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.


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.


2 thoughts on “Is Your HR Dept. a Barrier to Hiring the Best?

  1. Drue, in most companies HR and Training are always cost centers that can be first on the chopping block during a downsizing. So, HR people often feel that if they aren’t involved in the hiring process, someone will look around someday and ask why they’re there in the first place. HR people are protecting their jobs first and the needs of the hiring manager and company come last. Also, they resent search consultants because they know we’re usually better than they at the art and science of recruiting.

  2. Hi Drue. I’m afraid I have to agree. I think we may have the same customers or, more likely, most HR functions behave like this. I now walk away from assignments where I don’t have direct and unfettered access to line management. I’ve found a good way to do this is by a Service Level Agreement. It’s a simple one page document that defines my responsibilities to the client and the candidates, and the clients responsibility back to me. The revealing thing is that when HR complain about my direct contact with the line manager, they can’t find it in themselves to admit they signed off on the SLA without reading it. Oh dear. What a shame. Never mind.

    I’d be happy to share the SLA if you think it could be useful. What’s even better about it that line management like it!

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