Stop Picking on HR

Tank CannonI know, I know, it’s all HR’s fault. The fact that you didn’t get the job, I mean. You saw the posting and figured you’d be a good fit: After all, you have some of the experience the company’s looking for, you’ve worked in a related industry, and though you don’t know Ubuntu all that well, you know UNIX. So you send in your resume, anticipate setting up a phone interview and then….

Nothing happens. And that’s HR’s fault.

When you’re frustrated because you’re not getting offers for jobs you’re qualified for, it’s natural to look for someone to blame. Most often it’s the folks in HR who have the target on their back. In my experience, HR usually doesn’t deserve the condescension, if not the fury, candidates direct at them.

The HR staff’s role in the hiring process is well-defined. They post the ads, engage the recruiters, handle the initial screen and conduct the first phone interview. Their job is to winnow down applications into a set that’s workable for the hiring manager.

It’s true these folks aren’t tech professionals. They often won’t know ASP.NET from PHP. But by the time the job’s posted they’ve been back and forth with the hiring manager and they’ll recognize the basics of what he or she is looking for. They’ll recognize red flags that managers won’t, like consistently big gaps in a work history or the consistent misspelling of words like, say, Linex. They also know their company’s culture, and so have a sense of whether or not you’d be a good fit. In short, they know enough to recognize who’s probably worth the manager’s time, and who isn’t.

The Flip Side

And believe me, those managers are leaning on them. Managers want the new employee at work two days after the post is live. They’re sure that their opening is way more important than anyone else’s. And they’re as prone to protest when they get too many resumes as they are when they don’t get enough. Either way, HR loses. Managers are frustrated if they don’t get the right candidates quickly, candidates are frustrated if they don’t get a callback.

There are two truths to recognize about HR: First, they don’t actually make hiring decisions. They screen on the instructions of the manager, and their greatest influence lies in their ability to discourage an offer to a particular individual. Second, HR people can be your best friends.

For one thing, they’re more likely to answer the phone than the manager is. More important, they’re more likely to remain accessible even if you’ve been passed over. Given how many successful hires result from some sort of personal connection, this isn’t a small thing. Creating a cordial relationship is a good way to learn early about new openings and quickly put your foot in the door when one of them fits. All you need to do is be professional, stay in touch, and do the occasional favor. For instance, if a new posting doesn’t suit you, maybe you can recommend someone else.

No, not every HR person you meet is going to be reasonable, or educated, or even nice. If they’re not, you’ve wasted time on a few phone calls and emails. But if they are, you’ve established one of the best connections you can get inside a place where you want to work.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Comments

  1. BY yvonnel says:

    Reblogged this on Tête-à-tech.

  2. BY feumar says:

    What does “…consistently big gaps in a work history..” mean?
    What is wrong with gaps in my work history?
    If i’m out of work and seeking work, i’m in a “gap” — nothing wrong with that!

    The reason we’re furious at HR folks — and ought to be furious at resume writing advisers, too — is that you seem to set up unfair, illogical and unreasonable expectations that we’re supposed to have always been working. In case you didn’t know, seeking work is a full-time job. Why do we have to pretend that we’ve been “consulting” or “conducting market research”?

    What HR and career advice folks are doing is encouraging us to be creative liars.
    You’re also encouraging employers to reward those who’ve managed to “consistently” jump from job to job, and to discriminate against those who happen to have gaps and won’t lie about it.

    Shame on you!

    • BY Mark Feffer says:

      Well, I disagree with what you’re saying, and here’s why.

      First, about the gaps. Nowadays especially, most HR people and managers I know don’t think there’s a big issue when someone’s been out of work for a while. But note that in the post I said “consistently big gaps.” If someone has stayed at five jobs for only a year and then had a year without work between them, that’s going to raise eyebrows. Were they fired from each job? Are they just not good at what they do? That kind of track record causes legitimate questions.

      I’m certainly not encouraging people to lie in any of this. It’s not a bad thing to suggest that you put yourself in the best light possible, and describe your strengths and experience in strong terms. Doing that is not “lying.” I can’t imagine that you would tell employers that you’re an average person with average skills. Even if you don’t consider yourself a superstar, that wouldn’t be fair to yourself. There’s a big difference between saying, “I’m an average software developer” and “I’m a professional developer, I like what I do, I always try to get better at it, and I don’t want to become a department head because I’d rather remain a developer.”

      Look, whether you like it or not, job hunting is marketing. There’s a certain amount of spin involved or, if you don’t like that word, positioning. If you’re one of 100 candidates applying for the same position you have to make yourself get people’s attention. You have to show them all the reasons they should take the next step with you. If you’re applying for the job, you obviously believe you can do it. Why wouldn’t you make your best arguments?

  3. BY hopper writer says:

    Dear Mark F,

    With all due respect, I think your attitude towards employment gaps is not really serving the employers or the job hunters.

