a segment of the healthcare profession. This was very alarming to me….instituting a system of behavioral based interviews, working in tandem with departments who actually needed the hire’s would have greatly reduced the turnover and I identified that a savings of near 350k would result (at a minimum) – turnover would be way less if value placed on employee first…..

ohh Idiocracy? So true….

I also had a revealing discussion with a recruiter yesterday….this individual told me that HR would want to know why I had a gap on my resume…….one that started in the same time frame as this recession to now….amazing……you have to spell it out for them? Do they not read newspapers?

Listen for it……..that popping sound is the sound you hear when HR’s heads finally pop out of their ass!

By PJ
April 13, 2010 at 8:43 am

Human Resources was coined to manage inside personel. however everyone knows that reamining lean and mean is synonym for multitasking and taking on more than one job.
HR is the wrong funnel for hiring.

By Ken Cameron
April 13, 2010 at 8:51 am

In the “old days”, HR (or Personnel) was more of an employee advocacy group. They were there to Support the business and employees. IMHO, their evolution into a dictatorial, policy-setting, policy-enforcing organization has somewhat paralleled the age of compliance across the enterprise. Instead of “supporting” the business, they have evolved into a group that serves as the police of the organization.

By Bob Lewis
April 13, 2010 at 9:25 am

The question: How can organizations hire the best talent. The answer: What is the right organizational home for “Recruiting.”

The problem isn’t Recruiting’s organizational home. It’s how most organizations parcel out responsibility.

HR has at least two legitimate roles to play here. One is educating hiring managers into how to recognize the best talent and hire it. Another is compliance: If anyone here thinks HR hasn’t performed a valuable service in reducing the impact of all forms of bigotry and bias, they haven’t been paying attention.

HR could play another legitimate role, as a clearinghouse for inbound employment inquiries. Nick points out a number of pitfalls it needs to avoid in doing so.

My point: The problem isn’t Recruiting’s organizational home. The problem is the underlying theory of workforce sourcing and value that’s in place in so many corporations.

HR usually gets the blame for it. I’m less sure the blame is that easily located. As evidence: How many managers do you know who consider hiring and retaining talent to be their most important responsibilities?

By Nick Corcodilos
April 13, 2010 at 10:18 am

@Bob Lewis: I disagree. Recruiting’s organizational home is what this is ALL about. Recruiting and hiring belong in the business units. If a unit wants to hire support staff to help with those tasks, so be it. But house them with the biz unit. Not in an administrative silo.

Today, recruiting doesn’t have a home in most companies. HR pretends to handle it, but in fact outsources it: job boards, want ads, headhunters, employment agencies. Managers are often relieved (literally and figuratively). Recruiting and hiring are done elsewhere, by someone else.

I don’t think recruiting and hiring are legitimate roles for HR. Compliance should be HR’s role – that and printing paychecks and coordinating benefits and company social events. Even training programs. But not hiring. Managers are best suited to find their own talent. And if managers need help learning to do this better, get them some education – from people who are expert at recruiting and hiring (not HR, which is an administrative function). Recruiting is a sales function to a large degree; HR does not have sales skills. It’s also a matter of being part of the community you recruit from; HR is not and cannot be.

If HR serves as a clearinghouse for incoming applicants (which it does now), we face the simple problem of inadequate handling. HR simply is not qualified to sort applicants. At best, it should just route applications without any review to department managers. I’ve seen crummy resumes from outstanding job candidates. When HR starts “filtering,” managers lose.

I would no more want HR to educate managers about how to hire than I’d want a shipping clerk to teach my engineers how to design products. Just because the clerk “handles” the product at some point doesn’t qualify the clerk to design it. Any more than “handling” employees qualifies HR to go find good ones.

Love ya, Bob, but we have polar opposite views on this issue. I do agree that few managers view recruiting/hiring as their key roles. But changing that attitude doesn’t have anything to do with HR.

By Nick Corcodilos
April 13, 2010 at 10:21 am

@G: Companies will not take recruiting and hiring away from HR until managers accept responsibility for those key functions. And managers won’t take it on til the board of directors issues an order.

