SmartRecruiters Blog

How to Hire a Human Resources Pro: A Step by Step Guide

They know the ins and outs of recruiting great candidates, but does your organization know the best processes for hiring a full-time talent acquisition professional?

Business growth starts and ends with hiring the right people, and as your organization continues to add employees, issues around people management, workflow processes, and legal regulations become more complex. A solid HR foundation is critical to business success, and the bricklayers of people operations are Human Resources professionals. You know this, and so do the candidates applying to your organization’s nascent, or nonexistent, TA team.

Hiring for these roles is difficult for startups that are busy focusing on developing product and honing business objectives, but beware waiting too long. According to renowned Silicon Valley investor Marc Andreessen, “The number of companies in the Valley that put HR off to the side and decided it wasn’t important and are now dealing with some level of catastrophe—either a public catastrophe or one that’s in the making … and it’s totally unnecessary. If they had taken HR seriously at an earlier point, they probably would have been able to fight a lot of their issues.”

Establishing an effective HR department is critical to growing your business, building company culture, and managing employees. Here’s how to hire a top-quality HR professional at the right time for your company, from crafting a solid job description to what to ask during an interview.

At What Stage Does Your Business Need a Full-Time HR Hire?

The short answer is: the earlier the better. From a legal perspective, organizations with 50 or more employee begin encountering state and federal regulations like the Family and Medical Leave Act. Hiring a HR professional is an absolute must after crossing this threshold.

For smaller startups, tight finances may be the biggest hurdle when launching a Human Resources department, but the greatest success happens when HR is considered early in the process, even before the recognized need for an HR function. For startups with limited financial resources, hiring a full-time HR professional may not be an option, which is why outsourcing the job to a consultant can be a cost-saving alternative. Seasoned advisors bring value and impact to organizations by leveraging strategic TA to drive business growth at any company size.

“It’s about asking what would you like to achieve from the business side—what are the business objectives,” said Anna Brandt, HR Advisor at Backbase and N26. “Then, it’s about asking how do we make sure that the recruitment plan or TA strategy will support the delivery of those objectives?”

Business objectives should also be a consideration when developing a profile for what kind of HR professional your organization needs. For example, if data privacy and compliance are important to your industry, then it’s crucial your HR hire is knowledgeable and experienced in the legal regulations affecting your organization.

Likewise, fast-moving startups will need someone who can multi-task, has high-energy, and is able to switch gears quickly. The ideal candidate for an e-commerce corporation might look very different, so aligning your organization’s HR goals with the ideal candidate profile can help refine the search when it’s time to hire.

Job Descriptions for HR Managers and Recruiters

As with any job posting, you will want to outline the core functions of the role. Key responsibilities for an HR professional may include:

  • Organizing departmental planning, including hiring and termination policies
  • Overseeing employment and compliance with federal and state regulations
  • Implementing performance management and improvement systems
  • Managing employee salary, bonus incentives, and other compensation programs
  • Managing employee safety, welfare, wellness, and health
  • Organizing employee training programs
  • Managing employee relations, including fielding complaints, concerns, and feedback
  • Offering employee services and counseling

Depending on the size of your organization, it may be important to emphasize how the role could evolve over time as the HR department expands, bringing changes to the role and its responsibilities. But, be careful to avoid clichés like “ad hoc responsibilities”, which can deter great candidates.

Tech Proficiency Matters

Technological innovation like artificial intelligence is advancing exponentially, and the HR industry invests billions of dollars in new tools for recruitment, performance management, engagement, training, inclusion, and analytics. “Recruiting has really been transformed these past years,” said Hessam Lavi, Director of Product at SmartRecruiters. “We’ve seen a shift from HR and recruiting coming from an admin function, or merely a cost center, to much more of a strategic function.”

Today’s HR professionals need a strong understanding of modern HR technology, like automated sourcing tools, talent acquisition suites, and candidate relationship management integrations. That’s why strong HR candidates know how to implement technology to reduce the amount of time spent on administrative tasks, improve data quality, and free up more time for value-added tasks. This requires an understanding of the HR tech tools available in the market and an ability to pitch business leaders and stakeholders on investments that will yield a high potential return.

Interview Questions for HR Professionals

HR managers and recruiters are expected to be on the front lines of hiring new talent for your organization, which means you need to understand their ability to assess and interview potential candidates. Sample questions for HR professionals may include:

  • How will you drive results in your role?
  • How do you conduct job terminations?
  • What kinds of interview questions do you typically ask?
  • Describe a difficult encounter with an employer/manager/colleague and how you handled it.
  • Describe a time when you didn’t follow policy or had to deviate from policy.
  • How would you deal with an unethical situation? Any examples?
  • What kinds of trends do you think will shape the future of HR departments in the coming years?

As with any strong candidate, responses should drive positive conversations, demonstrate thorough research of the company, and reinforce the importance of HR’s role in the company’s overall business growth strategy.

The End Goal

At the end of the day, hiring a HR professional will allow your company to develop better employees and hit your company growth goals. According to Marjorie Adams, President and CEO of Fourlane, “An internal HR person will improve internal processes and development, including tracking vacation time, improving performance review process, helping employees set goals and managing benefits. After all, a business owner doesn’t have the time or talent to take these tasks on, let alone do a good job administering them.”

Scott Wardell