August 12, 2013

Fearless Job Hunting: Should I accept HR’s rejection letter?

Filed under: Fearless Job Hunting, Getting in the door, Interviewing, Job Search, Q&A, Readers' Forum

This week’s Q&A is an excerpt from Fearless Job Hunting, Book 4, Overcome Human Resources Obstacles, $6.95 (PDF, instant download). Order your copy now and get Book 2: Avoid Employment Scams, Ruses & Rackets, which sells for $4.95, for FREE! Here’s how: E-mail me the full purchase confirmation for Book 4, including the transaction number, and I’ll send you a free copy of Book 2. (This offer is good only for purchases made no later than August 20, 2013.)


In the August 13, 2013 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader wonders when human resources (HR) will call him about his application:

I’ve applied for a job for which I easily meet all the criteria. I even have several “value add” items in my past that make me an extra good candidate. But I have not been invited for even a preliminary interview. They sent me a rejection. Should I just give up, or is it acceptable/advisable to contact the human resources office and essentially say, “I can’t believe you’ve overlooked me!”

Nick’s Reply

The company didn’t turn you down, the screener did. When a human resources person rejects you, it’s like having the gardener tell you not to bother coming around a girl’s house. What does that tell you about whether the girl wants to date you? Nothing.

shooNow, some of my HR friends will want to slap me for telling you this. After all, many HR representatives put a lot of work into interviews, and they expect their conclusions to be respected. I understand that. But no matter how good HR is at interviews, if you think you need to talk to the manager directly to make your case, it’s your prerogative. You must take action.

I’ve placed candidates whose resumes were buried in the HR department’s files for months. After HR stamped the application NO, the hiring manager paid me tens of thousands of dollars to hire the candidate.

I’ve also had HR departments come running to me after the fact, claiming no headhunting fee was owed “because we already had the candidate’s resume.” Yes, but HR failed to interview and hire the candidate. Because I delivered the candidate and facilitated the hire, the hiring managers always thanked me and paid.

There are risks in doing this. HR will try to cut you off if it learns that you “went around,” and depending on the hiring manager, HR might succeed. That’s HR’s job. So take it with good humor. You can be respectful and still be assertive.

Is another shot at the job worth HR’s ire? I say yes. If you get hired, you’ll have plenty of time to placate HR, and the fact of getting hired is the best argument for HR to accept you.

That said, how do you do this? It’s simple, though not easy.

  • You must identify the hiring manager who owns the job.
  • You must make contact.
  • You must show that you would be a worthy hire.

My suggestion is to triangulate — find two or three people who know the manager personally, and ask them to intercede. Ask them to introduce you, to urge the manager to contact you (“Don’t let this candidate get away!”), and to facilitate a meeting. Having lost a round with HR, you need to win one with somebody the manager trusts.

The more direct approach is to e-mail or call the manager. Be brief. Be ready to discuss ways to improve the manager’s operation. But don’t just ask for an interview or suggest that you should be interviewed. Prove that you are worth meeting. How? That’s up to you. If you can’t figure out how you could make the manager’s department more successful, you should not make the call. (See Fearless Job Hunting, Book Three: Get in The Door (way ahead of your competition). Your presentation must be compelling, because I don’t believe in wasting any manager’s time. If you’re not compelling, then our buddies in HR were right to reject you.

Don’t accept HR’s rejection letter if you think you offer something the manager needs. Go for it! Just be smart and ready.

Wonder what HR would say if you actually did this? On pp. 17-20 of Fearless Job Hunting, Book 4, Overcome Human Resources Obstacles, an HR manager responds to my advice and the fur flies! Order your copy of Book 4 now, and get Book 2: Avoid Employment Scams, Ruses & Rackets, which sells for $4.95, for FREE! Here’s how: E-mail me the full purchase confirmation for Book 4, including the transaction number, and I’ll send you a free copy of Book 2. (This offer is good only for purchases made no later than August 20, 2013.)

Did you ever go around HR after a rejection? What happened? If you’ve never done it, would you try it now?

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42 Comments on “Fearless Job Hunting: Should I accept HR’s rejection letter?”
By Peter
August 13, 2013 at 8:28 am

Why was he going through HR? HR never hired anyone.
In many companies the HR Department is filled with paper shufflers and administrators who really do think that HR is a real profession – somehow separate from building Widgets or moving goods from place A to B.
In exceptional companies you will find Logistics professionals whose expertise happens to be in HR or Medical pros. whose expertise is HR or Retail professionals whose particular expertise is in HR.
The chance that the low-level HR person who rejected you had any real understanding of the position is slim.Or, equally likely, the applicant management system that culled you out didn’t find the key buzz words which proves to the HR person that you are not qualified.

By Dave
August 13, 2013 at 9:03 am

As I posted in last weeks blog post, most HR/Recruiters/Head Hunters have a pile of hundreds of resumes and are not qualified to determine whether or not the person can do the work. So, they resort to nits to disqualify people.