There is one reason the board should do this: New hires report to managers. Not to HR. Boards need to get their heads out of the sand. Every manager should devote 15-20% of their time to recruiting and hiring, all the time. “People are our most important asset.” Except we don’t like to worry our managers about that.

By Bonnie
April 13, 2010 at 10:31 am

Bob makes many valid points. It’s easy to blame HR for everything that’s wrong with the recruiting process, but saying managers should handle it themselves is unrealistic — especially these days when you have 200+ eager applicants for every opening! Managers want the best people for their teams, but they don’t want to devote their time to this (right or wrong, most of them feel their time is better spent on other organizational priorities). Besides, many managers do NOT have good people skills or even good judgment — expecting them to recruit the best talent could be inviting disaster.

Instead of saying HR should get out of the business of hiring, perhaps it would be better to say HR should be retrained on the business of hiring.

By Valeria Stewart
April 13, 2010 at 10:47 am

We’ve lost qualified candidates due to HR interference and incompetence.

For example, our supervisor took it upon himself to get some candidates to come in for interviews. Thanks to interviewing techniques I learned here and elsewhere, I became known as the “tough one” because I would never look at a person’s resume and instead give them simple problems—real life examples of the work we do—and watch how well they were able to work them.

One guy who everyone thought looked impressive (based upon his resume and ability to answer the questions from the ‘big book of interview questions’) was stymied when I asked him to diagram on a whiteboard how he’d go about solving a simple real-world problem. He sat there for about 5 minutes and finally admitted he couldn’t figure it out. He didn’t even try! Result: no hire.

We finally found a person who was a perfect fit. Our supervisor submits him to HR to get the hiring process started…and HR throws a *FIT* because we didn’t go through them to get our candidates. They drag their feet, and drag them, and drag them. Weeks go by.

Finally, after about a month, our candidate emails us and tells us that he really wanted to work at our company, but he couldn’t wait and found another job.

THANKS, HR!!

If I ever own my own company, or get into a position of influence in someone else’s, there will never be an HR department headed by anyone higher than a line manager, and they will have ZERO say in recruiting.

By Anonomous
April 13, 2010 at 11:01 am

Wow, first of all, thank you Nick for going further! You nailed it all the way home.

I would like to go a step further and say that training and development may not belong with HR either. I was reading a community bulletin board on an HR Web site recently and in response to a question about career direction (HR management versus HR development), one of the long-time posters wrote that human resource development was considered a “step child” among HR professionals, that no one with that training advanced to the executive ranks.

A few years back, I had hope for HR because of the human capital movement and the open recognition that organizations need to value talent. I really believed HR would change!

But alas, HR recruiters still fail to see human potential, they see “round hole/round peg” so they respond with more bureacracy and look for more pegs instead of investing in raw material to make the right peg.

Einstein said that we can’t solve our problems by using the same kind of thinking that got us into the mess.

By Phil
April 13, 2010 at 11:13 am

I agree that HR should not be doing hiring, but don’t agree that if you are in HR you are incompetent or if you are a hiring manager you are somehow competent. I recently spoke with a hiring manager that was responsible for her own recruiting and hiring – she was having a terrible time finding qualified people. She recently engaged an outside recruiting firm to identify candidates, filtering out the many unqualified candidates that solicit employment. The only way that an HR function can be effective for an company to act as a service provider – delivering tools and services to managers (and executives). If the focus is just administrative and siloed, then it will only be overhead.

By Gerry Wieder
April 13, 2010 at 11:41 am

Hi Nick,

Another great article! I hope at some time you will consider addressing the other side of the equation-the hiring managers. The vacuum HR is filling was left because so-called managers have abdicated their responsibility for hiring. Many managers are “managers by default”. They should have never been promoted to management in the first place. HR staffers, although many of them are woefully lacking in recruiting skills and ability, are put in the position of being recruiters (instead of compliance officers) because the recruiting role has been thrust upon them by the organization.

