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HR on ‘the other side of the desk’

Job hunting no easier for HR practitioners

By Brian Kreissl

I recently read some interesting comments on another blog accusing HR professionals of not being empathetic when it comes to jobseekers applying for positions.

The idea was HR doesn’t always understand the difficulties and challenges faced by the unemployed in particular. Some people even accused HR of having an ivory tower mentality and being in a privileged position in relation to the candidates they screen and interview.

While HR is often accused of being rude and inconsiderate to jobseekers — particularly when rejecting candidates — I believe some of this criticism is pretty unfair. Somewhat surprisingly, many ordinary rank and file employees believe HR represents the establishment and are an elite, highly-paid group who act as privileged gatekeepers by trying to keep people from getting hired for petty reasons.

I’ve read a few other comments like the person who was shocked that some HR directors even earn up to $70,000 (of course, that isn’t actually that high a salary, and any HR director earning that kind of money should probably be searching for more remunerative employment). But aside from what one considers a high salary, the sentiment is clear — many people believe HR professionals are highly privileged, overpaid turncoats who are part of the reason the job market is so terrible right now.

Unfair criticism of HR

There are several reasons these types of criticisms are unfair. For one thing, most of these folks focus far too much on recruitment without really understanding the other aspects of the HR function.

People fail to realize there’s much more to HR than recruiting and many HR practitioners actually do little, if any, recruitment. Because so few people actually understand what HR does, they focus on the public face of HR, which is the gatekeeper function they believe makes it so difficult for people to get jobs.

It is true employers have become too choosy in this buyer’s market. But what can we do when so many people apply for most jobs? If 500 people apply for one vacancy, 499 people are going to be rejected no matter what — so we might as well hire the best candidate if we can.

People also don’t realize that, like many other fields, the job market for HR professionals still isn’t great. During the recession, a lot of organizations engaged in cost-cutting and downsizing of non-revenue generating functions like HR.

While we’re finally now starting to emerge from the economic doldrums, certain factors have resulted in what may be permanent changes to the HR function. These include increased use of technology, line managers doing much of the work formerly done by HR, outsourcing and many HR departments having to do more with less as a result of dramatically reduced budgets.

I’ve heard many HR practitioners who found themselves out of work these past few years had a really hard time finding meaningful employment and were often out of work for a year or longer. But reading comments on some of the forums I’ve come across lately, it’s as if HR is almost like some type of secret society, isolated from many of the hardships faced by other regular folk when applying for jobs.

We all know that clearly isn’t the case. But is there a possibility HR professionals have a different set of experiences from that of others when applying for jobs?

There is a perception among many people that because HR practitioners know the tricks of the trade they have an easier time finding, applying for and getting jobs. Again, not all HR professionals even do recruitment, but I believe interviewing for jobs might be even more stressful for many HR people precisely because they have an insider’s view of the whole process.

While many HR practitioners know about things like how to format their resumés and optimize key words for use by applicant tracking systems (ATS), I believe that knowledge sometimes causes more stress and worry among HR professionals.

It can be fairly easy to forget some of the principles of effective job hunting, along with things like resumé preparation. While we generally know about resumés and interview preparation, the fact is many HR professionals find it hard to be impartial when it comes to assessing their own resumés.

HR also has a tendency to be even harder on people in our own profession when screening and interviewing them for jobs.

Brian Kreissl is the managing editor of Consult Carswell. He can be reached at brian.kreissl@thomsonreuters.com. For more information on Carswell's HR products visit www.carswell.com.

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Brian Kreissl

Brian Kreissl is the product development manager for Thomson Reuters Legal Canada's human resources, OH&S, payroll and records retention products and solutions.
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3 Comments
  • Re: So what is it that HR personnel does?
    Wednesday, July 15, 2015 1:45:00 PM by Brian Kreissl
    Leaving aside your negative comments about the HR profession (which I don’t care to comment on), I think it is important to mention that this blog is really for HR professionals. Because of that, I generally wouldn’t feel compelled to list all of the things HR does.

    But, just for your benefit (and anyone else who may be curious), that list would include things like attendance management, employee relations (including termination of employment, dispute resolution in the workplace, workplace investigations, employee handbooks, employment policies, etc.), labour relations (including collective bargaining, handling grievances, arbitrations, etc.), talent management (including succession planning, employee engagement, retention, diversity and inclusion, leadership development, employer branding, etc.), organizational development (including organizational design and effectiveness, change management, etc.), training and development, coaching, mentoring programs, human resources information systems, employee files, payroll, employee surveys, total rewards management (including compensation, benefits, pensions and other rewards), employee onboarding/orientation, occupational health and safety, employee communications, performance management, employee discipline, HR governance, employee privacy, HR strategy, job evaluation, job design, job descriptions, pay equity, employment equity, human rights, employee wellness, worker’s compensation, return to work programs, employment contracts, business ethics, corporate social responsibility, HR metrics and benchmarking, reporting, HR governance, dashboards, workforce planning, international assignments and employee relocation, immigration compliance, mergers and acquisitions, employment standards, and knowledge management, as well as the many aspects of recruitment that exist, from job postings and candidate sourcing through to prescreens, interviews, selection, psychometric testing, offer packages, offer letters, reference and background checks, educational verification, recruitment strategy, applicant tracking systems, social media communications, etc.