By don
August 13, 2013 at 10:09 am

Ditto to all Nick’s points on going after the hiring manager. Simply put, tacitly you’ve already been blown off, and aren’t going to move forward. What have you got to lose? Worse case you offend HR, or the hiring manager isn’t interested or doesn’t want to offend HR etc etc, you won’t move forward. Same result. But there’s a best case as well, the other end of the spectrum…you do get to the Hiring Manager, and move forward to a meeting and get an offer. You’ll never know how it will play out if you don’t try. Trying won’t guarantee you an interview, Not trying will guarantee you no interview.

By Kimberlee, Esq.
August 13, 2013 at 10:31 am

Don, there is a downside. That is that many, many hiring managers do NOT want to be called, and many companies do not want you to circumvent the processes they have created for hiring, to the point that if you do, you run a very real chance of being blacklisted at that company. So, if it’s a company you’d like to work for in the future, bugging the hiring manager is not a promising way to make that happen.

See this post to get an impression of what I mean: http://www.askamanager.org/2013/05/cold-calling-companies-and-showing-up-in-person-to-submit-a-resume.html

Connecting with people who hire for jobs you want is a good thing. The time to do that is NOT when you’ve been rejected by HR. It’s when you’re not actively searching, and you can build an actual relationship based on common interests and goals, not when you’re going to look like you’re calling in a favor that nobody owes you.

By Rich
August 13, 2013 at 10:40 am

I had two people forward my resume to the hiring manager to ensure awareness of and support for my candidacy. Having paid homage to the careers section of the company website by completing the on line application, I emailed my résumé along with a compelling cover letter directly to the hiring manager. I received a declination email from HR. The hiring manager also responded by insisting that all interviews be coordinated by HR (aka: Human Rejection). The rejections came several days apart.
The two tiered approach is viable, but the dual rejection is harder to take.

By Dlms
August 13, 2013 at 11:57 am

You can give it a try and see what happens–all they can do is say no.

It is unfortunate that companies are willing to bypass those who truly want to work for the company and add value, in favor of using key word search software and HR folks who don’t really know what kind of person is needed to fill the job.

By rkc
August 13, 2013 at 12:14 pm

I periodically notice that the same jobs remain posted for long periods of time. It makes me wonder whether the job really exists or is just a flyer in which a company is seeking to fill out its resume file.

Assuming that the goal of advertising a job isn’t to collect paper (or electrons), it makes me wonder whether there is a dis-incentive for HR to push forward anything but the ideal candidate (as measured by a checklist which may or may not describe the job). A recruiter has a true financial incentive to get someone hired and find the right candidate. Does HR have the same kind of incentive?

This of course brings up the interesting question of whether leaving a position vacant and waiting for the perfect candidate is more beneficial than filling with someone who needs to learn a bit (but has upside).

By J.C.
August 13, 2013 at 2:09 pm

The best HR folks I’ve worked with have handed me the incoming resumes and let ME do the reviewing. After all, I knew what I needed, not them. Now that I’m on the other side of table, I am also irritated with not being able to get past the HR ‘screener’. Many have started the conversation by saying “I don’t have a clue about Accounting” or “please be patient while I type your responses”. I’m certain some of my responses have been lost in their translation. Follow Nick’s advice and go directly to the job source.

By Jennifer Castillo
August 13, 2013 at 3:48 pm

I always head for the hiring manager as well as any allies I can develop in the firm. In starting a relationship, I also go to departments whose job it is to service customers so I can start talking to folks and learn about the corporate culture. This is also a good way to find out who a hiring manager is. Admittedly, I am in sales. As Nick recommends, know your compelling value before making the call. Make sure you have done your homework on the firm so can ask questions that demonstrate your understanding of their business and future direction. Systematically stay in touch with contacts and send a periodic email with an article or item of interest to continue to stay top of mind and be considered for upcoming positions.

By Scott
August 13, 2013 at 6:46 pm

@Rich,
HR coordinating all interviews makes sense – they need to collect metrics for internal use and possibly for the government. But that is different from HR rejecting anyone. That manager may have actually rejected you and blamed it on HR, or have been too chicken to push for you. But at least he saw your resume and letter.

By Scott
August 13, 2013 at 6:51 pm

@Kimberlee, Esq.
The post you linked to is about cold calling. I don’t think it has much to do with Nick’s method.
As a hiring manager in a specialized field I’d love to get calls from qualified candidates who spent the time to figure out what we do. If we have an appropriate opening that person would go to the head of the line. I’d forward the information to someone who did have an opening or was a better match. if we did not have an opening, I’d still want to talk to the person, and, if good enough, even suggest some other people to talk to. I don’t get enough of these calls.