By Nick Corcodilos
April 13, 2010 at 11:41 am

@Valeria: No employer ever put it so well. Thanks for sharing your stories!

By Dave S
April 13, 2010 at 11:50 am

In my 30 years in Fortune 100 companies I have met lots of nice HR folks, but I have never found the role to be very valuable. I have always preferred to deal with headhunters than internal groups. Perhaps corporations should outsource the entire role.

By Bob
April 13, 2010 at 12:12 pm

I too was considered the tough one. In fact when I was the co-worker to-be and asked the candidate to solve a simple programming task (which took me 3 minutes to explain, and they could answer in psuedo-code and I specifically stated they could use any language they wanted), my co-workers and boss got very angry with me and my example and banned my practice.

So that wasn’t HR’s fault. It was the hiring manager’s fault.

But here I am knocking on the door of a company that I believe I’d like to work for, and for which I have 4 years of very relevant experience (as I work for a company in the same business space). And they have the HR person give me the technical phone screen. She doesn’t understand the answers, so when I gave a nuanced answer, I didn’t pass.

By Bill Gaffney
April 13, 2010 at 1:12 pm

Bonnie,
First of all to you. If a manager does not have good people skills or good judgment it probably doesn’t matter who does the hiring. Chances are the new hire will either be a failure because of the manager or get disgusted and leave.

First of all any company where the department manager is totally blocked out of the process until HR gets the resume and screens them is either micromanaged, primarily by senior management “rules,” and/or run by HR.

Believe it or not HR didn’t create this problem and the problem is not their fault. It lies clearly on the shoulders of senior management.

My experience as a recruiter tells me that hiring managers are generally the ones dragging their feet much more than HR. HR could be used to hold the hiring managers’ feet to the fire.

Next HR’s job really is one of applicant elimination, not hiring. Any good HR person will tell you this. If they are not screening down resumes to the right people there is a training and/or competency issue. This means hiring managers and HR heads have to be in synch with a senior officer as the arbitrator when necessary. (I know Nick. This might be a bit utopian but it can be accomplished to a large degree. I have seen it.) If an internal recruiter, HR person, etc is not providing strong candidates the hiring manager should be able to communicate with the HR boss and determine the problem. Just as many times I have discovered the hiring manager is wanting something that doesn’t exist, can’t communicate the requirements of the job, will not take the time to interview, etc as it is HR’s fault.

To say that hiring managers are too busy to be involved in the initial hiring process, too busy to be involved in initial selection, too busy to be involved in initial screening is naive and compounding the problem. As Nick said the pain is not HRs. It is the hiring manager. I have been recruiting sales’ people for almost 20 years. It always amuses me when a sales director/manager is down staff and behind quota their number 1 priority isn’t hiring a salesperson ASAP. Reports and answering e-mails don’t get sales made. People get sales made.

There is a lowest common denominator here. It is not HR and it is not department/hiring managers. It is senior management. One of their priorities should be hiring/retaining talented people. That is not so in many organizations. HR has a vital role to play in the process, but that role should be defined as tactical and functional, not strategic, which the actual hiring is about.

One final comment. As I mentioned I have been a recruiter for almost 20 years. Most recruiters like to make HR the villains, the reasons for their failures, their inability to get people hired, the scapegoats, etc. WHY??? Poor potty training. The worst effect of this counter productive attitude is HR does become the enemy and reacts that way. I have run across an equal number of idiotic and incompetent hiring managers and HR people. A TALENTED RECRUITER KNOWS HOW TO WORK WITH THE HIRING MANAGER AND USE HR AS AN ADVOCATE AT THE SAME TIME.

By Rick Manning
April 13, 2010 at 1:25 pm

Not to be confused with Rick M up above (who wrote a very nice comment), but I almost forgot that I once did my own recruiting. When the economy got more and more brutal, and I was too beat up to do it myself anymore, I at least had the good fortune to have line managers below me and above me who shared my values in looking for talent. They screened, but I took the time to brush off the dust and take part in the decision. Because we all shared the risk, we could all bask in the successes. I was careful to thank everyone who helped me then with this important responsibility, and I want to thank everyone today who reminded me to keep this in my job desciption. Thank you.