    During the 18 years since I graduated, I was fully employed for 11 years (and underemployed for 7). The numbers are similar to those that you cite (though the pattern was different). I think the reason that I was underemployed has more to do with the fact that too many HR people were too busy “raising their eyebrows” or “recognizing red flags” and not bothering to see what I had done or was capable of doing. There’s just too much emphasis on continuity.

    Sincerely,
    HW

  4. BY Marland says:

    Hello Mark-

    “” If someone has stayed at five jobs for only a year and then had a year without work between them, that’s going to raise eyebrows. Were they fired from each job? Are they just not good at what they do? That kind of track record causes legitimate questions.”

    I disagree with the above statement , many IT pros, including myself have had positions for only 3 months at a time. Many companies only hiring temporary staff to augment their permanent staff to finish backlogged projects. I’ve had 4 temporary IT positions in 2008, 3 in 2009 and 3 and 4 temporary IT positions in 2010 and 2011 respectively and no IT positions in 2012 although I have two part time jobs. If companies are using job length has a criteria for full time employment then that is unfair. We have been in a recession for almost 4 years and companies are reluctant to hire full time and I believe that fact should be figured into any decision to pass on a resume to a hiring manager.
    I am hopeful I will land a full-time job by the end of this year and reading articles like 5 steps to cracking the coding interview will get me prepare for the interview.

  5. BY John Q. Public says:

    HR people, ironically, are some of the least knowledgeable people in the organization, when they should be among the most knowledgeable. Most HR employees can’t tell the difference between a pipe fitter and a counterfeiter. They sort of sound the same don’t they? So they MUST be similar. So goes the reasoning. Taking people straight out of college after earning a liberal arts degree is not the best method of finding qualified professionals to act in the role of arbiters of OTHER people’s qualifications for employment. What’s more, HR people almost never get even basic training on the duties of what certain positions perform. One could argue that there is a gap here that could be filled by a company providing such a service to HR, and I’ve often wondered whether I should start up such a firm. That aside, the evolution of this shifting of responsibility during the hiring process I believe started when “personnel” (as HR was previoiusly called) started hiring tech people who were not well-rounded enough to perform administrative duties such as interviewing, hiring, and vendor management, in addition to their technical functions. The lack of vendor management skills alone, I believe, costs companies in aggregate, billions of dollars due to giving certain vendors exclusive selling rights simply because tech people want a one-stop shopping experience due to the laziness, inability to negotiate, or general cluelessness. I personally like to keep all my vendors hungry and ALWAYS competing for my business. No one gets an exclusive.
    My apologies for the digression, however, these are some of the repercussions I see from hiring people for HR who really have no knowledge or experience in or about other professions. The same is true for teachers–before being allowed to teach, there should be some real world experience first.

  6. BY mechanic1955 says:

    I was working with a computer forensics company in Boston called “Elysium.” I did everything the article recommends, INCLUDING recommending a great hire to them. They hired this person very quickly, and blew me off just as quickly. You should be careful in what you recommend in your articles, the world is not nearly as neat and tidy as some would make it out to be.

  7. BY Bob Doroshewitz says:

    Mark,

    Your comments are well taken and I think you are right, except I do think many HR organizations do their company a huge disservice by failing to respond to applicants. Ignoring applicants is bad for your business, for two reasons.

    1) You might be complaining that you can’t find the right candidate despite the fact they are out there. They aren’t coming to you because you ignored them a year ago after they spent two hours responding to your posting. A simple rejection letter leaves no hard feelings but a candidate who has been ignored is never coming back.

    2) They might land a job as a key decision maker at one of your customers and they will always think of you as second rate.

    • BY Mike says:

      There is no valid reason a “submission system” cannot at least acknowledge receipt of the application. Sadly, many do not do so.

  8. BY Jimmy Lozano says:

    This is from the article:
    —-“” I know, I know, it’s all HR’s fault. The fact that you didn’t get the job, I mean. “”—-
    —-“” When you’re frustrated because you’re not getting offers for jobs you’re qualified for, it’s natural to look for someone to blame. Most often it’s the folks in HR who have the target on their back. In my experience, HR usually doesn’t deserve the condescension, if not the fury, candidates direct at them. “”—-
    —-“” No, not every HR person you meet is going to be reasonable, or educated, or even nice. If they’re not, you’ve wasted time on a few phone calls and emails. But if they are, you’ve established one of the best connections you can get inside a place where you want to work. “”—-

    This is from the comments:
    —-“” Look, whether you like it or not, job hunting is marketing. There’s a certain amount of spin involved or, if you don’t like that word, positioning. If you’re one of 100 candidates applying for the same position you have to make yourself get people’s attention. You have to show them all the reasons they should take the next step with you. If you’re applying for the job, you obviously believe you can do it. Why wouldn’t you make your best arguments? “”—-

    So…, if all comments posted in this article are AGAINST of the senior editor of DICE published on his article, that means that DICE blog are NOT helping at the Unemployed person to get a Job or an Employee person to get a better Job…???
    Well… I can make my best argument to get a Job:
    If I know that the senior editor of DICE are not doing a VERY WELL job to HELP at any person to get a JOB, then… Why I can’t have a similar job from DICE blog…???

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>