Frienemies With Benefits: How HR Ruins Recruiting

One of the hottest of hot button issues in human capital these days seems to be the categorization of the recruiting function and whether or not it belongs in HR in the first place.

It may seem superficially pithy, but it’s a dialogue with drastic ramifications for the future of both recruiting and candidate engagement.

That’s because of the dual dialogue seeking to validate and elevate the recruiting function, at least the piss poor public perception of recruiters.

This would be one thing if the negative sentiment against an entire profession was limited to disgruntled job seekers but, the truth is, hiring managers and even HR counterparts don’t think too highly about recruiters at large, even if they’re delighted with their own talent acquisition team.

This is, in turn, is because recruiters are kind of like the offensive linemen of the working world; we’re only noticed when we make a mistake (and similarly most of that involves flagging in public).  It’s easy to take for granted just how hard filling a job really is.

Y’all Best Recognize: Recruiting Gets No Respect

rodney_dangerfieldThe thing is, because we serve more or less as the primary arbiters for connecting and selecting people for jobs, recruiters really should be seen as quarterbacks – we might not call the shots on who gets hired, but we at least call the plays.  The lack of respect is due to the fact that recruiting focuses almost exclusively on externally facing activities, creating a noticeable absence of visibility or proximity within the organization.

Even hiring managers more or less do a quick meeting and somehow, almost 100% of the time, their ideal characteristics or required experience is translated into real names with real resumes coming across their desk.

There’s not a whole lot of transparency into how or from where these candidates were sourced, what it took to get them on the phone for a screen or time required to get through a thousand false leads for one that actually has a hope of getting hired.

Of course, those thousand false leads don’t know why they never hear back from recruiters except for the deluge of terribly targeted e-mail blasts or automated responses telling them their resume is under consideration.  We’re seen as gatekeepers, obstacles blocking the way to the real decision makers.

Decisions, Decisions: Who’s The Boss?

BOSS_002The real decision makers, of course, don’t really get to decide since almost all hiring is done by committee, requires leadership’s authorization (and often intervention) and the position that they end up opening often isn’t actually completely aligned with what they want or need out of a headcount, description be damned.

That description, internally, at least, is generally written by HR according to rigidly defined job types, families and categories required for each position tracked within their HCM, which, of course, leads to generic job descriptions that must go through a dozen approvals simply to open that position.

Recruiters are blamed for finding too many qualified candidates to have time to call back or connect with and when they can’t find enough on the market to meet some ridiculous list of requirements, they’re blamed for that, too.

Adding to the animosity is the fact that recruiters get blamed when an offer’s rejected, although this is almost always due to the HR department and their careful formula involving complexities like internal compression or compensation leveling to put a price tag on a person.

Dolla Dolla Bills, Y’all: The CREAM of the Candidate Crop

cream]Any recruiter will tell you that their job is to get the candidate an offer; the only thing that we generally don’t have the ability to pre-close them on is compensation, since this is what holds up the process more than perhaps anything else – and once that magic number comes in from HR along with notice they’ve cleared background, the recruiter makes the call to the candidate right away.

There’s no time to push back, because, inevitably, any candidate with one outstanding offer has at least one more you’ve got to contend with, so you just hope that you’re quick enough and they’re as flexible as they said they were, since the week or so the HR paperwork took gave you the chance to close them on every other consideration during your frequent conversations.

PS: Candidate experience is unilaterally awesome if you’re the one who’s in the offer process. You’ll hear from recruiters more than you likely ever wanted to. Trust me.

Of course, the offer is never enough for the candidate, but it’s almost always enough, which is because HR carefully calculates all offers to fall somewhere between the 25-75 percentile of market average – not that recruiting can ever be trusted with that data (which lives on another system entirely).

But most of the time, the candidates say yes, you make a hire, and even while it’s almost always against all odds, that’s the job you were hired to do.  You get no praises for doing the only thing that’s required of you – and doing just that means that recruiters have to spend a huge majority of their time interacting outside of the organization since that, ostensibly, is where the candidates are.

Within You, Without You: HR’s Bad Trip

1212_ravi_t500x403HR, as outlined above, owns what happens within an organization. They control the employee records, and can always defer blame to the recruiter when something goes wrong – and no one’s stupid enough to argue with HR.

They can hide behind a veil of compliance and fear, their processes (like performance reviews) as painful as filling out most ATS-based applications; only their respondents don’t have any choice.

