HR Generalists Vs. Recruiters: Some Thoughts on the Internal War

Human resource generalists usually leave most of recruiting to the professional recruiters. But in some organizations, the HR generalists like to play a larger role. One of my recent clients was upset because the HR generalist was “meddling” in the recruiting process and had created some confusion between him and the hiring manager. And I hear from HR generalists how recruiters are not well informed about the position and are presenting inappropriate candidates to the hiring manager. The war between the two roles is heating up. Whenever there are multiple parties who have some interest in a transaction, there can be disagreement and confusion. For many years the HR generalist paid little attention to recruiting, unless it was at the executive level. The recruiters were expected to quickly fill the run of the mill positions without involving the HR staff too much. HR was usually too busy doing process stuff and enforcing the rules to pay any attention to acquiring people. But as the talent wars have gotten fiercer and the stakes higher, many HR generalists now realize that their value to the organization may lie only in how well and how quickly they can attract good talent. This has led to territorial fights, internal bickering, and a lot of confusion over roles and responsibilities. I think that this whole issue says more about the future of HR than it does about recruiting. Many predictors, including myself, believe that HR will eventually be focused on two primary areas only: attracting and acquiring talent and on developing talent within the organization. All the administrative duties and process work will be automated and outsourced within the next 5 years. A transitory role may be that of internal consultant and advisor to management. This will be a necessary role because managers, HR generalists and recruiters are not yet ready for new responsibilities. It will take a generation to change the role of management to accept recruiting and consulting as a major part of their responsibilities. Here are a few thoughts on what the roles ought to be and why: Thought #1: As long as there are both HR generalists and recruiters who are independent, there has to be a set of working principles that they agree to abide by. These could include a code of ethics about recruiting, a written agreement on responsibilities and the establishment of a mechanism to solve any disagreements that might arise. I think both parties need to map out their stakeholders and put in place specific duties that they each will take on. This is becoming more essential as HR generalists find their jobs threatened by recruiters and recruiters risk being cut out of critical discussions and involvement in the hiring process. There is plenty of room for both in talent acquisition and development, but roles are changing and need to be openly discussed. Larger firms should set aside a day for the two groups to meet and clearly define responsibilities and clear up any gray areas that exist. I find in much of my consulting work that many of the problem clients have in executing efficiently and quickly is because of muddled roles and confused expectations. <*SPONSORMESSAGE*> Thought #2: The manager should be given as much control over the hiring process as she wants. She should be given options that could include doing everything herself via the Internet and job boards or doing nothing except providing job descriptions and conducting interviews. The HR generalist can work out the parameters of involvement in the process and bring in the recruiter to explain the options. Abdicating responsibility to a manager who is not ready for the task is silly and job threatening. On the other hand, not letting a manager know what she could do is also opening the door to eventual problems and issues. While a recruiter could perhaps do all this, the HR generalist most often has an existing relationship with the hiring manager and has developed her trust. This can be used to effectively build a strong recruiting partnership. Thought #3: HR generalists should begin to build basic recruiting skills and act as internal consultants on the recruiting process. Their focus should be internal and their primary role should be to understand and communicate the job requirements to the recruiters and the market supply and issues to the hiring manager. They should be seen as facilitating the hiring process and acting as intermediary between managers and recruiters. They do not have to interview candidates nor do they have to source or approve of candidates. Their job should be focused on making the process work smoothly and quickly and on educating management. I see a lot of confusion here and many HR generalists feel they are being left out of the process if they do not interview candidates and give their seal of approval. In the interest of speed and efficiency, the recruiter and hiring manager should make the hiring decisions, not the HR generalist. Thought #4: The recruiters should remain outwardly focused and accept input from the HR generalists on the job requirements. Recruiters should spend more than half their time outside the organization building networks, developing new sources of candidates, working the job boards, and attending meetings and conferences where the kinds of people they are seeking go. The recruiter’s job is less and less about internal interviews, paperwork, scheduling and process and more and more about relationships and networks. If this becomes the focus of the recruiter’s day, then the territorial wars with HR generalists will disappear. There is no magic. The role confusion will continue and get worse as the stakes are raised and talent becomes THE issue of the 21st century. Organizations that begin to refine roles and work toward developing processes that re-enforce each other and leverage strengths will be way ahead of the others.

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Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at


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