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April 29, 2004
What HR Managers Want
by David Granholm, owner/president

Remember the film comedy staring Helen Hunt and Mel Gibson where the male protagonist could hear the thoughts of any female he was close to? The story embraced the premise that men are truly clueless as to what women want. In my experience, many recruiters are clueless about what HR Managers want.

Indeed it is not uncommon for articles and training materials for our industry to advise recruiters to steer clear of Human Resources. They go as far as to offer numerous methods to avoid or get around the HR people. One hears terms like gatekeepers, roadblocks, screeners, and other less complimentary terms when referring to human resources. I was reviewing some recruiter training materials the other day that offered a dozen ways to not accept the "you’ll have to speak with HR" line. Ultimately, we know the phrase "don’t take no from someone who can’t say yes". Well, in my experience, human resources is always part of the "yes" equation; so we need to be able to work with them and understand what they want.

For many years I was the HR Manager on the other side of the phone speaking to the recruiters. Believe me, it was a love-hate relationship. I knew I needed 3rd party recruiter help filling critical positions in my organization but working with recruiters was often such a painful experience that I was inclined to struggle along on my own. I was lowered to the point of lying to recruiters that I had previously invited to work with me, just to get them to stop calling. Could I have just been more authentic and given them some blunt feedback as to my wants and needs? Sure, but when someone irritates you, feeling generous about helping their career is the last thing on your mind.

So, just in case you have not encountered that generous HR person willing to share his or her wants and needs with you, I offer - What I wanted from Recruiters when I was an HR Manager:

  1. Don’t waste my time. I don’t have nearly enough to start with. Do everything you can to avoid wasting my time and I will send you fresh baked cookies and love notes.
  2. Use email as much as possible instead of the telephone. Yes, I understand that recruiters must use the telephone in order to "sell" but remember #1 above or you will have nobody to sell to.
  3. Keep reminding me where we are in the process because working with you is just one of a hundred things on my "top priority" list today.
  4. Don’t send me resumes you found on a national job board. I’m already looking there myself. Besides, I need you because you have the time and recruiting talent to work the phones and really dig for the top talent I’m looking for.
  5. If I tell you something one day and then change course the next, understand that unless I have the title "VP" or "Owner" after my name, I’m really just a bottom-feeder and must respond to the ever-changing needs of my organization.
  6. Take burden off me and I’ll personally bug the finance department to rush your fee invoice through the system. How do you do this?
    • Don’t send me junk resumes.
    • Understand my Job Order and the requirements for the position
    • Interview your candidates thoroughly and attach a summary for me.
    • Complete reference checks for me.
    • Stay in touch daily with your candidate and keep me informed so I can report and update progress to my boss
    • Know your candidate’s needs in terms of salary & benefits BEFORE I invest my time and energy.
    • Be a great salesperson when it comes to the offer, and close the deal.
    • Know what’s going on in my business and who the players are. Yes, I’m talking about the core basic recruiter skill of knowing who is in the decision making loop. Ask me and I’ll be happy to tell you who the decision makers are.
    • Don’t push me if I don’t want to give you certain information. (Examples: Other positions I’m working to fill; full salary range data; succession plans; etc.) You may ask if it’s something I’d rather not share, but if you push too hard you may find you no longer have me as a client.
    • Show appreciation to me. Thank you cards, with a sincere hand-written note, really will help build our relationship. (Remember, you are in the relationships business!)
    • Make sure you ALWAYS make me look good. Take every opportunity to brag me up to my boss and the hiring manager, and give me credit for snagging the great new hire (It will be our little secret!).

In the course of my typical day as an HR Manager, I was involved in two terminations, an ugly legal case, an unhappy government inspector, spoiled food in the cafeteria, an unannounced VP visit, and had no time to take a lunch break. On the plus side, by God, I’m going to have some successes and positive experiences to balance my day. Working with "my" recruiter has got to be one of my positive experiences.


  About the Author
David Granholm, owner/president of USA Professional Staffing
David Granholm is the owner/president of USA Professional Staffing, an executive recruiting firm specializing in middle-management placements in manufacturing and distribution. He holds a BA & MA in Management, Human Relations, and Organizational Behavior. David lives with his wife and two sons in Evansville, Indiana and can be reached at 812-962-4878 or dave@usaprofessionalstaffing.com.

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