HR Hero Line

Strong HR-hiring manager team keeps applicants out of quicksand

Frustrated job applicants often tell similar tales: They research the potential employer, tailor the resume to the job, and follow exactly the directions for applying. In short, they work hard to show why they should be hired. Employers also work hard to recruit and hire the best. They develop job postings taking care to communicate just what they need in a new employee. They meticulously screen resumes or take steps to make sure their software serves up a promising list of candidates. But even though well-meaning people in both camps try their best, applicants often feel overlooked and employers lament a lack of suitable prospects.

Building a team
HR pros are tasked with figuring out how wide to cast the net. They want to attract plenty of strong candidates without crowding the field with the unqualified. And it’s those efforts to winnow an unwieldy throng that lead many jobseekers to think of HR as quicksand—a dangerous place that sucks perfectly good applicants below ground never to be heard from again.

So what works to land the best hires? Should the initial phase of the process be confined to the HR department, or does it make sense to allow or even encourage managers to work their own networks?

Melanie Hall, a part-time executive recruiter for Advisory Board Company’s Southwind division, says the right method depends on the organization, but recruiters and managers need to work as a team.

Hall, who has worked in human resources and recruiting for more than 12 years, says a corporate recruiter may not be an expert on the job that’s the subject of every search. Plus, even if the recruiter does specialize in a particular area, the hiring manager may have useful contacts that the recruiter wouldn’t know about.

“It is imperative that a partnership be formed between the hiring manager and the recruiter,” Hall says. “After all, they do have a common goal. Open communication is key at the beginning of any search in order to properly set expectations.”

Hall says it’s fine for a manager to work his or her network and make a few phone calls, but the recruiter needs to be informed of who has been called and the outcome of the call.

Hall points out that some hiring managers want to send the recruiter the names of contacts and allow the recruiter to take it from there. “Either way works as long as there is continuous communication between the two until the position has been filled,” she says.

Finding the best
It’s logical for jobseekers to wonder if they’re being eliminated by software or someone in the HR department when they would get the job if their resume just got in front of the hiring manager. That’s why Hall emphasizes the importance of the recruiter-hiring manager partnership.

“The most important piece of the recruitment process is establishing the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to do the job,” Hall says. “It is the responsibility of the recruiter to ask the hiring manager what a good candidate’s background would look like, what buzz words he/she should be listening for, and even those intangible traits that would make a potential candidate desirable. There is much more to the recruitment process than simply reading the job description.”

Hall says it’s also important for recruiters and hiring managers to have status meetings for discussion and clarification throughout the process. But forming an effective partnership goes beyond keeping the lines of communication open. It also calls for giving recruiters a close-up view of the organization.

“The most successful recruiting teams I’ve seen are those that are truly viewed as an asset to the organization’s leadership,” Hall says. “The recruiter should have access and be invited to sit in on regular divisional, regional, etc., meetings in order to gain a true understanding of the pulse of the organization.”

Giving recruiters such access will ensure they have a better grasp of what to look for in a candidate. Also when recruiters get to know managers, those leaders in the organization will pass referrals along.

Legal concerns
Even if the HR department is in charge of the initial stages of the hiring process, managers will enter the picture when interviews start, and Hall says they need to be reminded to “keep the conversation on the responsibilities of the job and stay away from those questions that may not be appropriate.” For example, she says discussions of salary should be handled by the recruiter.

“It’s important, too, that any interviewer be properly trained on those questions that are illegal to ask a candidate during an interview,” Hall says.

Elijah Yip, a partner in the Cades Schutte law firm in Honolulu, especially emphasizes the need to train managers on legal issues surrounding the recruiting process. He says in general it’s best to funnel candidates through HR because that can help ensure uniformity in the hiring process.

“It is much less of a legal risk to have HR handle the initial stages of the hiring process because they are trained to comply with legal restrictions applicable to that process,” Yip says.

When hiring managers vet candidates they know through their personal networks, “the line between personal and professional can get blurry,” Yip says. A hiring manager may learn personal information about an acquaintance that legally can’t be considered in the hiring process. If the acquaintance later applies for a job with the hiring manager’s company, the employer is in a risky position since, through the hiring manager, it’s on notice of the protected-class status.

“That’s not to say that hiring managers should be prohibited from finding potential job candidates through their personal networks,” Yip says. “They just need to be trained on what they legally can and cannot say or do in a job interview.”

Social media concerns
Social media presents another wrinkle in the recruiting process. If managers review the social media profile of a job candidate, they might find information that a prospective employer shouldn’t request in an interview, Yip says.

Also, states with laws prohibiting employers from asking candidates for access to their personal social media accounts pose risks if managers aren’t careful about how they interact with jobseekers within their social media network.

“As an illustration, if a hiring manager meets a person at a party, learns that the person might be interested in applying for a job with the manager’s company, and then sends his new acquaintance a friend request on Facebook after the party, query whether there has been a violation of the password request law,” Yip says.