By Anonymous Worker
April 13, 2010 at 1:44 pm

(Using the Anonymous nom de plume as well, because I am job hunting.)

Recently, I found a rather vague job description for a position in my field on a job board. The job description didn’t specify anything more than very general knowledge, which is unusual in Information Technology where most job postings ask for a level of experience with specific tools.

So I sent off a resume and cover letter. (I am required to “apply” for a specific number of positions per week to keep my unemployment.Not that I look for a real job like that! I use Nick’s methods.)

Really not expecting to hear from them (since I am very senior in my field), I was amazed to receive a response like this:

————-
Dear (applicant):
We thought your experience and background a good fit for our … position. We are gathering current and expected compensation now, and would like you to send that along as soon as possible.

Sincerely,
HR Person

——–

My response was polite and very general, in that I would be glad to provide information about an appropriate salary range for someone with my expertise, and asked them if they could provide me with the budgeted range for the position?

I also said (very nicely) it would be difficult to quote a salary expectation without (1) more information about the job (2) information about benefits, working conditions, and so on.

I know I will never hear from this company again. Why? Because HR’s primary hiring criteria is the salary that an applicant will quote for a vague, non-specific job description with no idea of the actual work to be done, the company culture, benefits, or even if the work itself is interesting.

Does the hiring manager know about this tactic? I doubt it. Will that person wonder why the candidates don’t seem to be very good? Yeah, probably.

That’s what you get when you advertise for the lowest bidder without stipulating what you want for your money.

I wouldn’t hire a fence contractor with this criteria, but lots of companies place their reputation and business on the line doing exactly that: “Sold, to the lowest bidder.”

So I agree: Get HR Out of Hiring!

By Anonomous
April 13, 2010 at 3:30 pm

I apologize for not identifying myself, I have to wear an HR hat part of the time and I can’t afford to embarrass my peers…but every thing Nick has said is dead on, I should know!

But they are not completely responsible for this mess. When it comes to not recognizing talent and acting like a gatekeeper, the only professionals denser than HR are college professors and others who are responsible for preparing the workforce.

By JB King
April 13, 2010 at 4:25 pm

The question to my mind is how well does HR really understand the various roles within the company before deciding whether or not they should be booted. If HR can be properly embedded deeply into each department so that they really do know what is going on there, then I think HR can be fine at doing the hiring. However, most HR isn’t going to go that deep as that can be a huge cost to the company as I’m saying that to hire for position X, someone in HR has to really understand what this person does. That may mean getting deep into some things but in a way that’s the point. I’m not saying HR should be able to do my job, but if I want to discuss how a project went or how I do some design for a solution, this shouldn’t result in a glazed over look from the recruiter or HR looking to hire me. That person should be able to understand how projects run in IT in some sense and what kinds of tools I may use and for what purpose.

Thus, I see this more as a failure of general management understanding how difficult some of this stuff can be. If HR is going to be entrusted with employee learning and development, doesn’t it make sense to give them the starting point on that which is hiring? The key point here is how well does HR really get into other areas and how fair is that to expect?

By branding
April 13, 2010 at 5:11 pm

The large independent advertising agency I work for happily operates entirely without a human resources department or function. Our principals do their own hiring and firing, and this causes us to have better recruits and better managers.

And any unsolicited mail addressed to “Human Resources” or “Human Resources Manager” goes unopened into the recycling bin.

By Miloak
April 14, 2010 at 12:09 pm

I was told by the CEO of a Fortune 500 mfg. company (headquartered here in Atlanta) that he had no HR managers. Each of his 22 plants has a HR administrative assistant responsible for the administrative paperwork for insurance, profit sharing etc.
All the plant’s hiring is done by the appropriate level of management. He said,”If they can not hire & discipline & fire; I’ll replace them with a manager that can.”
PS: the company is very profitable and continues to grow.

