Pushing back against hiring managers

Sometimes HR needs to let them know when they’re being unreasonable

Pushing back against hiring managers
Brian Kreissl

By Brian Kreissl


One of the concepts I consistently talk about when I teach the “HR Fundamentals for the Payroll Professional” course on behalf of the Canadian Payroll Association is how HR practitioners rarely make people management decisions. When it comes to HR programs, HR is there to create the framework and act in a consultative manner. 


While HR should be able to provide advice, training, consultation and information to managers, the idea is that people managers know the job requirements and their direct reports much better than HR ever could. But sometimes HR needs to be able to push back against managers when they want to do things that are illegal, immoral, unethical or not in compliance with organizational policies or best practices.


Pushback in a recruitment context


This is often highly important in a recruitment context because hiring managers generally aren’t familiar with employment laws and may handle recruitment only infrequently. They may also have unrealistic expectations when it comes to the job market, salaries and the types of skills, experience and qualifications they can demand for the role.


For that reason, HR often needs to manage expectations and bring hiring managers down to earth with respect to what they’re looking for in a candidate. Of course, the reverse can also be true where the hiring manager just wants to fill the role and is a bit too casual when it comes to the selection process.


The role of HR in talent acquisition


Recruiters and other HR practitioners who handle talent acquisition have an important role to play — despite what so many anti-HR online trolls are saying these days. While a well-trained and savvy hiring manager can no doubt handle recruitment on her own, recruiters are there to save the hiring manager’s time and provide recruitment skill, expertise and even coaching, training and advice. Many organizations actually provide training to managers on how to conduct interviews, and facilitating those courses is generally the responsibility of HR.


I get that hiring managers generally have a better understanding of what’s required to do the job — which includes the necessary technical and professional skills and competencies — but HR can and should add significant value to the process.


Few hiring managers have the time to screen resumés, conduct prescreening conversations or schedule first interviews. They also aren’t expert interviewers and generally aren’t that well versed in the technologies or selection tools such as psychometric testing. I also think it’s a waste of time having a hiring manager prepare and courier offer packages to candidates or conduct reference and background checks.


Hiring managers should make the final selection decision, but talent acquisition professionals should be competent enough to put together a shortlist of candidates for the hiring manager to choose from. This means they need to understand the job and the industry in question, as well as the organization’s vision, mission, values, strategy and culture.


This is especially important when it comes to technical or highly specialized recruitment. While I don’t think it’s necessary for a recruiter to have had experience coding in Java or setting up a local area network, it is important to understand the basic job purpose, tasks, accountabilities and terminology when recruiting for such a role.


Criticism of non-technical recruiters


There’s no doubt some recruiters may not be well enough versed in the technology or business side of the role, and there is a tendency in many organizations to staff talent acquisition roles with more junior-level practitioners. That can be a problem, but I disagree with commenters on LinkedIn recently who criticized recruiters in general for not being technical enough.


Several commenters also seemed to blame HR for unreasonable job requirements and the old saw relating to job postings asking for five years of experience in a technology that’s only existed for three. When I mentioned these things often originate with hiring managers, not HR, someone replied to my post stating that in that case, it’s up to HR to provide coaching, counseling and pushback to the hiring manager.


I agree, but what does that look like? What do you do if the hiring manager doesn’t accept your advice?


Next week, I’m going to provide some details on how HR practitioners can push back against unreasonable demands not only with respect to recruitment, but also in relation to other types of HR programs.

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