“You have to go though ‘Tammy’ in Human Resources. If you contact our hiring manager directly we will terminate your agreement” – does this sound familiar? It is a common scenario that often occurs and hurts all parties: HR, the candidate, the hiring manager and, of course, you, the recruiter. The motivation level of a good recruiter will fall off the radar screen for this client when he hears this. Now he will only send marginal people who happen to come across his desk rather than taking the search seriously. Generally speaking, the bigger the company the greater chance that you will be dealing with increased red tape and bureaucracy. The exception to this is if you are working on very senior level openings, which are almost always handled directly by the decision-maker and are often filled on a retainer.So, what do you do if you get funneled to HR? Here’s the short answer – don’t spend any of your valuable time with a company like this. Are there exceptions? Yes. And you can still send a resume here or there if you are working with a competent HR person who can get things done but generally you are better off finding a new client that will be more flexible.Target small to medium size companies who don’t have a brand name or huge internal recruiting machine and will value your expertise and advice. These smaller companies haven’t grown to a size where they have enough internal human resources support and are used to having recruiters work directly with hiring authorities. If you work with them when they are small and they do grow and create new bureaucracy, you will be in a better position to be “grandfathered” in as the recruiter who is allowed to work directly with hiring authorities based on your reputation and history with the company.Another way around HR is to work on higher-level assignments. Much of the value that recruiters can provide is in assessing soft skills that do not appear on a resume and cannot be screened by an automated database. These skills include leadership, boardroom presence, ability to sell ideas, initiative and project completion skills. The likelihood of working directly with the hiring authority increases if you are working on positions requiring these skills.If you want to make an effort to work things out with HR you do have some options. One thing to point out to them is the fact that candidates will not take the position seriously if they ask you to describe the managers personality and style and your response is, “I don’t know, I have no direct contact with him.” This hurts your ability to attract happily employed, high caliber talent for the company.Another approach would be to ask very specific, tough, technical questions of the HR person you are working with. If he or she cannot answer them and starts squirming you now have an excellent segue to say something like this:”What we have found to be the most productive method of conducting a search is when we are able to work cooperatively with both HR and the hiring authority. If we only work through HR, our effectiveness drops considerably because we don’t have first hand information as to why a particular candidate did well or bombed out that we can use to hone in on the best people. Also, our credibility with candidates we are recruiting drops considerably if we cannot answer any of their questions about the process and the personality of the players involved. This affects the quality of people that we are able to attract for you. As you know, a big part of finding the right match is the ‘soft skills’ like chemistry and personality and these are only gauged if we have contact with the hiring authority.”Tell HR folks that you want to work as a partner with them and will not go behind their back, but you do need access to the hiring manager in order to be effective. If HR is adamant that they do not want to have you talk to the hiring authority, I would not put much focus on the search.
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