5 Strategies for Effectively Dealing with HR

If you are like most recruiters, human resources are a department that you enjoy dealing with about as much as the IRS. HR can play a vital role in moving the placement process forward but the problem occurs when they insist on being the only point of contact that you can deal with. This scenario generally 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 that he is stuck working exclusively with HR. 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 retained basis.

So, what do you do if you get funneled to HR and are forbidden to talk to the hiring authority? Here's the short answer- don't spend much of your valuable time with a company like this. Are there exceptions? Yes, but not often enough to invest the time. 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.

If you want to make an effort to work things out with HR you do have some options. Here are some ideas for dealing with this issue:

1. Target small to medium size companies:

Smaller companies don't usually have a brand name or huge internal recruiting machine and will value your expertise and advice more than a household name corporation. 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.

2. 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 and Retained and on positions requiring these skills.

Click here to see a tool that will help you land retained searches.

3. Point out that candidate quality drops when you have no direct Hiring authority contact:

One thing to point out to HR is the fact that candidates will not take the position seriously if they ask you to describe the manager’s 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.

4. Ask tough technical questions:

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 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."

5. Be willing to negotiate and build trust:

Tell HR that you want to work with them as a partner and will not go behind their back, but that you do need access to the hiring manager in order to be effective. Say something like this, “We want to become an extension of your department and make your life easier”. If necessary, copy your HR contact on all emails to the hiring authority to keep them in the loop or make other similar concessions.


By Gary Stauble, reprinted with the permission of The Recruiting Lab
 BlackDog Recruiting Software Inc.
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