By Kimberlee, Esq.
August 13, 2013 at 8:02 pm

@Scott: Yeah, it’s slightly different, but not much. If you’ve applied to a job and got rejected by HR, and then decide to call up the hiring manager that you otherwise have no connection to, that’s cold calling. It’s an unsolicited communication that is attempting to circumvent the established hiring procedures.

Certainly there are many employers who like this kind of method, especially in specialized fields.

I just wanted to give some evidence to counter what appears to be the prevailing attitude here, which is that this is a great method with no possible downside (see the “What have you got to lose?” comments); the majority of hiring managers that I’ve heard express an opinion on this sort of thing have resoundingly disapproved, and it could easily cause an applicant to unwittingly get marks against them at a company they really want to work for.

I wouldn’t recommend using this method unless you understand the risks and have some idea that the manager is someone who will respond well.

By Nic
August 14, 2013 at 6:32 am

This issue (the responsibility for which this takes place) in my opinion resides straight in the office of the CEO.

I would not have a company policy where any HR person especially a generalist in an HR department would be deciding whom is right for a position. Their job in my view should be to gather resumes for the position in question and forward on to the department hiring manager, and it is that manager who I would have sending back a note to the applicants who do not fit a call. In addition, I would have that hiring manager personally sending out proper signed letters addressed to the applicant not those hideous ridiculous pre-printed cards that look and feel so cheap.

Let’s cut to the chase on this, essentially @Peter nailed it “Why was he going through HR? HR never hired anyone.”

By Nic
August 14, 2013 at 6:49 am

That type of attitude described by some of marks against an application for circumventing an HR paper pusher to me is simply hilarious, be it of any hiring manager in my opinion is a sure sign of a given hiring manager’s unsophisticated laziness and incompetence.

If a hiring manager was worth their weight, they were otherwise understand the significance of someone having the personal security, boldness and actual deep desire to work for their firm by taking the step of contacting them directly.

That move speaks volumes to me about a person. Any hiring manager, who grades applicants like a kindergarten session is surely ignorant of the fact that the best talent operates precisely by direct contact.

Someone who knows their worth, gets the job done right (the first time) and opens opportunity for a firm for future profit is worth their weight in gold. They are also ready willing and able to tell any firm, “you need someone else” when a given firm acts like a babysitting screening service.

I know of no top talent that deals with HR paper pushers, not one. Moreover, any firm that requires an applicant to only deal with HR is one I would run from.

By Nick Corcodilos
August 14, 2013 at 9:38 am

@Kimberlee: It’s interesting how you see it.

“Don, there is a downside. That is that many, many hiring managers do NOT want to be called, and many companies do not want you to circumvent the processes they have created for hiring, to the point that if you do, you run a very real chance of being blacklisted at that company. So, if it’s a company you’d like to work for in the future, bugging the hiring manager is not a promising way to make that happen.”

I see it another way. In our story, the company runs a real chance of being blacklisted by the applicant and all his professional friends. If the company has any fantasy of ever bringing that applicant in for another interview in the future, and subjecting him to a clerk when his business is with the hiring manager, I think the company is out of luck.

Is it any wonder employers cry they cannot hire the people they need? Many of the people they need won’t give them the time of day because of how employers behave. (Cf. “Passive job hunters” who don’t need to be treated like that.)

Managers who don’t WANT to be called after an applicant has invested hours of his time with them don’t deserve to be defended. They’re not managers. They’re clods who will understand the problem the next time they’re out of work trying to get the attention of another manager just like them.

By Nick Corcodilos
August 14, 2013 at 9:39 am

@Dlms: Bingo! If a few employers would note the distinction you make, they’d be ahead of the game. They want motivated hires, but not motivated applicants. Does anyone see something WRONG with this??

By Nick Corcodilos
August 14, 2013 at 9:44 am

@rkc: Most headhunters operate on contingency. That means that they get paid by the employer only if the employer hires their candidate.

Now, imagine if the internal recruiters and personnel jockeys were paid this way. And if they were subject to the same “guarantee” headhunters work under: If the hire doesn’t work out within 90 days, the fee (or salary) is refunded. It might change the entire process and improve recruiting.

As it is, all an internal recruiter needs to do (in most companies, not all – and some internal recruiters are actually very good – but not many) is dump a load of applicants out of a job board into a manager’s in-mailbox and let the manager choose his poison. “This is the best we can do.”

Imagine.

By Nick Corcodilos
August 14, 2013 at 9:47 am

@J.C.: The way to get past the HR screener is not to go anywhere near the HR screener to being with. That means, no blind resume submissions. Start with the hiring manager. Don’t even follow the company’s recruiting/posting process at all. If you encounter managers who insist you go through HR, tell them you’ll never consider their company again, because you only want to talk to REAL managers. Let them eat cake :-). I don’t think you’re losing anything, because those clowns aren’t going to hire you anyway.

