HR is from Mars… and Recruiters are from Venus…

*Disclaimer… This blog is NOT about ‘in house’ recruitment teams… they are from Uran… I mean… Neptune…

recruiting-hrI’m serious. Corporate HR departments and Agency Recruiters have about as much in common as Lance Armstrong & organic, preservative free orange juice… no sorry, that was a bit low… they have about as much in common as Tiger Woods & fidelity… that’s a bit unfair too… they have about as much in common as… ummm… night & day… there that won’t offend anyone.

For years these two camps have tip toed around each other. The agency recruitment industry has been too scared to say what they really think for fear of biting the very hand that feeds them… whilst members of the HR fraternity have developed a bad case of telephonobia (it’s real… look it up on Wikipedia). Too afraid to pick up their desk phone in case it’s another stinkin’ recruiter trying to sell them people they don’t need… for a role they don’t know… in a company they don’t understand…

I’m part of a weekly Twitter™ forum called #ozrec. (Thanks for the invite Hassanah). Last week’s topic was around the HR/Recruiter relationship. What became pretty clear to me is that Recruiters resent HR & HR resents Recruiters… all to the detriment of the candidate.

Olympics Day 11 - Boxing‘Ladies & Gentlemen… In the red corner… weighing in at 160 pounds and weighed down by KPI’s, bureaucratic red tape & 27 pages of dotted i’s and crossed t’s… we have The Master of the Matrix, The Prince of Process, The Earl of Engagement… The HR Kid… Lionel FitzTheSpec… And in the blue corner… also weighing in at 160 pounds (funny that), and weighed down by Manager’s expectations, financial targets & candidates with 5 opportunities on the go… we have The Sultan of Speed… The Overseer of Opportunity… The Duke of Drive… The Guru of Recruitment… Iva Candidate… Let’s have a fair fight… no low blows…Ding Ding!’

It’s not quite that bad… or is it?… but let’s face it neither side would overly grieve if the other disappeared from the face of the earth… forever.

And why? It’s simple really. Recruiters and HR are looking for the same outcomes… but with totally competing pressures.

During the #ozrec Twitter™ forum there was one tweet that defined the gulf between HR & Recruiters…

‘…I dont like fast track recruitment. I want people who want to work for my company not just a job. said person will wait for process.’

There was an almost audible ‘WTF?!’ from the agency recruitment universe. I’m lucky. I don’t have to deal with HR too often in my niche, so I’ll take one for the team here…

Bottom line is: Recruiters are dealing with candidates who are often entertaining multiple opportunities (well the good ones are anyway). Recruiters need to move quickly. Managing the candidate is often akin to controlling a 7 year old’s sugar addiction in Willy Wonka’s Factory.

HR (and remember I’m not talking about inhouse recruitment teams) – on the other hand – is driven by process. There’s often more stages than the Tour De France & and at the end of the day HR is happy (that’s right happy), to miss out on the best candidate if they don’t fit in with the process.

It’s laughable really.

In my opinion HR & recruitment are pre-determined by genetics to be unable to work effectively together… in my opinion HR should have nothing (or very little) to do with the recruitment process if their business is prepared to engage a third party recruiter. Recruiters should deal directly with the Line Manager. The person who knows who the best candidate for the role will be, and has the pain of needing the best candidate quickly.

Don’t get me wrong. HR has a huge role… A huge role in engagement, retention, defining values, training, performance management… the list goes on… but not recruitment. And particularly not when the process is set up to miss out on the best candidates… but then again that’s how they do things on Mars I hear…

Craig Watson


7 thoughts on “HR is from Mars… and Recruiters are from Venus…

  1. Chris Underwood (@JedisMaster) on Reply

    Craig whilst you highlight many consistent unresolved age old problems with recruitment processes and HR I don’t agree with your conclusions. This I think is because you look at it purely from an agency perspective and mainly because you are attempting to treat the symptoms not the cause.

    I totally agree that external recruiters need direct access to hiring line manager and I totally agree that HR processes should not interfere with decision making. I also agree that strong candidates need representation and are in high demand (if they are actively looking)

    However, I also believe HR should be involved and own the recruitment and talent management process. This should not mean no access to line nor should it mean blocking processes (although some process exist to protect and mitigate risk for their firm).

    Where HR absolve themselves of responsibility for recruitment, they have in my mind failed a fundamental pillar of their accountability (the clue is in the name HR). They cannot be responsible for talent management or development or performance management (which should be a line managers job IMHO), if they are not part of the gating process of hiring said talent and defining what ‘talent’ is to their firm.

    When “recruitment” is a separate function to HR you frequently find issues that you highlight – mainly because the recruitment function operates at too lower level with less experienced and skilled people with a pure cost saving agenda and the contingent agency model encourages transactional behaviours with speed of turnaround taking higher precedence over candidate assessment or fit.

    I agree with your HR client who said they want the right person for their business rather than the one available quickest (or words to that effect) – getting it wrong is painful and expensive for the client and candidate and if you are providing a service to both (you are, or should be!) then thats is surely the paradigm you need to be able to look at things….I take huge pride in the legacy I leave with my clients by helping them to get it right, which means that the candidate has the desired impact and performance in the business. This is something that only becomes apparent with time and I want to be around with my client to see that happen and have a longer term relationship.

    So my approach and solution is to take the “Consultant” part of our job titles and apply it.

    Work WITH clients, advice them, be honest, open and transparent. Agree processes (that will work for all), assessments (that look at aptitude, attitude and fit as well as technical skills) and timescales…deliver to them.

    If a client wants to work with lots of recruiters then they themselves will drive the behaviours in the contingent recruiters they themselves proclaim not too like…tell them, work with them and try to change the relationship and engagement….

    Don’t do the above and we will be having this very same debate in 10 yrs….as we have had for the last 20 years I have been in the industry.

    1. Jeremy Symes on Reply

      Extremely well written response Mr JedisMaster. It takes time & patience to build up that level of trust between business partners, which doesn’t always align with misjudged recruitment KPIs.

  2. Mark Hall-Smith on Reply

    You make several very good points Chris – nothing to disagree with there. I would just challenge one thing though – and forgive me Craig for speaking for you – but I think Craig’s point about HR taking a ” I don’t like fast track recruitment. I want people who want to work for my company not just a job. Said person will wait for process.”……..what he is really saying is not that agencies should control the speed of process and rush a placement across the line. (If only we had that much power !) What he is referring to is when a very keen and motivated candidate is lost to a company, simply because they take forever and demotivate the candidate, who (because they are good) is also being courted by other companies who get it right and keep him/her motivated to join, throughout the process. Too many in HR are more in love with the process than the outcome. When this is occurring the company has a problem – the worry is that HR don’t see it as a problem and realistically, they are not inconvenienced by the problem. The hiring managers certainly will be though.

  3. Kelly Shorthouse on Reply

    Having worked as a recruiter for an agency and then as a HR professional, I found this very interesting. There can be good relationships between the two, but both parties have to work together (ie the HR team need to give the agency a “real” job to work on and a “real” chance to source candidates. The agency needs to “work” on the job and make an effort to research and meet (my expectation as a HR professional) the candidates they are representing.

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