And for some reason, performance reviews are seen somehow as being more strategically important to career development and personal growth than job applications, too, which is why there’s such an emphasis on tracking how employees have done in their jobs rather than where their jobs are going.

Which is kind of stupid if you think about it.

Even when it comes to careers, from an internal perspective, that’s not talent acquisition’s area of expertise, even if that’s their entire professional focus.  That’s only valid on the outside, before onboarding – once they’re in, forget about it, except if they apply for an internal transfer. In that case, HR again acts as an impediment instead of an advocate for employees.

That’s because most employees are allowed to apply for positions through some internal portal, and almost every company requires recruiters to contact every single internal applicant. Which would be a great candidate experience, except for about half the time it involves explaining to them why, even though there’s a job that they’d be perfect for, they haven’t been in their current role a full year yet and therefore, are preempted from applying by policy.

Rules are rules, you know?  Only HR isn’t the ones who have to communicate that – and if they do, unlike recruiters, they can always point to the employee handbook where there’s some legal mumbo jumbo about transfer eligibility buried in back, letting them wash their hands of the fact that process often preempts talent.

How HR Kills Career Development

dilbertHR, of course, is the same group who require recruiters to call them before even talking to an existing employee who applied for an open job, to ensure eligibility and good standing – not that they’ve ever met that employee, of course, but because they have access to the performance management system that simply doesn’t synch with ATS records.

If the answer is “no,” then it’s the recruiter’s job to let the employee know, even if they’re not allowed to let them know why they aren’t getting an open position as an internal applicant.

That’s a fun little dance – if you’re a semi-sadist.  Recruiters have to play cheerleader outside the company but counselor to the career frustrations of those already working there.  Talk about a thankless job.

If the answer, alternatively, is yes, great! That means that not only does your HR person know you’re looking, they’re going to send a form to the manager (or in some occasions, make the recruiter who they’ve never met do it) to get them to sign off that they’re OK with potentially losing that employee.

A shocking percentage of the time, they’re not – and when they are, you can bet there’s a conversation about it pretty shortly after this built-in check in the corporate hiring process.  Often, this is the first big picture career conversation most managers will have with these employees – and mind you, this all goes down before a recruiter even calls to tell you that they’re interested in setting up an introductory meetings.

Given the absence of any responsibility or input into internally focused processes afforded most talent acquisition functions, it’s silly to pretend recruiting is part of HR, since it’s HR’s primary role to manage the existing employee population.  Advertising to and strategically attracting prospective candidates, like sales leads, into a funnel and converting them to a purchasing decision, whether it’s buying a widget or a job, is marketing.

But it shouldn’t be that way – recruiters should be part of the HR organization.

Keep Your Friends Close, and HR Closer

hrAfter all, recruiters know more about the professional background of your employees than anyone in the organization – and have seen enough of a comparison sample externally to know how they stack up.  That’s really good information that would be really useful to the performance planning and workforce strategy functions – which, of course, recruiters are left out of entirely.

Furthermore, recruiters should have the autonomy to recruit internally just like they recruit externally – that is, without HR or supervisor approval, recruiters should be able to contact the best talent available for any position.

Most of external sourcing is simply finding people with experience in systems and roles that most closely replicate those currently used externally, so it only goes to figure that the best talent on the market – the best organizational fit, if you’re a consultant – comes from within.

They hit every preferred qualification in the auto-generated JD – but the ATS and HCM daily data searches performed by HR and recruiting, respectively, more or less occupy different planets with no interfacing other than manual input into the HCM to create the record necessary to initiate onboarding.

Which is why we continue to post and pray instead of develop and train – after all, it’s not the systems’ fault that there’s no communication between HR and recruiting.

Originally Published At Recruiting Daily.

5 Comments on “Frienemies With Benefits: How HR Ruins Recruiting

  1. Matt, you’ve written a gem – except there are many flaws here. Appears as if my response will have to be a blog post. Give me a day or two.

    • Sweet. I’ll give you the same caveat I gave Jerry – this is only really applicable to multinational, F500 kinds of companies. But that’s the only recruiting I know – and can’t wait to hear you weigh in. Honored to provoke a response from the only person I know who’s better at trolling than I am.

  2. Matt, I will have to agree with Steve. This was well written but a few missing points. I myself just started blogging (yesterday) so I truly have no room to talk. But I would love to share some ideas and bounce some topics off of you if you’d like. Just let me know, looking forward to it.

    “It’s all about that HUSTLE” – SalesHustling

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