Actually, Recruiting is Not HR Anymore

Recruitment, now widely referred to as talent acquisition, has and continues to evolve enough that we are really have become our own animal, not a cage in someone else’s zoo.

From order-taking and administration to educating and advising to consulting means we have become a value added service to any organization, regardless of their size or industry. The 16th Annual Global CEO Survey from PwC revealed that global talent shortages are still a top concern for CEOs worldwide. Human capital is the top challenge as noted by the Conference Board CEO Challenge 2013.

Gone are the days of help-wanted advertisements responded by the typewritten or fax resume. Receiving stacks of paper resumes and cover letters where the norm was to divide them into A-B-C piles with written notes on suitability; then transferring the volumes of paper into a basic searchable database with electronic notes was really not that long ago. Using a simple chart to tally how many resumes received, screened, declined, interviewed, and hired provided the first-level reporting. Headhunters relied on their Rolodex to place candidates.

Nowadays, the ATS is the heavily invested tool companies rely on for recruitment activities and reporting. In other words, welcome the cumbersome, process driven, Big Brother, and time-consuming aid. Some are better than others; however, the purpose of the ATS is not necessarily to make the recruiter’s role easier, efficient, or more effective. It is built for the supervisors to pull reports and to enable an online experience for candidates. Candidates still offer feedback that their resume is uploaded to a “black hole” and when they receive an electronic message to acknowledge or decline their application, the mass communication lacks a personal connection and trust in the organization they seek employment with. The two-way human interaction is missing from the “enabled, candidate focused” system. The reports are often riddled with the potential risk of poor data integrity. For the recruiter, the task of reading every resume received and determining yes to screen or decline or maybe is not unlike the previous method of A-B-C piles.

Job boards dominated the market, offering the candidate access to job listings from multiple industries in one easy place. Over time, they offered employers the opportunity to market not only their hiring needs, but also their employment brand. Today, organizations rely on their corporate website and sites such as LinkedIn to achieve the same goal. Job search engines such as Eluta and Indeed allow candidates to search many employer websites in hopes to find a new job.

RPO hit the market and many industries have tried and some continue to employ this outsourcing model. Vendor management systems bridge the relationship between agencies or headhunters and their corporate clients.

Testing and assessment centers were once heavily relied upon and today online psychometric testing are used to assess a candidate’s fit. “Which-animal-are-you?” interview type of questions were popular and lately we are accustomed to the series of behavioral interview questions.

Currently, social media, social networking, and online interviewing helps create a positive and interactive communication with candidates, hire top talent, and enhance one’s employment brand. Mobile technology offers better means to enhance the two way communication with candidates.

Sourcing became (and still is) a critical skill for recruiters. With the presence of Google and access to the Internet, Boolean search strings became a hot commodity. Today, innovative ways to source or headhunt top talent is an art form. Professional networking groups opened doors for one to attend events as a recruiter and network to uncover the next best candidate. LinkedIn took this notion to the next level tenfold, and today many recruiters use this professional social media website as their main hunting ground.

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LinkedIn Recruiter provides a solution to managing talent pools. CRM is the latest buzz for recruitment, leveraging a system marketing professionals have used for years. Regardless of which system is employed, technology has no doubt contributed by proactively creating talent pipelines to meet critical hiring needs.

Recently, there is debate on whether recruitment, currently being a function under human resources, should fall under marketing. Many agree that recruitment should function as its own entity. Although there is merit in partnering with HR and marketing among other key stakeholders, as talent acquisition professionals we provide a unique and invaluable service to our hiring managers, senior leaders, and CEOs.

My questions are: Why are we not listed as our own function? Why can we not have our own listing in the drop down menus of job boards? We are lumped under human resources. HR has an important place in a corporation and some of their governance can apply to hiring; however, acquiring talent is a skill of its own, not a duty for an HR role. Many organizations understand this and have a separate leader and team structure to support the attraction and acquiring of new talent into and within their organization. We are labeled as recruitment, not HR specialists, and rightly so. It’s time for the next stage in our evolution. It’s time for us to showcase our function a key contributor, noteworthy of distinction, because we already are.

The way in which we interact with hiring managers and senior leaders has also evolved. We were once an order taker and more recently are partnering with managers to understand their hiring needs, conduct panel interviews, evaluate candidates, and close the deal, i.e. hire the chosen candidate. Today, in many cases, the recruiter is a right-hand partner, providing advice and guidance not only on the hiring process but also the job market, strength of internal and external candidate pools, and industry trends. With data comes analytics and potential solutions to key challenges. As an industry of professional talent acquisition experts, we are getting better at this every day. The emergence of “big data” and metrics helps to identify critical talent, enables us to source more strategically, and provide intelligence on how the competition is performing in efforts to hire talent.