By ckwilson
April 14, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Nick I just want you to know your HR rant is spot on. I have been in the HR field since 97. The last 5 years of that, has been in recruiting. I was talking to an old friend that is with an HR firm. What I found out was if you are not certified as an HR professional no matter how much experience a person has many companies will not look at a resume. A certification does not make a professional. I was taught that knowledge is power. Paper shuffling can be done by anyone.

By Nick Corcodilos
April 14, 2010 at 6:30 pm

@Gerry Wieder: Oh, I agree that managers have abdicated their responsibility to handle hiring. It’s a mess. This leaves a massive vaccuum. It’s not unreasonable to suggest that the failure of HR + failure of managers has “generated” what appears to be a massive “talent shortage” – while enormous numbers of highly-skilled and talented people are on the street. The problem is that no one ever expected software and databases to handle this critical mass of job openings and people – yet that’s what companies are relying on. No surprise that it’s a disaster. Humans aren’t doing the work, and machines can’t.

By Nick Corcodilos
April 14, 2010 at 6:32 pm

@Bob: “when I gave a nuanced answer, I didn’t pass.”

I hope there are some technical managers out there realizing that while they wait for jobs to be filled, they are getting totally screwed by an inane screening process.

By Nick Corcodilos
April 14, 2010 at 6:35 pm

@Miloak: “If they can not hire & discipline & fire; I’ll replace them with a manager that can.”

‘Nuff said!!

@The HR Folks who have posted: my heart goes out to you. There are some good HR people out there, but not enough. On the other hand, I say the exact same thing about headhunters.

By H
April 14, 2010 at 8:03 pm

Nick, I disagree with you and Valeria…. A hiring team asked me a “real world” question using “code words” that I had never heard before. They weren’t medical terms, they were Organizational terms: “sentinal reports.”
I really did not know what that meant. I asked them their definition of the word. They couldn’t, you see, it was part of the question.

They stopped the interview right there. I asked “What IS a sentinal event?” It turned out to be a case where a patient died or was severely injured. I teach major trauma and literally wrote the existing manuals on battlefield trauma in Iraq and Afghanistan…that were okayed by Walter Reed and Bethesda. So they used their little decoder ring secret word to get a good friend with about 1% of my knowledge hired. Oh the power some people yield..and that is what it comes down to. Life and death decisions…just ask my husband (Oh you can’t) who committed suicide as he couldn’t get a job with a strong IT/education background as HE couldn’t get passt HR.

By Debra Feldman, JobWhiz ,Executive Talent Agent
April 15, 2010 at 3:37 pm

In representing prospective employees and promoting them to hiring decision managers, I’ve certainly seen the gamut of organizational models that have been devised Several consulting organizations that I know have developed a “hybrid solution” that in my opinion is one of the best working models I’ve seen. A respected member of the team (often an individual that was once part of the delivery operations but now has chosen to spend more time in HQ or works part time or on a non-partnership track) who is based in and budgeted within the business unit and not a part of HR, takes on the role of recruiting liaison. Yes, this does but another layer between candidate and hiring authority but it is a decent compromise to charging managers with the entire recruiting function and delegating or rather abdicating it to an outsider in HR.

By jeff
April 16, 2010 at 8:30 am

The function of HR in hiring should be limited to investigative purposes only (qualifications, reference checks including financial, etc.). Department and supervising managers must be permitted to conduct more extensive interviews, review data collected by HR and make the final decision. This is exactly how I manage my hiring and it works very well.

By Lucille
April 16, 2010 at 11:16 am

@Helen E in Hawaii
We are very sorry you husband has died. You have our sympathies for your tragic loss.
Suicide is very tough to get through and we hope you do.

By Karalyn Brown
April 16, 2010 at 8:40 pm

I’m not sure anyone really knows the science of hiring even though there’s a lot written about it. How much value HR has always comes down to the quality of their relationships with the rest of the business and how well they understand it. When I was in HR, all I could ever really hope for was a 30% understanding of the roles I was advertising, so I was useful as a general resource and close enough to people to understand the culture. But this doesn’t often happen in large organisations where HR has a silo of their own. In a medium size organisation, if I took a resume to a manager, when someone approached me in HR for a role, the response that I received would depend on how much the manager trusted my judgment, yet if that same manager came to me with a resume to say “you must interview this person, I need them for a particular role” I would most often do it.

