Many people do not regard recruiting as a profession. HR generalists are prone to think that anyone can do recruiting. Managers expect unqualified people to act as interviewers and to give them advice on whom to hire. Even recruiters have mixed opinions, as many of them were not formally trained and were also HR generalists at some point.
Within many organizations, there is an uneasy relationship between human resources generalists, recruiters, and management. HR generalists often try to intermediate among everyone, sometimes creating confusion or generating animosity. Recruiters tend to work alone or to bypass the HR generalist, also creating bad feelings. Managers go to whichever one they have the best relationship with.
In some organizations, hiring managers simply bypass both and go directly to third-party recruiters outside the firm. They do this because these agency recruiters are seen as professionals. They meet three requirements: they are perceived as experts who have access to the right candidates, they are able to immediately respond to the hiring manager’s needs, and they are free of corporate politics and bureaucracy.
While this problem has existed for decades and is probably a normal part of corporate life, it can be different. Part of the problem is that HR is in the midst of changing from being administrative and transaction-centered to being value-centered.
HRIS systems have automated many of the administrative tasks of HR, and intranets and self-service philosophies have taken over some of their service elements. This has led to a need for fewer people within most HR functions and to an identity crisis for HR professionals who now have to re-establish a value-adding role for themselves. Many people see recruiting, or finding the right talent, as one of these and want to be part of the process.
Recruiters are faced with daunting challenges as well. They can no longer rely on volume to meet demands. For some positions, few people, if any, apply. For others, there are hundreds of applicants. The recruiter has to source people for the tough positions and screen them for the others. And they have to do the screening and assessing in a deeper manner than before and are held to tighter quality standards.
To be successful, they too have had to adopt technology that removes much of the clerical side of their work. They find that it is critical to know who the best performers are and what their competencies and skills are. Yet the HR professional often won’t facilitate an interaction or can’t identify the best performers and throw up procedural blocks to prevent recruiters from doing it themselves.
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Hiring managers don’t care about any of this. They just want good people fast. Because the HR professionals most often have the relationship with the hiring manager, they should be able to act as a broker between the hiring manager and the recruiter. Yet the two often work at odds to one another. Many HR people feel threatened by their own systems and by the recruiting technologies and easily fall back into their more familiar administrative roles of regulator and police.
Professionals usually have some set of established qualifications that give them the right to call themselves professionals. HR has struggled to formulate these criteria and has done so with the Society of Human Resource Management’s Professional Human Resources and Senior Profession Human Resources certificates.
No one has done this yet for recruiting, although there has been talk among groups such as the old Employment Management Association (now part of SHRM) and other such groups to create standards. Until some organization creates the standards, recruiters need to self-regulate. They need to formally learn skills such as how to conduct a behavioral interview, how to recruit ethically, and how to use the Internet and other tools to source candidates. They need to have formal training in the laws of their state and government. Recruiting is getting more difficult and more complex every year.
Flying by the seat of their pants is rapidly becoming a liability to both the recruiter and the organization who hires them. Until such standards are defined, here are five things to improve the fragile, difficult relationship between HR, hiring managers, and recruiters:
- Be responsive. Hiring managers want (and should get) attention and focus on the positions they have open. The HR professional is in the perfect position to facilitate the communication process between hiring managers and recruiters. In one organization, the HR professional acted as a team leader for a group composed of hiring managers, recruiters and a few technical experts. Together they identified competencies, developed interview guides and even made referrals.
- Educate. Make sure that hiring managers understand the market and appreciate how easy or difficult a particular placement may be. Agencies do this by negotiation and price. Internally, HR professionals and recruiters have to do more explaining. Recruiters need to know and explain the talent marketplace. The HR professional needs to facilitate and broker relationships, gather and share information about people and make sure that the talent of the organization is “managed” in a way that maximizes productivity and minimizes turnover.
- Reduce bureaucracy, employ technology. Make sure that the recruiting process is clearly understood by all the parties involved. Be sure that roles and responsibilities are well defined. Whenever possible, develop a service level agreement to actually spell out what each party will do (or not do) and when they will do it. Remove administrative responsibilities from the hiring manager and from recruiters and HR professionals by employing technology more effectively. Make sure whatever you want a manager to do with technology works flawlessly, quicker than it did before, and yields better quality. Would you use an ATM if it were twice as complicated and took more time than to go inside to the teller?
- Measure what you do. Just because the HR professionals and the recruiters have taught the hiring managers about the market or redesigned roles does not mean that they all understand the impact those changes have. Both HR professionals and recruiters need to gather data, test hypotheses, establish metrics and make the recruiting process as empirical as possible. Managers will understand and respond to hard data. Show them the cost and time saved and the value added.
- Use an evolutionary approach. Take things one step at a time. Don’t expect hiring managers to become recruiters, at least not right away. Don’t expect HR professionals to give up all their recruiting tasks. Those tasks will eventually disappear anyway. Don’t expect recruiters to become completely versed in all the rules and politics of the organization. Make people want to use the new approaches because they are faster, better, or cheaper. Remember to start by giving hiring managers what they want and need: good talent as fast as possible.
None of this is rocket science, just some very basic things that are often overlooked. Change is difficult for both HR and line management, so guide and teach managers about how to recruit while you continuously figure out how you can support their efforts from a behind-the-scenes, value-added approach.
Finally, lobby to get a set of professional standards in place so that you can truly say you are a professional and not just an amateur subset of HR.