Who hired that guy, anyway?

HR must partner with managers to make recruitment decisions

While the war for talent may have wrought a new age in recruitment and selection some of the challenges remain the same as they ever were.

Responsibility for recruitment efforts is still usually divided between recruiter and hiring manager and if the two aren’t on the same page, the hiring process could get awfully messy.

HR managers are accused of getting in the way of things or not delivering good quality candidates, while some managers continue to insist the best way to make a hire is on “gut feelings.”

In a lot of organizations, the criticism against HR is justified, says HR consultant and executive recruiter, Fred Pamenter, of Pamenter, Pamenter, Brezer and Deganis Limited in Toronto.

Recruitment is often still treated as an entry-level position into HR, he says. “In many cases those people are not sufficiently attuned to the needs of the business and then what happens is, when it comes to presenting people to the hiring manager, there is a mismatch,” he says. “They lose a certain degree of credibility because of the quality of candidates they send over to the hiring manger.”

HR, or the recruiter, has the important responsibility of filling in the some of the blanks in the job description left open by hiring managers, says Pamenter.

The hiring managers may know the hard competencies needed for the job — years of experience and education — but they don’t think about other factors, he says.

“Why did the last person leave? Did they leave because they couldn’t get along with this jerk that was the hiring manger? Did they leave because the hiring manager gets in at eight and stays until six and expects every one to do the same.”

HR has to do some digging and investigating with the manager and the group to get the true picture of the group and figure out what soft skills will enable the person to succeed in the position.

“When it comes down to the things that are really going to make a success, soft competencies are more important than hard,” says Pamenter.

The key to a making a good hire is making sure both manager and HR are in complete agreement about who they are looking for, says Alan Davis, president of Hudson, Que.-based recruitment firm Alan Davis & Associates.

“When we get into a situation where HR and the hiring managers are completely aligned it goes very well,” says Davis.

“The worst case scenario is when HR is sitting there telling us one thing and the hiring manager is telling us something else.”

Differences about job requirements emerge from differing perspectives, he says. “HR is pushing more on the organization’s values while the hiring manger is focused on the operational issues.” When that happens each side will have different opinions about what the job should look like: the duties and the scope of the job, where the person should come from, what is mandatory, what is preferred. When that happens, it’s a good idea for the recruiter just to walk away, he says. “If you don’t get the definition phase right, you will never win.”

But managers also need to work closely with HR after the description is agreed upon, he says.

In many cases managers have been the weak link in the actual selection process because they didn’t know how to conduct interviews effectively, he says. This is even more of a problem today because candidates are much more educated about job interviews than they once were.

“Since the invention of outplacement or career transition there have been a lot of people who have been seriously trained to answer questions in an interview well,” he says.

Bob Canuel, vice-president of HR at Hallmark Canada in Toronto, agrees that in many organizations recruitment was seen as an entry-level position. “All too often in the past they would put a new HR person into recruiting,” says Canuel. “In my mind, boy that is the wrong answer.” Recruitment should be treated as a very senior level function, he says.

HR professionals have to be the experts in modern recruitment and selection skills, such as behaviour-based interviewing and psychometric testing, he says.

Managers at Hallmark are given the basics of these skills but they may only have to hire once every two or three years, so HR has to be able to step in to support the manager as they apply these sometimes rusty skills, he says.

“We spend a lot of time coaching,” he says. “We facilitate the process and we bring a level of expertise and knowledge to help the client, the hiring manager understand what he or she is looking for.”

Ruben Benmergi, director of employee/employer relations for the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, says the increasingly rigorous standards being developed for the profession have ensured HR brings a unique and invaluable level of expertise to the recruitment and selection process.

HR professionals bring a singular understanding of the different interviewing techniques and the myriad human rights implications wrapped up in the recruitment process, says Benmergi.

“If someone was to consider the recruitment process as somewhat scientific then we are schooled in that science,” he says.

At the National Gallery two recruitment and retention experts assist managers, taking over the formalities of the process. Managers also do the initial screening while HR does reference checking.

Managers are given responsibility for making the hiring decision. “But if they are really, really torn, they can defer to us,” says Benmergi. “We will conduct an assessment, sometimes we will have a case study.”

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