By Nick Corcodilos
August 14, 2013 at 9:47 am

Folks: Please read Jennifer Castillo’s post. She’s got it down.

By Nic
August 14, 2013 at 9:57 am

Yes, Nick, Jennifer Castillo has it down, when applied to a firm that recognises her drive and intelligence.

Yet, her approach does not fly in a corporation where the culture is to look down upon such an approach and expect people to deal solely with HR paper pushers.

The key is to recognise the culture and operational structure of the firm beforehand, in other words, just separate the proverbial wheat from the chaff from the get-go.

By Dave
August 14, 2013 at 10:51 am

@Kimberlee

I think you’re incorrect about bypassing HR/Recruiter/HH and going straight to the hiring manager.

I have gone around the standard channels and gotten farther, as in I have gotten more interviews, been short listed and gotten honest feedback this way – when I haven’t (or wouldn’t) even been submitted by a Recruiter/HH/HR.

The problem is that most HH’s/Recruiters/HR are not experts in the fields they recruit for nor do they understand the departments work or company culture. They simply have a check box for “5 years exp. in X” yet will reject canidates that may have 2-3 years without talking with them to determine their actual experience level.

Managers who rely on the HR types are missing out on good canidates as a resume can’t defend itself – especially when you have a pile of 500 to look at.

I have followed Nick and Lou Alder and like their approach. The only thing that matters is whether you can do the job well (i.e. profitably) or can learn it in a reasonable amount of time. Years of exp. for example is a poorly used proxy.

By Don Harkness
August 14, 2013 at 10:56 am

@Kimberlee, to clarify. Change is not without risk. Reaching out to hiring managers does have an element of “be careful what you wish for” in making contact and/or the attemp. As Nic pointed out, you may discover you’ve reached a lazy or incompetent manager. They exist. to Jennifer’s point you do your homework, research, network to find out useful information about the company. Don’t forget the job door swings two ways, There’s a lot of discussion about reaching the manager to convince him/her of your value..but don’t ever forget if you believe you have something to offer, that manager needs to convince you that the company and particularly the manager offers something of value. in short, if you find yourself exposed to a manager that is PO’d, annoyed, bothered by the contact or shuffles you off to HR “to deal with your intrusion”. You just met someone you don’t want to work for. Very valuable information. Because as Nic pointed out you’re likely talking to someone who doesn’t understand the value of someone who is resourceful, informed, and interested. This is someone who places a low priority on talent scouting, and mgmt 101 “You’re only as good at the people in your team” I can guarantee that if you worked for that manager you & your aspirations will be painfully ignored, and you’ll be looking for the escape hatch. Ditto on the practice of blacklisting which means it’s really not a company you’d want to work for. Because blacklisting resourceful people institutionizes hiring the non-bold. Tell me you’re going to be a business leader if your populated with the complaint, don’t-rock-the-boat people? A forward-thinking HR organization would team up with hiring managers to explore the potential in the few people that do this. Again you’d have learned something if you ever knew about it. Hence you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. At the very least you’ll pick up some useful information, and at the most connect with a manager with a brain who places talent scouting/networking on a high priority.

By Nick Corcodilos
August 14, 2013 at 12:06 pm

I think the concerns Kimberlee expresses are all valid, but as Don points out, they stem from a bygone era when HR controlled the process. As we can all see, the Internet and social media make it awfully hard for HR to be the gatekeeper — and that’s good news for everyone. The question is, when will HR figure this out and stop playing job cop? If HR could get its act together to actually communicate properly with all the applicants it solicits for jobs, that would be a start :-).

By Kimberlee, Esq.
August 14, 2013 at 1:20 pm

I agree that Jennifer’s approach is a good one. However, it’s entirely different than what’s being discussed here: whether you should reach out to a hiring manager you have no connection to, no allies associated with, when you have already been rejected for a job.

@Nick: “That type of attitude described by some of marks against an application for circumventing an HR paper pusher to me is simply hilarious, be it of any hiring manager in my opinion is a sure sign of a given hiring manager’s unsophisticated laziness and incompetence.”

I take this a little personally, because I definitely will mark down applicants that circumvent our hiring process. This is because our hiring process is fair, relatively easy, and totally transparent. Everyone who applies with us knows what happens to their application.

When the instructions clearly state one page cover letter, up to two page resume, sent to a specific email, that is not an undue burden. If a candidate fails to follow those easy steps, then yes, I will assume they are either less than competent or thing they have a right to a hiring process that others don’t have. Assholes, talented or not, are not people we’re very interested in hiring.

My bigger issue with all this is that people seem to equate bugging the hiring manager as “bold” or “innovative” or something like that. Finding a phone number and calling it is neither. It is not an indication of anything at all, in fact; tenacity, as much as that may be a desirable trait, can easily be expressed in a cover letter. There are few skills that can’t be demonstrated in a cover letter, resume, or personal website linked from one of those two documents.