It’s time to be visible, on our own, separately, not a division of someone or something else, not a separate department, with our own VP. This is our evolution today.

Toronto-based Tina Iantorno has more than 15 years of experience in recruitment, including agency, in-house contract roles, consulting, and as a full-time permanent corporate recruiter.


21 Comments on “Actually, Recruiting is Not HR Anymore

  1. I agree with the thesis. The value center of Recruitment is an elite sales performance sooner or later. How that is organized and facilitated varies greatly.

  2. Human Capital may be their top challenge in words, they do not act as if that’s the case. As for recruiting not being HR, I don’t necessarily disagree or agree as we share certain aspects in our respective roles. However, recruiting is often lumped in with HR for one specific reason: compliance. HR is the department which, among other things, makes sure the company is dealing with its employees in a fair, honest, and, usually more importantly, legal way. Or at least that is what they should be doing, results and priorities vary, of course. Some of the needs of HR and compliance bleed in to and influence the recruiting process, and so we are lumped in with or underneath them in the company structure. And as long as compliance is such a formidable need to fill for companies this will usually be the tendency in company structures.

  3. Great article Tina!

    It’ll take time for everyone to make this change in mindframe.

    I run recruiting at my software company and while our CEO always understood that Recruiting is fundamentally different than HR and a critical part of our growth and success. However, our President/CFO always referred to me and my team as “HR”. For two years, he would always introduce me to everyone as “Head of HR”. I always had to joke with him that I don’t really have anything to do with HR and that I’m almost the complete opposite of HR. But regardless of the dozens and dozens of times that we had this exchange, he never really got it, nor why I was so adamant about it.

    Then about a year ago, he was at a board meeting and he showed the slides I’d prepared for him to talk about the growth of the company and how many great engineers and elite level people we’d hired. Everyone at the meeting was shocked at how we had managed to hire so many engineers when none of the startups in their portfolio were able to even hire any. Not to mention we hardly spent any money or use outside help to do it!

    That was the day he started introducing me as “The guy who makes sure we’ve got all these great people”. 🙂

    Long story short… It’ll take time for everyone to totally get that Recruiting is a fundamentally different beast than HR. Rebranding and repositioning an entire industry is a difficult endeavor, but if we all keep working at it, it’ll happen…. one C-level executive at a time!!!

    Thanks again for the article!

  4. The mention of compliance is the transactional reason why Recruitment is part of HR. This is not the strategic foundation as to why Recruitment resides in HR/HC. It takes progressive HR leadership to drive the acquisition of talent management, linking skills needed with business and providing the service of the internal consultant to ensure hiring managers have the resources needed. It requires an HR philosophy not only for talent acquisition, but also talent management and talent services that managers and employees are customer first and co-workers second. With the proper design, there is a synergy between talent acquisition and talent management in the business partnering model that can also best serve the needs of the business. HR has the responsibility to define the roles and educate the business that everyone in “HR” does NOT do the same thing; it’s no different than the assumption that all accounting, IT or engineering staff all do the same thing.

  5. Why do we care so much about needing to be liberated from HR seems to a never ending topic………….please do not react in a negative way thinking I am being flippant about the subject though. The point is if you are focused on the right things in Recruitment, you are partnering with your peers (HR, Talent Management, Benefits, Legal, etc) and you are aligned to the business strategy, it really does not make any difference in the grand scheme of things. If your HR boss or the business is not making Talent Acquisition a priority even though they say it is mission critical, then that is not an organizational alignment issue but one of a disconnect with the players involved around the strategy/execution plan and possible prioritization of the importance.

    An additional point is the argument could be made why Talent Management or Comp and Benefits don’t have their own drop down as legitimate specialization within HR as well. They also play a significant role in any Human Capital Strategy along with TA.

    I used to think that to be successful in TA/Recruiting we needed to report directly to the business. But as I got older and wiser with experience and focused on what the business needed from us, it became less relevant on who or how we reported as long as we had agreement of the recruitment business aligned objectives and a healthy collaborative partnership with not only our colleagues in HR, but any other function that we needed to interact with to be successful. What has changed for recruiting in the last 10 years is it has become more global, with more complexities with more matrixed relationships. Having TA/Recruiting moving out from HR will not fix this ever going complexity.

    I like the article but just think your banging the wrong drum on this one.


  6. Right on Cathy! Argue all you want about organization structure, the reality is that managing people should be an integrated activity. Hiring/staffing/recruiting has never been the responsibility of HR. It has and always will be the responsibility of line management; each supervisor.