By Ray Saunders
April 16, 2010 at 10:34 pm

HR should not be involved in hiring, beyond (possibly) validating credentials and making sure the applicant is not physically, mentally or legally undesirable.

Remember Personnel departments? They made sure your vacation, pay & benefits were squared away. Their ‘customers’ were the employees.

When they became HR, it reflected an attitude wherein the R seems to reduce the H to just another resource, like paperclips and pens. The investors are their customers.

I’ve been a techie (IT) since 1963. I’ve never met an HR person who had even a clue about what I do or what their jobs require. Even when they have a job description in front of them, they don’t understand it. Only the hiring manager has any idea.

By Ray Saunders
April 16, 2010 at 10:50 pm

Bob: “educating hiring managers into how to recognize the best talent and hire it.”

You assume a level of HR competence I’ve never seen in 47 years.

I am currently in an IT subsidiary of a major hospital system. No one in the company – certainly not HR – has a clue about what my job really consists of or what it takes to do it properly. Current management inherited me from a previous VP/CIO (less successful manager, better techie). All they know is that my system runs trouble-free and better than all the other systems in the house. They don’t know why, but they like it, so they keep paying me.

I ignore HR. I’ve successfully done so for 47 years. I would not work at any company which used gave HR a major role in hiring. If I can’t bypass HR, that tells me the company is badly screwed up.

By Bob Lewis
April 17, 2010 at 2:45 pm

Ray … You should hear what people say about IT. Think it’s complimentary? Or all about negative stereotypes?

What you advocate is a perfect example of what I’ve called the “third axle alternative” (http://www.weblog.keepthejointrunning.com/?p=3325). It’s where your car gets a flat tire, and instead of fixing the flat you weld on a third axle.

I have no idea whether you have 47 years of experience or one year of experience repeated 47 times. Do you have a random sample, or even a large one?

Something I can’t let pass without comment: If you can’t bypass HR, that tells you the company is badly screwed up? I wonder how you respond with a department manager says, “If you can’t bypass IT, that tells me the company is badly screwed up.”

Here’s what I know: How HR is run is nothing more than a mirror of the attitudes of the company’s top executives.

If, from the CEO on down, they consider the men and women who staff their company to be the most important factor driving their success then they’ll have an HR organization that does a great job of making sure the company attracts, recruits, hires, retains and develops top talent.

If, from the CEO on down, they consider employees to be fungible commodities, people like you will blame HR.

By Dave
April 18, 2010 at 12:33 pm

Great conversation here – but it’s missing the piece of our economy that will drive our growth over the next ten years!

Who cares about the Fortune 500 when Startups will be leading us forward! And how many of them have dedicated HR or Recruiting functions? This shift is what will force a change in HR and Recruiting going forward…

http://jobhacking.typepad.com/job_hacking/2010/04/re-spanking-hr.html

By Dave Wright
April 19, 2010 at 7:15 pm

It is far too simplistic to ask for a binary answer to a question that can have a thousand different answers depending on who you are speaking of.
Yes, I have had people that treated me poor and those that can’t put three words together. But I have also had those within HR that once they believe I “might” be the right candidate, coach me on how to best represent myself from resume to in person communication. Being an expert (in some cases, truly experts) can add more value than the hiring manager have to take on the entire process when it it’s barely a blip on their job description. Yes, the hiring manager wants to do a good job, but when done right, outsourcing the first step of the search to HR is far better use of line manager’s time.

To say throw the baby out… would be dumping a lot of value and definitely compromise the process in many searches. The fix is to either improving the quality of your HR people and processes or in some cases, dump them if a fix is not viable.

By Karsten
April 22, 2010 at 1:51 pm

I work for a government organization where I think HR has got both its daily grind and hiring right, because HR here knows where they can contribute and how, and where to stay away.