So, given that nothing is indicated by calling the manager, I’m left with the conclusion that I’m dealing with an applicant who doesn’t think the rules apply to them, or that are too lazy to actually read them. Both are problematic, to say the least.

By rkc
August 14, 2013 at 6:31 pm

@Kimberlee,

I think the premise of the original question is that the individual felt like the process was not fair and transparent. If a job applicant felt like the process in your organization was not fair and transparent, would you (or the head of recruiting) want to know? Perhaps there is someone who needs more training? Maybe a bad egg. Maybe an innocent mis-communication. It happens. Would an applicant have a recourse other than trying to contact the hiring manager?

By Scott
August 14, 2013 at 7:01 pm

@Kimberlee,
I totally agree that true cold calling is as unproductive as spamming resumes. Nick suggested finding people to intercede. That’s different.
Personally, I’d consider someone who emailed me after having looked me up and spending the time to figure out what we do anything but a cold caller. Same with headhunters. Those who call me from some list don’t get the time of day, but those who spent the time to look me up get put on my list, just in case. I’m happy to chat with them.
BTW, I’m happy to report that many of the just graduating students we interview do their homework and try to figure out what we do. So all is not lost.

By Gwen
August 15, 2013 at 1:15 am

So the going arguments here boil down to: perception. Why? Because some think it is out of line to circumvent HR, while others note that is is worthless to even go through HR. Let me give my take.

Truth. Unfair judgments are made against people that do not directly interact with the most important person which is the person who will hire them who go through a “middle person” first. Sorry but liaisons to the manager set the tone which is not always proactive or in favor for the potential candidate. This is just the real world and Nick and others commenting seems to know this. Isn’t the point is to get someone who will be able to do the job? Why should you care is someone went to the people they will be working for first and did not follow protocol if the job is sitting in a back corner writing software and fixing software bugs? Why is it so needed to have the person be screened by HR to make sure he/she is likeable when that job will have them tucked away by themselves in some corner anyway?

Truth. Though it is claimed in the correspondence to the article and fellow responders that some HR’s hiring processes are relatively easy, and that the resume goes exactly to whom it is supposed to go. But that isn’t the case for EVERY company out here. Is it? So it begs the question, and to preserve “manners” (for those that care to), why aren’t HR’s across this nation proactively making applicants aware of this? Especially when the applicants never hear one iota in response? It becomes dehumanizing to be treated this way. I think those in favor of circumventing HR is implying to the potential candidate, “If they turn you down at least it is known to you (in your face, or at least intuited), and you can leave with that knowing.”

Heck, I know some managers do not want to be bothered directly, but it begs another question. Why are leaders (i.e. managers) are not proactively engaged in creating a team they personally have had a hand in creating? Sounds like they are being coddled and their actions of doing so do not really have the companies best interests at the forefront…I’ll continue…

Another truth. No one is that busy in their day not to speak to at least three applicants a week to see them or talk via email to really get to know the candidate on another level. If that’s the case, why isn’t a position created as assistant manager to that manager if he can’t or won’t talk to viable candidates? When the interview happens it is probably too late to do a whole assessment, just saying.

Another truth. Alot of people in HR think they can adequately intuit a person and what they “think” is a viable candidate, but base the quality of their assessment on biases that is running in their subconscious’s. There is an academic article I came across in the discipline of organizational psychology that proves this.

Jennifer Costello’s is the best response because you have to ally with those close to the person who matters, and those who “like” you speak for you. That’s a blatant truth.So for those who side with circumventing HR and Jennifer, your logic is more sound, IMO. Someone said something like, (and I’ll paraphrase) ‘(Jennifer’s)isn’t exactly the action that the others were promoting’ but I think it is pretty darn similar. She and others had a common denominator of circumventing HR, though their approach may have been slightly different once they did.

However, I know askthemanager.org thinks it is rude behavior to circumvent your hiring process but since those that think it is so “rude” please show us proof or at least reassure or school those who have had no results when they follow the company’s hiring process why we/they should be happy with it? Because there are people who will use every available resource they know to pull to get in. This is the way the world works (you know it too). Not everyone plays fair. I think that’s the point of the intelligent commenters that imply, “Circumvent HR, give yourself an edge”.

I’m done, for now…I’m not mean, or aggressive, or even angry but when people suggest I do something that does not work, hasn’t been working, I have questions. Isn’t it Einstein who said insanity is doing something over and over and expecting different results? I just want to get to the action that will produce results, and peeling off resumes and going through HR doesn’t.

Nick was right…If you get ousted because you contacted the manager or people around him first, that is a sure sign you do not probably want to be there.

I guess I’m done.