    BUT, HR has an important role in establishing the framework within which people are managed, and should be available to coach on an ongoing basis. And sure, admin functions can be consolidated in one place for efficiency’s sake, but the responsibility resides in the supervisors.

    As Rob suggests, designing an effective organization structure, setting appropriate job/position evaluation (and therefore compensation), training to fill gaps and/or prepare for future assignments — all of these (and more) are part of the total experience of managing people and should be guided by one strong cohesive HR/Human Capital/People Center group we usually just call HR.

  7. Thanks, Cathy. Perhaps being a contract recruiter as opposed to a FT one gives me a rather skewed perspective on this one (as opposed to my dead-center-accurate perspectives on everything else 😉 , but I don’t give a tinker’s damn about which column on an org chart I’m on. As far as I’m concerned, Recruiting could be under “Maintenance,” since we’re always cleaning up other people’s messes…

    What DOES matter?
    1) Having the resources my colleagues and I need to do our jobs- putting quality butts in chairs on-time and within budget.
    2) Getting the communication, cooperation, and support of the people we work with and for.
    3) “Not sweating the small stuff”- anything that takes us away from putting quality butts in chairs on-time and within budget.

    Happy Friday, Folks

  8. I think Recruiting or Talent Acquisition has already been it’s own entity…that is whom I also have relationships with… As for titles, I do not put much stock on HR Specialist or Recruiter…It’s more your personal brand…as evidenced by my title on LinkedIn at Jibe Professional Group, we are allowed to have fun:

    Director of Professional Placement | Maker of Awesome | Urban Hanglider…let’s get over it and get to work… It’s Monday !

  9. Why the resentment of being part of HR? After all, recruiters are the ones Resourcing the Humans! HR is umbrella term for myriad disciplines – employee relations, compensation, benefits, HRIS, training and development and yes, recruitment. Because recruiters are the first point of contact for most employees, they then become a trusted resource to whom new hires go when they have other HR questions. Further, if a recruiter is not knowledgeable on all the other HR goings-on, they cannot possibly be “selling” the company in the most complete and accurate way. I have forever been baffled by the sentiment of separation between recruitment and HR.

  10. @ Linda: There is the perception that HR slows down Recruiting’s effort with over-caution, regulation, and paperwork. In my own case, call me anything you like except “late to pick up my pay”.


  11. Great article Tina. Recruiting has always been considered as a “cost” —- not something that brings “value” and “revenue”. Value created by quality of employees.

    The real recruiters I know — not the paper shufflers — the ones that actually do search have said this all alone.

    Recruiting and the rest of HR has a different mindset. Generally speaking (there are exceptions) HR has to watch for legal issues and is more conservative oriented. Real recruiters look to create branding, be creative in attracting the right candidates, etc. Unfortunately Recruiting ends up being the “ugly stepchild” of HR.

    See my post on TLNT:

  12. @ Linda: I agree, yet it’s a very common perception, and sometimes a reality. I have interviewed at places where I was told recruiters spent 60-70% of their time documenting their work and entering data. IMHO, the larger and/or more centralized an organization is, the more prone to this type of “bloatocracy” they may be, and the greater the likelihood that process (documentation, metrics, peripheral activities) is valued as much or more than results (“putting quality butts in chairs on-time and within budget”).


  13. This topic has floated in and out of the discussion stream for years…HR people are baffled as to how sourcing human employees could NOT be considered HR. and recruiters have never understood how marketing and selling the company has anything to do with OD, L&D, ER and Bennies…

    My view is that in companies that have recruiters mostly processing the “flow” of advertising, employee referrals and external vendors – HR is the best place for them. I would also submit that most companies that take this approach are on the long slope to decline as top talent has to be “recruited.”

    If you’re not recruiting, you’re consistently bringing in a higher percentage of new employees that are “B” players (or worse). Not a recipe for growth or success…(As a disclaimer, I previously held a VP Recruiting role internally, reporting to the CFO).

    @Rob Mallery’s story of his CEO now intro-ing him as the guy that “brought in all the top talent” says it best. As a comparison to the TA/HR question, look no further than marketing and sales.

    Both are symbiotically tied at the hip with one relying on the other, yet they have very different missions – and separate business verticals. (btw – all divisions are impacted by compliance and legal and I don’t buy into this reasoning for keeping it in HR).

    As the menial labor roles (lower educated) continue to decline in Corporate America and our specialized workforce (STEM, etc.) continues to grow and evolve, the very real struggle for corporate growth and success will be on the shoulders of the Talent Acquisition division.

    The skill set, mentality and personality of a “direct source” TA team doesn’t fit in with the various flavors of HR. Maintaining this connection could hinder the success of the group by limiting the boisterous and competitive environment that fosters a TA team’s success. There are a number of examples of this out there (like Originate), and not surprisingly they are highly respected and successful TA organizations.

