“Man’s enemies are not demons, but human beings like himself.” -Lao Tzu
Why Recruiters Would Rather Bypass HR
Can’t we all just get along? There’s a constant tension, push and pull, between agency recruiters and HR generalists. Agency recruiters and HR people constantly demonize one another. Agency recruiters are some of the most persistent human beings on the planet. They’re tasked with hunting down the right candidate and closing the deal. And everybody better get out of the way of their relentless pursuit of the goal line, or risk getting stiff-armed. HR people are the antithesis of single-mindedness. They can’t risk a tunnel vision approach. HR professionals must consider human resources through the broad prism of risk management, regulatory compliance, cost and corporate culture. Is it any wonder that HR people distrust laser-focused recruiters and recruiters see HR as an obstacle that must be shoved aside or avoided at all costs? Is there any hope for this match made in hell?
Hate is Such a Strong Word
Not only do HR people and agency recruiters distrust one another, they at times, hate one another. If you type “recruiters hate HR” or HR hates recruiters” into Google, you will quickly understand the picture. Ontario-based recruiting professional Francois Guay recently penned a provocative blog post, “Top 10 Reasons Why HR Hates Recruiters and Vice Versa.” Guay’s “tongue and cheek” list includes, “HR follows the rules while recruiters break them” and “HR loves paperwork but to a recruiter the only paperwork required is a napkin at a bar to jot down candidate essentials.” And the industry is still buzzing over Fast Company Magazine’s notorious 2005 piece titled “Why We Hate HR,” in which HR people were trashed as dull-witted pencil pushers. According to the magazine, “The human-resources trade long ago proved itself, at best, a necessary evil — and at worst, a dark bureaucratic force that blindly enforces nonsensical rules, resists creativity, and impedes constructive change.” Ouch! With so much hate in the air, how can HR people and outside recruiters bridge the divide?
Barbarians at the Gate
HR people see their role as gatekeepers between outside recruiters and hiring managers. And they jealously guard their turf. They are loath to grant pushy recruiters direct access to the company’s line managers. When agency recruiters step on HR’s toes by contacting line managers directly, and they will, HR people feel betrayed. On the other side of the fence, it’s the agency recruiter’s job to locate, source and place the ideal candidate, act as a broker between the candidate and the employer, and sell the employment value proposition to the talent. It’s quite an undertaking. And all the while, agency recruiters must create a real sense of urgency to close the deal; otherwise, the process may become mired in the snail’s pace operations of HR.
Yin and Yang
In this competitive marketplace, the staffs of HR departments are overwhelmed with mounds of resumes and administrative tasks, leaving little time to actively recruit top talent. Outside talent acquisition specialists can ease the recruiting burdens, especially with hard-to-fill technical vacancies and senior level executive positions. Darrell W. Gurney, author of “Headhunters Revealed! Career Secrets for Choosing and Using Professional Recruiters,” points out that an outside recruiter’s freewheeling role can significantly benefit an organization’s acquisition of top talent. ” A headhunter is not bogged down with the administrative functions of HR or other hiring departments. At its core, a search form is a sales organization. They sell information. They sell contacts. They broker relationships. The result is putting the right candidate in front of the right employer,” writes Gurney.
Establish Mutual Trust
On paper, it looks like a match made in heaven, not hell. But in practice, working relationships between HR generalists and agency recruiters resemble the clash of the titans. What is the solution? HR people should work hard to forge mutually beneficial partnerships with recruiters. And treat them as valued partners, rather than troublesome third-party “vendors.” Recruiters can, and should, respect the generalist role and big-picture responsibilities of HR, by instilling trust and refraining from pulling an end-around HR for the sake of expediency. Communication is key.
Once mutual respect and a true business partnership is developed, HR people would be more willing to grant recruiters direct access to hiring managers, to clarify the search criteria and move the hiring process forward. In the end, a successful hire reflects favorably on HR and the recruiter. When the process works as it should, everyone wins, especially the organization.