By Gwen
August 15, 2013 at 1:17 am

*sorry for the typos, it was late, and I was tired*

By Dlms
August 15, 2013 at 7:47 am

I read an article (can’t remember where) that about 30% of new hires work out for the companies that hired them.

If the process of having HR review/screen the applicants/resumes is considered the gold standard to recruit, then why is that number not higher?

By Christopher Strom
August 15, 2013 at 8:39 am

My first engineering job was at a Dow 30 company where the hiring managers were very open about the uselessness of the HR department when it came to hiring – good for managing benefits and policy training and explanations, but that was it. The hiring managers there preferred to do their own “headhunting”, relying mostly on recommendations from current and former colleagues.

Since then, I’ve worked for a half-dozen other companies, and I have never encountered hiring managers that welcomed HR screening of applicants.

While I’m sure there are hiring managers out there that prefer that HR screen applicants (because they’re too busy?), I’m also confident that such managers would not be the sort for whom I would want to work.

By Dave
August 15, 2013 at 9:08 am

@Gwen,

I agree with most all of what you said. I think circumventing HR is not done because of laziness or being difficult. It is done because of lack of results. Your resume and other materials go into a black hole.

By Gwen
August 15, 2013 at 10:29 am

Exactly Dave, but we as potential candidates are just supposed to accept a process that is broken.

By Gwen
August 15, 2013 at 11:13 am

I forgot to add Dave, that I have a golden example to share. I worked for an international engineering company and had made friends with an individual in another department by chance. While at this person’s desk, I was privy to that department heads thoughts as he came by the person’s desk to say hello while I was visiting. It went something to the tune of he was so happy with the new procurement liaison because he had no idea why HR was sending him these people to interview with no personality which was really the cornerstone for the job. So I asked, “How did you get this person as the new hire?” He replied, “Well, Martha (someone who worked in his department) knew I was looking (for someone) and told me she had a neighbor who had a daughter who had just graduated graduate school and her qualifications were similar to what he was needing in an individual for the job. I told her to send her to fill out an application but have them call me when she does and send her back for an interview. I also told Martha to send me a copy of her resume and I’ll leave it out to be familiar with her name.”
The rest is history. Martha circumvented HR for this lucky young woman, and HR had no clue the “type” this department head was looking for. Turns out, he knew best after all. Now isn’t that something?

By don
August 15, 2013 at 1:06 pm

this is an interesting topic, so I want to flog this horse one more time.
People, including manager can be viewed as falling into 3 categories, people who make things happen, people who watch things happen, and people who wonder what happened. When applied to hiring managers or HR Managers it’s reflected in how they conduct their business.
Jobs vs Adding Value: Everyone one talks about jobs & of course they are important for a gazillion economic & personal reasons. But the value of a job, personally & to a hiring manger/company is the meet a need. The need may be important e.g. the TLC of a cash cow, they sustain business as usual. But they don’t really ADD value. Adding value is about doing more than the job, it’s about growth, growth of an organization’s contribution (& along with it of course the hiring manager’s) and one’s personal marketability.
Adding value is the domain of people who make things happen, people who create new products, services and processes that deliver them. People who live in this space are not job focused, they are vocationally and corporately focused. They’re the Steve Jobs types who have a strong streak of change agent in them. They don’t do jobs…they create jobs.
This does not depreciate job focused people, particularly those who strive to do them better, more productively etc That’s their value.
What this has to do with the topic at hand is this. I was a manager in hi-tech as well as my peers. You’d better be trying to make things happen otherwise you’d be history. And I applied both Mgmt 101 and 102. I knew what I knew and what I didn’t & clearly understood that I was only as good as my crew. And to make the crew and my organization as sharp as possible, I applied mgmt. 102, hired people who were smarter than me. As Nick, nic and Jennifer have noted, people who researched, networked, got informed and contacted me gave me a big fat clue that they were the kind of person who likely makes things happen. Why in the world would a manager in their right mind not want to engage? And as an aside why an HR organization would want to throw a body block on people like that makes no common sense, as they should want that in a company as well. And it’s not like hordes of people do this…It’s rare. It rare from my role as a Manager (for about 30 years) and as a recruiter. Very few people make the effort. For Hiring managers who are annoyed, and HR managers who are appalled, give me a break!
I did most of my own recruiting. One reason being, at least for me, what I’d see in a resume was the sound of one hand clapping, hard to articulate in a job description. Another reason is I’m a chronic networker and the 3rd is pragmatism. Pragmatically I worked in some fiscally, budget constrained environments. While I & my peer managers may have wanted to make things happen…it takes people, and that takes money. I don’t know of one manager who ever had all the resources they wanted. So I always managed worse case..that my license to hire (a req) had limited life. If I could weasel approval to hire..I wanted to be in a position to literally open my drawer and pull out a resume and make one call…you still interested? So if my boss gave me a req today, I’d have an offer ready tomorrow. My view is budgets dictate license to hire, but recruiting is ongoing. So never stop
A lot of the angst I hear expressed about the hiring/HR system I feel is because it’s totally designed around assembly line job fulfillment. A Job mindset, not a value add mind set. The who process of describing jobs, advertising, posting screening, interviewing etc, is all built around just filling a job. An integrated set of incremental check offs. Hence the materialization of resume reading bots.
I think Nick’s blog, and this topic included is all about Value Add and that’s not mutually exclusive from job hunting, but it’s not the same. It’s a domain where the resourcefulness of finding one’s way to the hiring manager, learning about the environment, and driving into a business meeting instead of an interview fits.
Sorry for the length. But a word on HR. It’s a fact of life. HR professionals may not concur, but as to the recruiting aspect, I view that as a service. The Hiring Manager is the Hiring Manager not HR, so their contribution in the front end (finding talent) is a service. They have to deal with a wide range of clients, from managers who do their own recruiting to managers you have to send out press gangs to wrestle them to the ground and force them to read a resume or schedule an interview.
If a Hiring Manager feels they are getting no help, or crappy resumes/screening/insights from HR shame on them. Great if you do your own recruiting, you should. But when I did it, ideally I used every tool I could and HR is one of them.
The company is paying the freight, they fund an HR organization. Make use of it. You’re unhappy because they “don’t get you, your organization, understand your functions etc”? Really? You expect to find screeners and recruiters who are subject matter experts in every vocation the corporation employs including yours? Supermen or women? Really?
How much time do you invest talking with, training, calibrating that HR weenie, recruiter or HR Manager you bitch about? In my experience about none. If you do your own recruiting and have cultivated another reliable source, all the better. You only have to take it as far as training a resume reader, a recruiter enough to where they call look at a resume and with an acceptable degree of accuracy be able to see that it’s someone you want to know. And when they do nail it, give them an attaboy or attagirl. If you do, you’ll find your recruiting effort will get a lot easier, particularly if you take them to the next step and teach them to go looking for the right kind of people.
HR is not populated with zombies. HR Managers aren’t idiots. If you’re a pro-active recruiting Hiring Manager, it isn’t tough to sit down with your HR Manager or rep and work out a process that fits your style. If you’re a reactive OJR (On the Job Retirement) Hiring Manager, if you have an HR Manager who is an A type/make things happen person sit there and watch you vegetate.
View HR as a resource to be leveraged, and make use of the company’s money.
HR organizations headed by Manager who seek security and comfort in their processes rather than facilitating their hiring manager clients in the identification and recruitment of people who will move the company forward, are those who blacklist.

