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In Recruiting, Does HR Know Best?

Dear Liz, I need some advice! I’m in a bad spot. I’m a new manager. I manage two people in a Data Services team. That means that we create reports for the other managers, Directors and VPs in our company. They say “Be careful what you wish for” and that is definitely true, because when our managers figured out how useful our reports are, they started to ask for new and different reports all the time!

Dear Liz,

I need some advice! I’m in a bad spot. I’m a new manager. I manage two people in a Data Services team. That means that we create reports for the other managers, Directors and VPs in our company.  They say “Be careful what you wish for” and that is definitely true, because when our managers figured out how useful our reports are, they started to ask for new and different reports all the time!

My team members use Crystal Reports and other tools to get our managers what they need information-wise. Some of our reports are standard, scheduled ones, some are custom reports and some are compilations of existing reports. It’s a pretty fun and creative job. Here’s my problem. I have approval to hire my first new employee from outside.

We already posted the job internally and there were no candidates, which isn’t surprising because most of the people in our company aren’t IT-savvy and don’t have experience with the tools we use. Maybe when our company gets bigger we will offer training on those things, but right now we need someone who can walk in and help us catch up with our backlog.

There is a process to create a job spec here. I went through that process with my Director four weeks ago. We wrote a job spec and submitted it to HR. Imagine my surprise when our HR rep, named Mitch, called me to say that he had received the first responses to our job ad and was setting up an interview for me with one candidate.

I never even saw the job ad! I had written to another HR person, Megan, to ask about the status of my job spec and didn’t get a reply.

Now I find out that we ran a job ad, got responses, and have a candidate ready to interview! I called Mitch back and asked him if I could meet with him to review the resumes we received. It turns out that Mitch got 56 resumes. Out of those 56, Mitch picked the one candidate he wants me to interview. Mitch said “If you decide not to hire this candidate, I’ll give you one more.” He doesn’t want me to see the resumes!

Have you ever heard of such a thing, Liz? I would like to sit with Mitch and with my director and go through all 56 resumes together, and talk about them. I think that’s the responsible thing to do, not only for our company but for the job candidates also.
They took the time to respond. I was so shocked when Mitch told me that I get to interview one person, I forgot to ask him when the resumes came in. I finally asked him that question this morning. He said “About three weeks ago.”

Three weeks! These 56 people have been in limbo that long. Mitch hasn’t sent even one email message to any of the candidates in that time. Please tell me this isn’t normal. What can I do to get my recruiting process back on track?





Dear Deanna,

Congratulations on your promotion! I am very glad to hear that you’re in a management position. I know you’ll be successful  because you already have the right perspective on your job — the human perspective. You will be happy to  know that Mitch is not following any recruiting protocol that exists anywhere in the world.

I couldn’t tell you whether he invented his unique approach on his own or got the idea from someone else, but as you point out, it is about the worst way imaginable to fill a job.

You have the right to see the resumes that arrived in response to your job ad. You should, of course, have seen and approved the job ad, too. Your idea to sit down with Mitch and your Director is a fantastic idea. Fifty-six resumes is not that many.

When you sit down together, you’ll most likely find that some of the resumes are incredibly badly written and full of typos and misspellings. Those dear people will get immediate (and polite) “No thank you” messages.

You’ll have a stack of about 30-35 serious resumes to consider. As you, Mitch and your Director talk about the resumes, you’ll get new ideas. You’ll see elements and aspects to certain resumes that will teach you about what you need. It it nearly impossible to sit down to write a job spec and say “I know exactly what to put in the job ad — I know exactly what I need.”  How could that ever be the case?

If the only trick to hiring great people were to sift resumes based on a written job spec, we wouldn’t need conduct interviews at all!

It’s only through interacting with live people in the talent market, both through reading their resumes and meeting them personally, that we realize “This person has a perspective and a background that can really  help me.”

I recommend that you interview five to seven candidates, and that you interview them as a team with your Director, since this is your first time hiring. You’ll learn so much in those interviews, you’ll be amazed! You may have a hard time choosing the right candidate. You may  be torn between two or three of them.

Your Director may have to make the call. That’s okay. When you lose sleep over a hiring decision because you really like more than one of the candidates and you know that hiring one of them will make the others unavailable to you, then you begin to see how big a responsibility you have now that you’re a manager. These are people’s lives. Recruiting is not a clerical or word-matching function.

Mitch is very confused about his role. In the ideal case, the HR person’s role in recruiting is to guide you, the hiring manager, through the process and serve as an advisor. Believe me, there were times I bit my lip in half because I was dying to tell a hiring manager that they were about to shoot themselves in the foot. One of the first things you learn as you come up the learning curve in HR is that you can’t teach people who don’t want to be taught.

You can’t coach people who resist coaching. I kept my mouth shut and let some of our managers make very bad hires. That was the learning they needed to get from Mother Nature. I couldn’t teach them those lessons. If I had stamped my foot and morphed into Miss Hissy Fit Bossy HR person, who would have learned anything from that? No one!

You are not going to interview one person and make a Yes or No decision on that person in a vacuum. You are not playing Let’s Make  a Deal on TV, where you have to choose between Door Number One and Door Number One. Since you are a new manager you will need to enlist your Director to help you educate Mitch on how a recruiting process unfolds.

There is no way that Mitch can know simply  based on a resume (one out of 56!) that the candidate he has selected from the pile is the one you should hire. Frankly, I’m not sure that a person who would believe that he can pick your perfect new hire from  a stack of resumes without conducting one interview is a person who belongs in HR.

People topics are sticky topics. Until you see the candidate in front of you and feel the energy in the air as you are speaking, you will not know whom to hire. I believe that we have more influence at work than we feel (or than we use) but this disagreement requires the intervention of your Director, and I encourage him or her to take the issue as far up the chain as necessary, because Mitch is so far off base he is almost out of sight.

An interview process is a learning process. You can’t possibly make a hiring decision by talking to one person, especially not when there are 55 other people interested in the job!

When you bring your Director into this situation, make sure that he or she emphasizes that every candidate who wrote to you three weeks ago must get a polite thank-you message immediately. You are right — it’s horrifying that your company sat on their responses for so long. Here’s a sample message your HR folks can send out:

Dear (X),

Thanks very much for responding to our ad for a Data Services Analyst. I apologize for the delay in responding to you. We are reviewing resumes now and expect to have an update for you early next week. Thanks again for your interest in Acme Explosives and have a wonderful weekend!

All the best,

Mitch Miller

These things always happen for a reason. Here in your very first hiring experience you will find your voice and turn this messed-up situation around to make a great hire and keep those manager clients of yours happy! I’m glad that your instincts are as solid as they are. They will serve you well forever!



This article was written by Liz Ryan from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. SmartRecruiters is the hiring success platform to find and hire great people.



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