HR: An Obstacle For Job Seekers?

imsis148-053Each morning here at HRE, I sift through last night’s Google alerts in search of tidbits that might be of interest to our readers. Most of what I find isn’t at all relevant to them, but this morning I stumbled across exactly the type of thing that raises hackles around the HR profession.

In a Q & A excerpted from his digital book, Fearless Job Hunting, Book 4, Overcome Human Resources Obstacles, professional recruiter Nick Corcodilos urges a frustrated job seeker to follow up directly with a hiring manager regarding a job the applicant felt he was eminently qualified for, but hadn’t been contacted about by HR.

“The company didn’t turn you down, the screener did,” says Corcodilos. “When a human resources person rejects you, it’s like having the gardener tell you not to bother coming around to a girl’s house. What does that tell you about whether the girl wants to date you? Nothing.”

Huh. Interesting comparison, but I think some HR professionals would argue this implies they may not quite understand what their organizations and managers are looking for in job candidates; an implication HR practitioners would probably take offense to.

To be fair, Corcodilos acknowledges as much, and (sort of) gives HR credit for its role in the hiring process.

“Now, some of my HR friends will want to slap me for telling you this. After all, many HR representatives put a lot of work into interviews, and they expect their conclusions to be respected. I understand that,” he says. “But no matter how good HR is at interviews, if you think you need to talk to the manager directly to make your case, it’s your prerogative. You must take action: Get past the guard.”

Corcodilos goes on to offer some words of caution to job seekers who take this circuitous route, saying that “HR will cut you off if it learns that you ‘went around,’ and depending on the hiring manager, HR might succeed. That’s HR’s job.

“You can be respectful and still be assertive,” he continues. “But don’t walk blind on the job hunt, because if you do, you’ll run into every single HR obstacle.”

After reading this excerpt, I sent a quick email to professor, management coach and consultant, author and frequent HRE contributor Dave Ulrich; curious to get his take on Corcodilos’ advice to overlooked job applicants.

Viewing HR as simply a hurdle to overcome, says Ulrich, may present would-be employees with other problems down the road—if circumventing HR helps them succeed in getting the gig, that is.

“Sometimes good intentions have bad consequences,” says Ulrich, professor of business at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan and a partner at the RBL Group, a Provo, Utah-based consulting firm.

“Stepping on or over HR to get a job creates an early enemy in the organization,” he continues, offering a tip of his own to job seekers.

“It’s better to work with HR and find out why they may [have been] excluded. … HR assures talent, leadership and capability to drive sustainable business results. Wise business leaders recognize these domains help execute strategy. Applicants who recognize this will find HR is an incredible ally, not a foe.”

One thought on “HR: An Obstacle For Job Seekers?”

  1. Mark: Thanks for discussing my NewsHour column. Professor Ulrich does not address the problems I outline. He merely tells job seekers to stop worrying and trust HR, which is simply ludicrous and nothing more than the kind of HR public relations tripe job seekers complain about.

    1. Ulrich’s first gaff is to repeat what job seekers (at all levels) regularly hear from HR when job seekers question HR practices: If you don’t play by HR’s rules, and you get hired, HR will get you — you will have “an early enemy.” Let’s be blunt: This is a threat. Is this how the HR profession wants to portray itself? Mr. Ulrich should talk to some sales executives and ask them, do they tell their sales reps to accept “no,” or to politely “go around” and close the deal? The rationalizations are interesting: HR usually claims it wants to hire “people who think outside the box.” But going outside the HR box will earn enemies in HR.

    2. Ulrich suggests “it’s better to work with HR and find out why they may [have been] excluded.” Yet, one of the chief complaints about HR is that HR refuses to explain why a candidate was rejected. In many cases, HR never even bothers to reject a candidate — HR merely ignores the candidate and refuses to respond to queries for an update. Except in rare cases, HR is no ally to job seekers. That’s precisely why busy job seekers need to go straight to the hiring manager. I’ve gone around many an HR manager to work directly with a hiring manager, and the only animosity that generates is on the part of the hiring manager — for HR.

    3. Finally, Mr. Ulrich is wrong about HR’s role. It is not to execute strategy. It’s important to keep in mind that HR is a staff, not a line, function. HR advises; it does not control anything. And its advice lately, on the whole, is very poor. By using tools like job boards, HR invites hordes of job applicants, then complains it must use dehumanizing tools to process them. Whose fault is that?

    Mr. Ulrich should get out of his ivory tower, drop the HR jargon about “HR assures talent,” speak in clear terms, and go see what job seekers across America are saying about employers and HR. He could start with this NewsHour segment: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/business/july-dec12/makingsense_09-25.html

    The closing paragraph says it all: Mr. Ulrich is clueless about what’s going on out in the trenches. Justifying bad HR behavior with HR bureaucrat-ese does nothing to improve how HR deals with the professional community from which a company needs to recruit. If this is how universities are training HR professionals, it’s easy to see why HR is so dysfunctional, and why job seekers seek advice about how to avoid HR.

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