By Try try again
August 18, 2013 at 10:40 pm

More than once I obtained interviews (and one time a very good job) from companies that had rejected me, by reapplying a short while later. And even if I directly approach a hiring manager, I apply thru official channels also so no one gets bent out of joint. Admittedly, these were small companies in pre-applicant database tracking days, but I would never hesitate to retry for a job I wanted and felt qualified for.

Sometimes, rejections appear to be automatically generated for all applicants, since I’ve been called in to interview after such rejection even without reapplying.

By Matt F
August 21, 2013 at 2:00 pm

I can see where Kimberlee is coming from. Circumventing the established HR pipeline can simply be a gimmick of a lackluster applicant who possesses more boldness than skill.

That said, it depends on the job. A sales job like the one Jennifer describes would value a candidate that stood out by bypassing the HR cattle call. Doing so shows how they would do the job on a real sales call, a Nick cornerstone. Jobs that don’t require this kind of boldness with lots of procedures and customs would look down on this same behavior.

By marybeth
August 21, 2013 at 5:19 pm

Excellent post, Nick, and one which sums up not only the frustration of several parties but also of the stupidity of the whole process. HR isn’t hiring applicants; they’re PROCESSING them, and those are very different things. With all due respect to Kimberlee, there are corporations and managers who have ceded their authority to HR. But since I can’t go online and google “businesses and agencies who blacklist applicants who go outside or around HR”, and since the system isn’t working (it works only in the sense that it lets HR justify itself with busywork they have no business doing, with the exception of hiring within HR), I’m not surprised that people are going around HR. I’m surprised that more aren’t doing it. Yet businesses are howling that there’s a talent shortage….despite a still very high number of unemployed and underemployed. I go around, and if the hiring manager tells me to go to HR, then I thank him for his time and wish him luck in finding the perfect candidate.
@ Kimberlee, people don’t circumvent HR becausee they’re lazy or arrogant or think they’re special or that the rules don’t apply to them. We do it because going through HR doesn’t work. There’s often no response at all, and if they deign to reply, it is an auto-generated email that gets spat back at me 1.5 seconds after I clicked “apply” or “send”. I know full well that no human ever read my résumé or application, but that it was scanned by a computer and if I didn’t match all 300 billion specs perfectly, I’m denied. No thought was put into whether I might be the best candidate because I can learn (give me some time to get up to speed), or that the job specs are ridiculous…as Nick noted on more than one occasion, that the best person for the job is the person who just left that job.

