Effective recruitment is a team effort

The responsibility for making a good hire is often divided between HR and the department the new person will work for
By Gabriel Bouchard
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 05/07/2003

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greater appreciation of the costs of bad hires has led to a greater interest in improving recruitment and selection practices in the HR community.

The achievement of goals depends fundamentally upon a very carefully maintained balance of human capital. Too many bad hires eat up profits and endanger financial stability. Conversely, missing opportunities to hire key players and letting talented candidates slip away is an equally costly proposition.

The problem is that the responsibility for making a good hire is often divided between two not always aligned stakeholders: HR and the department for which the new person is being hired.

The inclination in some organizations may be to give either the hiring manager or the HR department outright ownership. But it’s not necessarily who does the actual hiring that matters so much as having an effective process.

From time to time, HR departments are derided as being somewhat disconnected gatekeepers: an inefficient filter between job candidates and the managers for whom they will eventually work.

There are strong reasons why the manager should be involved in choosing a new employee for her department. The hiring manager will know the day-to-day workings of the department and the hard skills required for the job. She can also best ensure that the newest member will be a good fit in the team culture.

However, it is in ensuring this successful fit that the HR professional becomes particularly useful.

While managers may, with some ease, identify and assess the hard skill sets required to fill a position, there is also an increasing demand for specific soft skill sets.

The Conference Board of Canada lists the following key “employability skills” as being most coveted in new hires:

•the ability to think, to learn and to communicate;

•personal management skills such as positive attitudes and behaviours, and willingness to assume responsibility; and

•teamwork skills.

These are not so easy to measure. Assessing these intangibles in one meeting requires a trained and seasoned interviewer. Good HR people should be able to quickly assess candidates in interview situations, often in ways that non-HR managers can’t. This assessment ability is much more than a polished instinct or gut-feeling. The HR profession has developed finely honed tools to help evaluate and select candidates; HR has become a discipline based on systematic techniques, and recruitment is no exception.

Viewing HR as a “disconnected gatekeeper” also belies the fact that HR managers are also managers, with responsibility for the long-term planning of the organization.

An HR department reaches across an entire company and therefore retains company-wide staffing knowledge and budget considerations, which might not be available to individual hiring managers.

So, who should do the hiring? There is never a right or wrong answer to this one. The best solution is a partnership between the hiring manager and HR, with robust communication channels between the two.

A hiring manager looking for a new addition to her department must be aware of the broader implications of the organization’s overall strategy. Giving someone the authority to bring in new people without this information is counter-productive.

Similarly, an HR department attempting to match new talent with an existing team without input from the inside runs increased risks of missing some essential characteristic of what makes that team function. Bad hires can result.

Hiring managers and HR departments must cross the divide. No one works in a vacuum. If hiring managers are going to bring in a new staff member, they need to think like HR people: maintain a view to the overall company culture and future needs.

If the HR department is going to make the acquisition, they need to think like hiring managers: search for the needed skills for the work at hand, and choose with an eye to the people who will have to work every day with the candidate.

It’s time to close the counter-productive divide between hiring managers and HR professionals. Bringing new people together effectively is a team effort.

Gabriel Bouchard is vice-president and general manager of Monster.ca. He can be contacted at (514) 350-0700 or 1-877-988-9188 or gbouchard@monster.ca.

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