Our HR takes care of “pay and benefits”, and they also take a part in the personal development of employees, by ensuring that new hires have a good mentor, that they get the necessary training, that people can veolve professionally etc. But the training itself, and the decision on who needs which training when, is left to the technical people.

HR also takes part in hiring, but in the limited role of knowing people. Psychology can be an important part of evaluating a candidate, and should be left to people who know it (provided the HR people actually do, and our main HR manager does). Evaluation of candidates technical skills are left to the managers of those fields, and they have the last word.

Although we are a government organization, we compete with private businesses, and both our managers and HR are very aware of that; the pay is somewhat lower, but is compensated by other benefits, job security and very interesting work, including field trips for our geologists.

It is actually quite sad that I will have to look for a new job due to a relocation…

By Karsten
April 22, 2010 at 1:53 pm

I should add that our organization is only 230 people altogether, so HR here is really able to know all the people here. It would possibly be much worse in a larger organization.

By GB
April 23, 2010 at 7:28 pm

I have to agree with Nick. Too many times, the HR professionals I’ve worked with have (instead of support and facilitate my efforts) weeded out so many qualified candidates that I couldn’t find anyone to hire. That is, until I asked for the culled out resumes – where I found many candidates that I am proud to have hired and mentored through to successful careers.
Rather than learn the finer points of my profession, the candidates I wanted to talk to were eliminated because of not having enough of the matching buzz words. This takes a majority of the people I want to talk to out of the picture. And since being unemployed myself, I find that practice continues today. This proves that resumes are pretty much useless in today’s market. And, since 60%+ of the jobs are from networking contacts in the target company…why do we need HR in the process again…?

By Bob Lewis
April 23, 2010 at 10:12 pm

To GB’s comment: Whenever I’ve worked with internal recruiting, they’ve asked me to provide them with the list of required skills.

Seems to be, blaming internal recruiting for screening out candidates who lack the skills I’ve said I need is akin to complaining, “What a bunch of incompetents. They did what I told them to do, instead of what I meant!”

Or does HR define position requirements in your companies?

By Bob Lewis
April 23, 2010 at 10:12 pm

To GB’s comment: Whenever I’ve worked with internal recruiting, they’ve asked me to provide them with the list of required skills.

Seems to me, blaming internal recruiting for screening out candidates who lack the skills I’ve said I need is akin to complaining, “What a bunch of incompetents. They did what I told them to do, instead of what I meant!”

Or does HR define position requirements in your companies?

By Tommy Houran
April 28, 2010 at 1:21 pm

I have worked with companies that base their entire business on the expertise/ consultants they have to offer – and they leave the entire staffing/ sourcing process up to HR. Many HR depts (esp smaller ones) do not understand the intricacies that go along with recruiting, and when more “HR” types of issues come up – emp relations, payroll, etc, etc – staffing takes a backseat. There has got to be a separate entity that “owns” recruiting and can make decisions on issues and resources w/o interference from HR. Companies can’t afford to leave something as critical as staffing to a dept that can too easily get distracted – and when the stuff hits the fan, becomes secondary.

Managers are too busy to do their own staffing – again the “secondary” problem. They need people yesterday but don’t take the time to open resumes sitting in their inbox. Bottom line, if you are serious about finding and retaining talent you must have an empowered/ agile recruiting dept that has autonomy from HR.

By jeff
April 29, 2010 at 8:11 am

A recruiting department headed by department managers who have direct involvement in the hiring process. Managers must not see themselves as too busy to recruit or perform interviews. I will not have anyone work for me until they have been through the interview process with me, yep, not even the presidents best friend’s kid!

By Emily
May 1, 2010 at 2:07 pm

I wholeheartedly agree. HR has been so concerned with having a “seat at the table” they have lost sight of their role. HR has become too involved in trying to run operations, which results in significant disconnects for the companies. Ironically this has made HR even less effective. HR is now too concerned with impressing operations and doesn’t have a true sense of the cultural challenges that need to be attended too that can cripple organizations.

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