  14. @ K.C.: “…you’re consistently bringing in a higher percentage of new employees that are “B” players (or worse).” Of course they are, because most companies don’t have anything that people who aren’t “B” players (or worse) would want. They think they and their companies are special and entitled to the best, but they’re barely able to afford the rest.

    As far as who should work in a Staffing Dept:
    I’ve said many times that you should pay your employees and contractors to do those tasks that are worth at least $50/hr (in the U.S.)- anything that’s not can be “trans-sourced” (no-sourced, through-sourced, or out-sourced) for usually much less than U.S., minimum wage. However, many old-school Staffing Bosses “get their jollies” (power, prestige, BUDGETS) by having huge staffs of onsite people doing low-touch, low-value add activity along with some highly-paid people doing low-touch, low-value add activities (like the places where the recruiters spend 60-70% of their time doing data entry and corroboration), so things have been slow to change in this respect….


  15. @KC Haha, I’ll be honest, I had to look up OD, L&D, and ER. Over a decade in the recruiting world and building great teams for hundreds of companies (including my own) and I had no idea what those acronyms stood for. Not even a guess!! I’m a pretty sharp guy and usually good about figuring out at least a ballpark of what acronyms might mean, but I came up with nothing!

    Sooooo, I googled it and I found this article…

    I also found that the author placed “Recruiting” as one small piece tucked under “Administrative HR”. It didn’t even make it into “Strategic HR” according to this article. They summarize the article with this…

    “The HR function has a legal/regulatory focus… (a police officer)
    The OD function has a broad strategic focus… (a business detective)
    The L&D function has a specific skills training focus… (a coach, facilitator or trainer)”

    @Linda… I’m certainly not a “police officer”, nor a small piece of of the 911 call center at the police station.

    I’m a Pirate!! With lots of Business Detective, Coach, Facilitator, Trainer, and Hackathon Party Planner thrown in for good measure. But a Pirate first and foremost!



  16. @Rob – Huge smile…

    “you see matey, the Capn always keeps one eye scanning the horizon for ‘a prize’ with hopes of a full treasure chest in her hold, a great ransom for a golden haired lass and a “before the mast” crew of nimble UX Engineers…”

  17. haha, EXACTLY!! Now where’s my cutlass and my pint o’ rum. Better get to work!!

    mental note… Hopefully HR doesn’t catch me with my Rum! hmmmm… Better put it in my coffee mug!!!

  18. Recruiting and HR are not and should not be completely from each other. Just like Training, Benefits, Compensation, Performance Management, and Safety, Recruiting is a specialty area within Human Resources and to completely separate recruiting into it’s own vertical is, while well intended, entirely off base.

    HR is an extremely critical piece in the foundation of recruiting – you have to understand how organizations are run and how their employees are taken care of to know how to bring the right people in. This is one of the biggest reasons I believe that staffing agencies fail, because they hire people focused on Sales rather than HR.

    I started out as an HR Generalist, working on a little bit of everything that encompassed HR, including recruiting. Generalist work is a daunting task and getting the (S)PHR certification and/or a degree in the field ensures the HR professional knows the essence of the laws, regulations and best practices. I saw how very different each of the specialty areas were within HR, but how we all worked together. Training relates to Performance Management. Benefits relates to Compensation. Compensation relates to Recruiting.

    When I decided to focus on recruiting 8 years ago, I worked at a staffing agency where I was mocked by some coworkers for my HR background – it was nuts. But in that job, a staffing agency, I was able to get a lot further with my recruiting clients because not only did I have recruiting experience, but I understood what it was like to work in-house. I understood the big picture of company hiring, from workforce planning to diving deep into culture to having first hand knowledge of the skills of the positions I was filling – because I’ve worked in those types of organizations. I had street cred.

    I’ve worked in organizations where recruiting was completely silo’d away from the rest of HR, and there were always problems because HR wouldn’t treat Recruiting like a colleague – so when salary ranges were determined, Recruiting wasn’t included which was a huge mistake because recruiters know the market. Or when benefits discussions came up, recruiters weren’t included even though they knew what candidates were looking for. It was not healthy because Recruiters were treated like salespeople or as subservient to the other players in HR.

    Recruiting, like HR Generalists, are business partners to the organization, and each subcategory of HR are deserving of being called their own professions. But to disconnect us completely? It’s completely ignorant of the business value that Recruiting contributes when it’s part of a solid HR organization.

    Maybe the problem is who we’re hiring to lead these HR teams who don’t always understand the diversity that is within HR.

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