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May 5, 2010 / Mervyn Dinnen

Recruiters vs HR…It’s Tom & Jerry Time!!!

Recruiters vs HR…it’s as old as, well…the recruitment industry! Like cats and dogs, Tom & Jerry, there seems to be, in the UK certainly, this automatic default position of mistrust.

It’s reared its head again, with blogs appearing, including Bill Boorman’s guest post on Punk Rock HR, and no doubt discussions will be had at HRevolution.

Well I’ll let you in to a secret…it’s always been like this! Seriously, on my first day in recruitment, over 20 years ago, amongst the advice and on-job training I received about interviewing, cold calling and selling in candidates, I was told…

…ignore personnel; you don’t want to speak to them. They’ll ask you to send the CV through, then they’ll question you, and if you say that your candidate should to be interviewed, they’ll challenge you…

And it’s not changed!

As you read this there will be a rookie recruiter somewhere being told…don’t speak to HR, they’ll want an e-mail with reasons to justify the candidate, they’ll negotiate fees and keep you waiting…forget it, you’ve got targets to meet and you need to get your candidates on interview NOW!

In fact recruitment companies spend lots of money on training their consultants how to AVOID HR!

They’ll deny it of course, but the transactional sales model, which has been favoured by the majority of the recruitment industry for over 50 years, usually dictates that there isn’t time to follow PROCESS…

…which is what it’s all about in my opinion…HR makes recruiters justify what they are doing, asks them to follow a process, whilst the average recruiter ideally wants to phone a harassed, time-pressured line manager, with a candidate that they’ve found who they think is a perfect match, book an interview over the phone, push back on feedback and try to CLOSE THAT DEAL!

Not all Recruiters are like that, clearly…but then not all Recruiters dislike HR!! I have always developed relationships with HR, treating them as much my client as any line or hiring manager. One of the reasons I moved into HR recruitment was because of the strong relationships I had built.

We’ve all had times though when we don’t think HR gets it…a marketing recruitment colleague said to me the other day…”HR wasn’t sure, said they didn’t think the person was a good fit, but I persuaded them to send the candidate along to see the hiring manager who loved him and hired” …but I’m sure that HR would point to hasty hires by line managers who didn’t really follow a true recruitment process, offering little selection and engagement. In my colleague’s example HR did set aside their initial view for the wider good of the business.

Let’s face it, HR want to get the best talent, the best fit for their organisations, the people that will add value and be part of the company’s growth, whilst Recruiters are looking to place candidates.

HR are usually measured by many deliverables, of which talent acquisition and retention is just is one, whereas the vast majority of Recruiters are measured and judged by the number of deals they close.

It’s a bit apples and pears…cats and dogs…it can work, but in many cases that’s not always the same thing, not always the basis for a mutually beneficial relationship.

Many Recruiters have always tried to bypass HR (hate is a very strong word) and many HR professionals have always had a mistrust of recruiters who think they’ve found the most outstanding candidate that needs to be hired NOW before they disappear to another company.

I think it’s straightforward…HR like recruiters who make their job easier, who respect the role they play in their companies talent process and want to help them find the best talent. Likewise Recruiters like HR who value what they do, who give them the information that they need to identify the talent that companies want. A lot of the time this works fine, but then pressures of budgets, targets, misinformation and miscommunication sometimes kick in.

So rather than Recruiters thinking like HR and HR thinking like Recruiters why not try seeing each other’s point of view…why don’t HR spend time in their recruitment supplier’s offices, seeing how they work, how the consultants are managed, measured and rewarded, what the values and culture are…and why don’t recruiters spend some time in an HR department and find out what the talent proposition is, the engagement and the vision, what the budgets are, what pressures and priorities they work with, and get some feel for all the other things HR does.

Maybe, just maybe, they may even learn…to LOVE each other!!

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7 Comments

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  1. Dan Nuroo / May 6 2010 12:07 AM

    Nice post Mervyn, great points.

    I must tell you though, there is a little more to it in my experience.

    I’ll start this off with stating the fact that I am in a mixed marriage. My wife is an HR Manager, and me, well, I’m a Recruiter. So I can ad another angle to this ancient debate.

    There is a Respect issue between the 2 camps too. Recruiters, feel a lot of the time that HR, just don’t get it (or can’t articulate what they do well enough) the value add, the urgency of progressing people etc. That Recruiting is basically only, whacking an add up on a job board, talking to a few people, throwing in a few cv’s and collecting an invoice.

    I’ve had issues in the past with HR people disrespecting what I do with the notion “they only do this little bit of HR (Recruitment) I do everything”.. PS the bad argument to have with your wife with the response, well if what I do is so easy why do I get paid 50% more!

    Going around HR however in the hiring process I think is always fraught with danger, as in the end the money for the fee will get signed off from them, as will the acceptance of people on the PSA’s.

    You need to find a way to work together, to understand each other and the fact that you are both looking at the same problem, but from different angles… but love? well.. works in my house…

    • Mervyn Dinnen / May 6 2010 7:06 AM

      Thanks, Dan…agree with you on respect, something that is often missing. I do think that 3rd party recruiters who use numbers of interviews as a strict KPI do create a sense of urgency in their consultants that sometimes conflicts with the priorities of HR.
      And really glad that your story had a happy ending!!! Which path will your children take?!

      • Stephen O'Donnell / May 6 2010 10:31 AM

        This must be quite common. I know several recruiters who have married an HR Manager.

        Perhaps they did it to get on the PSL!

  2. Stephen O'Donnell / May 6 2010 12:41 AM

    Whilst it’s not universal, I’ve always had a pretty good relationship with HR. That’s not to say I didn’t try to avoid them, as I was trained to, and made every effort to deal directly with hiring managers, but that’s a short term fix that can make the HR dept a long term adversary.

    I found that when trying to get past a PSL, ot deal with a new client, the hiring manager route is definitely the best one, especially when using a star candidate as your Trojan Horse. HR Managers are just not tempted enough by a great individual applicant, to set aside their carefully planned procedures.

    My very best clients, (those with whom I did the most repeat and exclusive business) were those where the HR Director/Manager was integral to the process. It is vital to get them onside, by finding out their specific needs as a client in their own right, in addition to the hiring manager (HM). Doing this successfully ensures you get the call for the subsequent vacancy.
    Internal politics is almost always a factor, and it is very common where you need to be conspiratorial with the HRM or the HM, in order to get them what they want, and often negotiating between the two.

    PS. I still prefer to refer to them as Personnel Managers (they hate that).
    PPS. I’m sure the modern recruitment agency format, in the UK, only goes back to the early 1970’s.

    • Mervyn Dinnen / May 6 2010 7:11 AM

      Thanks for you comments Stephen, insightful as always! Treating HR as the client is vital, and should be part of basic training.
      BTW During my 20 years I’ve certainly met people who claim to have been in the industry in the 60s!!

      • Stephen O'Donnell / May 6 2010 10:28 AM

        There were temp agencies in the 50’s and 60’s, but strictly temps only, and almost always just for secretarial staff.

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