Is Your HR Dept. a Barrier to Hiring the Best?


You have an open search for talent and are closing in on the final candidate for the role.  You are so excited because you are confident that this person possesses all the qualities needed to take the company to the next level. Enter in HR and their own “Process” of interviewing, vetting, challenging, and otherwise complicating the whole matter.  Far too often, I have experienced scenarios where HR enters the fray when things are progressing well, only to have them impose some seemingly arbitrary response or mechanism which undermines the entire process. I am convinced that HR feel it is their solemn duty to put the candidate through one more “ringer” before they are willing to give their blessing.  This can manifest itself in a variety of ways, but in nearly every case, it will cause disruption, destabilizing the entire process and in some cases does irreparable damage to the deal in the works.

By no means is this is intentional, however, the pattern is undeniable. As if because HR thinks that it has gone too smoothly and therefore “someone must be missing something,” they insist upon throwing a wrench in the gears. By doing so, they must feel that they can slow it down enough to do their own investigation and make sure that there isn’t any funny business going on.  I will go out on a limb here and give them the benefit of the doubt, because I do believe that their intentions are mostly good. But, what they cannot comprehend is the incredible amount of research, communication, coordination and even coercion that has taken place up to this point in order to get this prospect to the table. Yet, they far too often feel entitled to halting the process without any appreciation for the risk that this introduces to the outcome and the company. It is as if they don’t think that the search consultant and all the others involved have considered all the complexities of the execution of this recruitment. In some cases, this may be the case, but if they are working with a professional recruiter who has any clue, the recruiter is in the best position to better appreciate the risks and potential snares that exist. So why then does this always seem to happen and always right at the end when everyone is on High Alert? A simple intrusion such as HR wanting to “interview” them, or ask for some kind of hurdle for the prospect to overcome can cause doubt in the mind of the prospect and undermine all the efforts that have been invested to this point.

“What effort?” you ask…

Consider the hours and hours of research

hundreds of phone calls and emails

references and scheduling

Convincing prospect to interview

debriefings and more selling

Candidate vetting

hand holding – gauging interest and shoring it up

more phone calls and emails to keep them engaged

preparing candidate to expect and accept an offer

preparing candidate to reject all counter-offers

This is a terribly simplistic example of the process, but all of this time and effort may potentially yield three to five strong prospects who then are distilled down to the one that best fits the company’s culture and has the greatest possibility for success and NOW,  HR wants to have a say in the selection process?  Perhaps it would make more sense if they were truly experts in talent acquisition, but 99.9% are not.  We wouldn’t expect them to be either since talent acquisition is just one of many of the roles and responsibilities of HR.

Yet, when HR interferes with the delicate process of recruiting someone who isn’t looking and doesn’t need the job, they put the entire process at risk.  In my experience, when this behavior results in the final candidate prospect to turn down the offer, HR often feel vindicated that somehow they helped the company avert a bad decision.   Oddly enough, they have no insight into the entire process to fully appreciate the effects of their intervention.

The only way to avoid this problem is to:

1. Work with smaller companies that don’t have the embedded HR people who control or facilitate the recruitment process.

and

2. Educate your clients, in advance,  to the importance of allowing YOU to manage all the “End Game” details. By running everything through the recruiter, you have a check and balance to know whether the benefit of the intervention is worth the risk.

 If a client can’t or won’t allow you this level of control, I suggest finding another client, or saddle up for a rough ride.

Signs a Company’s Hiring Process is OvEr-EnGiNeErEd.


Many well meaning companies create logical hiring processes to screen out unqualified or ill-fitting candidates to mitigate the tremendous losses that come from hiring the wrong person for key position. It seems as though over time, the companies have added new filters and hoops for people to jump through in an effort to further reduce the likelihood of making a costly hiring mistake. Recent research shows the cost of a bad hire is roughly 15X the person’s annual salary. These costs include salary, benefits, loss of productivity, missed opportunity etc. We can all agree that making a mistake is mostly avoidable and always a very costly affair. But what happens when we summarily subject everyone to the gauntlet of exercises and interviews and re-interviews?

I have witnessed many occasions where the most talented and capable prospect in a search chose not to endure the arduous hiring processes or were filtered out due to erroneous conclusions made by a variety of voices in the company.

It is not uncommon for a person to grow weary of repeated interviews and long gaps between them. This is especially true when someone this person is not actively seeking a new position. This type of person should be evaluated and interviewed in a completely different manner than those candidates who respond to online job postings. This is fundamental and obvious to many, but too often, this is lost on HR. The problem for many companies is that they make no distinction between “recruited prospects” and “active candidates.” The differences between the two are enormous and the implications of treating them the same are often disastrous.

In many cases, if not most, the best person for the job is the one who isn’t an active candidate but rather the one who has their head down at the plow and working away. This person must be “tapped on the shoulder” and introduced to a new opportunity. There is an art to this and not everyone who call themselves a recruiter is proficient at compelling people to return their calls, let alone take an in depth look into a job with a competitor.

These true recruits in many cases will not have the patience for a long, drawn out screening process. They go through a range of emotions which have a definite sensitivity to time and process. They are essentially evaluating the company to see what their internal politics and policy are like and comparing it to their current company. Just know that if the process seems long, random, confusing, redundant, ineffective, or otherwise complicated, the recruited prospect will all too often ascribe these traits to the company in other areas which would effect them if they accepted an offer and began working there. These people all to often gracefully bow out and you never really know why.  In other cases, they will proceed with waining interest and ultimately be eliminated from the process due to a sense of indifference or lack of effort. Worse are the ones who play along only to get an offer that they can take back to their company and use it as leverage to improve their finances or career growth within their current company.

When a company has an “over-engineered” hiring process, in many cases the result is hiring someone who is willing to endure the labyrinth of the over-engineered hiring process. The company ultimately misses out on hiring the best prospects and is stuck with one who simply made it through.  I find this to be the case all too often when dealing with many mid-sized and larger corporations.  HR has necessarily become a key strategic leader in the growth of many large companies and it is assumed that because they are trained in Human Resources, that they also know all there is to know about recruiting and the process of interviewing and hiring.  To their credit, they know a great many things about hiring, however it is very rare that they can see this phenomenon when it is right in front of them. The irony is that when these companies develop these strategies, they typically use an HR consultant who was, a former corporate HR person.

The challenge for all companies today is attracting and hiring talent!  It was Steve Jobs who said, “hiring is your most important task.” Why then do executives pay so little attention to the process? The future of their company stands in the balance.I have only covered a small area that needs to be addressed in the blog post.

Where can you start to correct or simplify your hiring process to obtain a better outcome? I’m glad you asked.  You can start here.

To ensure that your process isn’t weeding out the BEST candidates, you need to ask yourself these questions.

1. Do we only have one way of processing all candidates, or do we consider the source? (active or passive)

2. Do we keep our hiring process tightly wrapped, or does it drag on due to scheduling conflicts and competing priorities?

3. Do we have too many people who need to sign off on the hire? (Hire by consensus)

4. Are we too narrow-minded on our compensation/offers?

These are just the most obvious indicators of having an over-engineered hiring process and the more of these your company has, the more you can expect to lose out on hiring the most talented people in your industry. The majority of great people will not endure a process that is overly complex or drawn out. It is remarkable that so many larger companies have developed such convoluted hiring processes. It is a mystery why they don’t see the pitfalls and change the way that they execute critical searches. This is certainly why I prefer to work with start-ups.

What about you? What are some other ways that you’ve seen your clients lose out on hiring the best people for their searches?