Just Ivy Leaguers for these Bush League Recruiters?

I have blogged before about Nick Corcodilos and his book Ask the Headhunter – I can’t recommend this book enough to job hunters and am most thankful to my friend David White who first directed me to it. Nick’s new book will help you work effectively with headhunters, too.

Nick doesn’t mince words when it comes to HR recruiters: you should avoid them, to the extent possible. Instead, connect directly with the hiring manager and “do the job in the interview.” Ask the Headhunter tells you how. Do that and you’re home free…right?

I hope Nick doesn’t stroke out from this recent question posed on the Job Doc section of the Boston Globe website (also appeared in the August 9 Boston Sunday Globe). In a nutshell, the fellow of a think tank organization has an opening for an assistant. He knows who he wants to hire. He has worked with the candidate before. The candidate has a strong work and academic record. Not so fast…

None of this, however, negates their HR department’s top-ranked snobbishness. They would rather hire an Ivy Leaguer with a degree in something completely different. They do not even entertain applications from lower-ranked schools. This fellow has gone through four assistants in three years because his HR people keep giving him Ivy League grads who are experts in other fields. The position involves actual skills (lots of math) that a philosophy major from Harvard can’t learn on his/her own.

I am not the entitled type, but this is bordering on ridiculous…We both anticipate this being a problem but don’t know how to approach it.

Boston Globe Job Doc Pattie Hunt Sinacole did not comment on the issue of a recruiting department declaring veto power over  a hiring manager. She did recommend a written plan spelling out in polished detail, everything from the candidate’s competence and work samples to a plan of the first 90 days on the job. I think Pattie’s recommendation is a very good one.  However, if all else fails, the hiring manager must be willing and able to take that written plan and, if need be, walk it over to the VP of Human Resources and get that employment offer letter signed. It’s up to this think tank fellow, the hiring manager, to go to the mat to get a competent assistant, not a fifth unqualified Ivy Leaguer.

While this example likely runs contrary to the conduct and ethics of most HR professionals, it raises the question as to the role recruiters should play in the hiring process. I have been fortunate to work with several highly qualified and professional HR leaders over the years and they too cringe when their field of expertise is tarnished with such elitist behavior.

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2 thoughts on “Just Ivy Leaguers for these Bush League Recruiters?

  1. Alas, this is why many businesses go down the drain. Managers who need to hire good people become victims of personnel jockeys in the HR department who are more interested in checking off boxes on their forms than on hiring the best and the right people.

    There’s one immediate solution, and you already offered it: The manager should go tell HR to stuff it. Otherwise, the manager is not doing his or her job.

    The long term solution is to get HR out of the recruiting and hiring business. If HR wants to make final hiring decisions, it should put those hires in HR and manage them. Since when is HR responsible for that manager’s bottom line?

    This is perhaps one of the biggest unaddressed failures in business today: Accountability. The manager who lets HR decide who he or she is going to hire doesn’t deserve to be a manager.

  2. Hi Nick. Glad to hear from you. I had a feeling I would 🙂 The situation as described by the would-be hire writing to The Boston Globe’s Job Doc Pattie Hunt Sinacole is indeed an unfortunate one. The hiring manager simply has to actively take the lead in this process.

    In this situation, the hiring manager is a “fellow at a think-tank” and so was hired for her or his smarts as a single contributor. The fellow may be out of his or her depth dealing effectively with a pure interpersonal managerial issue, but he or she simply has to actively address it. In all fairness to HR, it’s possible he or she has never raised any concerns with the recruiting team over any of the last four unsuccessful hires! If that is the case, Pattie’s recommendation of an in-depth sit-down with HR, with the well-designed hiring plan she described, is certainly the right first step.

    At any rate, I know so many HR professionals – recruiters, managers and senior executives – who would *not tolerate any recruiting behavior within their departments in which solid candidates are chased away and others with dodgy practical skills are selected.

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