By Brian Kreissl
I recently came across a video on YouTube about recruitment that appears to hold HR in contempt (see below). The basic message is jobseekers should try their best to circumvent HR by dealing directly with hiring managers whenever possible.
While we’ve all heard that advice before — especially from career counsellors and some headhunters — I concede it can be difficult applying for jobs through HR these days with many organizations being far too choosy with their screening tools and processes. Candidates frequently have too many unnecessary hoops to go through before even meeting with the hiring manager.
Nevertheless, I was taken aback by the rather sexist tone of the video, which points out that the vast majority of HR practitioners are female and calls the function “an affirmative action program for women.”
The commentator says it’s an insult for him to even have to deal with HR.
Of course, the video leverages just about every negative HR stereotype, such as the idea most HR people are very junior and aren’t too bright, suggestions most of us tend to shy away from math and science, and we just don’t understand the business we’re in or the jobs we’re trying to fill. There are also negative comments about silly interview questions like, “If you could be an animal, what type of animal would you be?” or “If you were a colour, what colour would you be?”
I honestly don’t believe many qualified HR practitioners would actually ask such questions. Those questions are generally the hallmark of untrained, inexperienced interviewers — often hiring managers — but not usually HR. Even junior professional recruiters who ask questions like that are probably not very good at their jobs.
Recruitment often handled by junior people
However, I do concede one valid point the commentator makes, who at least realizes there is much more to HR than recruitment: In many organizations recruitment is handled by some of the most junior people in the HR department.
I too sometimes wonder about the wisdom of having someone straight out of school with very little technical or business background recruiting for highly technical or senior roles (although I do recognize there are some very senior level recruiters who take a more strategic approach to talent acquisition). But even though junior recruiters know what to look for and can screen resumés for key words, the focus — particularly with in-house recruiters within a corporate HR department — often seems to be on assessing soft skills.
While soft skills and culture are very important, the purpose of screening interviews should be not only on assessing cultural fit, but also to at least be able to provide a shortlist of candidates with the requisite technical or professional skills to do the job. The focus shouldn’t only be on the “touchy-feely” side of recruitment.
It is important to have some understanding of the business. Recruiters are also there to save valuable time for the hiring manager and to provide coaching and advice with respect to recruitment policies, procedures and best practices, interviews, selection tools, background screening and legal compliance issues.
And while it can be beneficial to have engineers recruit engineers and accountants recruit accountants, it isn’t always necessary. For example, my own background includes a few years of technical recruitment in both agency and in-house environments.
When I first started recruiting information technology professionals I had no previous IT background. Yet, I very quickly became familiar with the different types of roles in the IT profession and the specific technologies our clients were asking for.
HR not getting the respect it deserves
So how do we deal with these increasingly common criticisms of the HR function? I personally believe one of the reasons HR often doesn’t get the respect it deserves is because of sexism, which this video illustrates still exists among some people.
As HR, we need to take such criticism with a grain of salt, especially when it’s based on negative gender-based stereotypes. However, we can’t bury our heads in the sand and pretend criticism doesn’t exist. We need to do our best to ensure it doesn’t apply to us.
We also need to ensure we add value in everything we do. With respect to recruitment, hiring managers should always make the final selection decision. But HR should be there to help managers through every step in the process and provide guidance, assistance and coaching.
Brian Kreissl is the managing editor of Consult Carswell. He can be reached at email@example.com. For more information on Carswell's HR products visit www.carswell.com.