By Nick Corcodilos
August 21, 2013 at 8:47 pm

@marybeth: What HR always seems to forget is that HR is a staff function, not a line function. HR essentially advises line managers about hiring. HR forgets that decision making rests with managers who actually contribute to the bottom line. HR will be the first to “admit” that in principle, but in practice HR will reject applicants long before a manager can judge whether there’s a fit. (Show me the personnel jockey who can judge an engineer. Yet they reject engineering applicants because a keyword is missing from a resume.)

The staff function now controls how the line function operates. And that’s why there’s a perceived “talent shortage.”

By Dave
August 22, 2013 at 3:32 pm

@Nick and @marybeth

And even the hiring manager can get it wrong…

By Karsten
August 27, 2013 at 7:04 am

I know a woman who works in HR, and she points out that the problem may be with managers as well: Managers expect HR to deliver good candidates, but do not want to participate sufficiently in the process. HR has to drag managers into the interview room to take care of the technical part of the interviews, while HR limits itself to psychology/personality and formalities. Somehow the managers themselves seem to think that HR can hire people they are not qualified to evaluate.

By marybeth
August 27, 2013 at 5:29 pm

@Nick: that’s a good way to think of it–HR as a staff function, not a line function. I’m on another group blog, and a member posed the question “should I contact HR if I don’t hear from the school in a while re a job I applied for?” There are several HR employees in this group. All except for one of them scolded the poster and told her NOT to contact the school (not to contact HR, not to contact the dept.) because that was the quickest way to get your application trashed (and wrote that “HR folks are too busy to answer you”). Everyone else told the poster that if you don’t hear, it is okay to call, but expect rudeness, to be told “don’t call us, we’ll call you if we’re interested”, and “gee, if you haven’t heard, figure it out yourself”. Only one person who worked in HR took the time to explain the process to the poster and her role in it, and she said that at her university, all applications are to go through HR (any that are sent to hiring managers are either trashed or kicked to HR, depending on what kind of hiring manager s/he is), then once the job deadline closes, HR goes through the applications, processing them and sending the ones that match the requirements or keywords best. She used the word PROCESSING. I wasn’t surprised by the rudeness and arrogance, and felt bad for poster who wanted a simple answer. I replied, told her that hiring processes at universities and colleges vary; that at some the hiring managers have ceded their decision-making authority to HR, while at others (like at my current employer and at my previous employer), you needed a connection, an “in”, to get hired, but you went through the hiring manager, and HR was the last dept. you visited (for onboarding, so you could get paid, taxes deducted, benefits set up, etc.). I reminded her that unless she’s applying for an HR job, she would be better off going to the hiring manager, and if he’s the kind who gets offended and HR retaliates against those who go around them because HR is too arrogant to deign to send applicants so much as a “thanks but the position has been filled email”, then that is not the kind of employer you want to work for. Hiring managers are supposed to know the jobs in the dept., and what is needed. HR can’t even begin to assess whether a candidate is qualified for IT, for the library, for a faculty position in the school of management, for a faculty position in the school of public health and health sciences, for a graduate program academic advisor, or anything other than HR.

I’m not an expert in IT, so I’m the last person who should be on any hiring committees for open IT positions. I’m so clueless about IT that if I worked in HR, I shouldn’t be the first person doing the screenings, and I shouldn’t even let an ATS do it because I’ll screw up it because I don’t know enough of anything to be able to make those kinds of judgements. I’d be more comfortable with library job vacancies, but would still defer to the professional librarians on the staff, and I certainly wouldn’t trust HR to know what professional librarians do, much less the kinds of skills, expertise, and education required. Ditto for knowing what kinds of degrees are required to teach grad students in public health, but only because I worked in it for so long. I also got very well acquainted with doctors–in my old program, 2/3 of the students were doctors, mostly MDs. I’ve studied enough medical school transcrips, have read very carefully enough CVs to know the jargon, the acronyms, and what it means. But I couldn’t do the same for an engineering program or for engineering jobs. Could I learn, if given proper training, knowing where to look, and whom to ask if I should be in doubt? Yes, but until I got truly comfortable with that field, its requirements, jargon, etc., I wouldn’t want to be in any kind of decision-making process, even screening applicants because I would be afraid of what I would miss, and I know that I would miss something. So why would anyone entrust HR with this function? It doesn’t make sense, only contributes to the insanity, and I agree with you, it is a direct cause of the non-existent talent shortage.

By Some guy
September 8, 2013 at 9:57 pm

I love this quote:

“When a human resources person rejects you, it’s like having the gardener tell you not to bother coming around a girl’s house. What does that tell you about whether the girl wants to date you? Nothing.”

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