Why I Love the Color Orange

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How to Work for a Boss that Doesn't Know Recruiting

It's not really a secret that I believe that "corporate HR" and "Recruiting" should be two separate departments, neither one reporting into one another but rather facilitating each others' needs as distinctively individual units. It's not been the first time I've said it or blogged about it since it's always been my professional stance. Simply put, the "traditional HR" person just doesn't get it. Are there exceptions to this postulate of mine? Sure there are. But as a general rule, usually what I have found is that HR "generalists" (meaning people with backgrounds in all of the traditional HR sub-disciplines not the title "HR Generalist") tend to be very light in knowledge, understanding and certainly appreciation for the world of Recruiting. Again, this has been my experience and I base this on no empirical evidence but rather situational observations over the years.

I believe the frustration lies in a breakdown of communication. For example, while I am a big fan of metrics for the purpose of status updates and providing analytics on weekly, monthly or even yearly progress, I have always been skittish about using reports to "crow" about my recent achievements. The mindset of HR tends to be "hit 'em over
their heads with good news" at times but I'd rather use that valuable time (and effort) in finding more qualified candidates, redesigning recruitment strategy or just about anything else for that matter. The over-emphasis on metrics is definitely a characteristic of nearly all of the traditional HR bosses I've had. I call it the three P's (Posturing, Positioning, and Placing Blame on Others) but you can sum it up with just one "P": Politics.

A sizeable majority of corporate recruiters now have at least some third-party experience. Melding the often cavalier and cowboy-world experience of third-party recruiting with the traditional HR mindset is often difficult, frustrating and sometimes a disaster in the making. Let me give you an example. I have always done better in environments that allowed me to be creative in my recruiting efforts, in the way I partner with my internal (or external) clients, and how I basically put in an honest day's work. When I worked for dot-coms where I was given free reign in a less structured setting, I typically did much better than in the jobs or contract assignments where I had policies and procedures coming out of every human orifice.

So what do you do about this? How can you handle/manage/mitigate this deep and wide chasm between the jet-set style of Recruiting and the linear/structured world of HR? Well, part of it has to do with communicating expectations with your boss from the onset. This actually starts right when you're interviewing for a job. If you're not a numbers person, don't tell your prospective boss that you're all about metrics. If you're overly laid back, don't tell your future boss that you believe in "centralizing the recruiting process" and acting as gatekeeper, judge and jury. It's common sense but you would be surprised by how many people just aren't honest with themselves.

Secondly, protect your backside once you start a new job. Document everything that you do short of telling him/her how many squares of toilet paper you used that day. Remember to not only keep a detailed report to hand in weekly to your boss (and internal clients) but also a management-style report that captures a snapshot of weekly activity as well. This also comes in handy in ad hoc situations when your boss might ask for something like that to give to the CEO/President.

Thirdly, define yourself and your work. Explain to your new boss (or not-so-new boss) exactly what it is that you do all day. Create a pie chart explaining what percentage of your time is spent doing what and look for areas of performance AND process improvement constantly. While many senior HR folks (Director, VP, SVP, etc.) think they have a "recruiting background", the fact of the matter is that the extent of recruiting they did probably entailed putting an ad in the newspaper "back in the day". That's not recruiting. Never has been, never will be. So make sure you spell it out for your traditional HR generalist-style boss what it actually entails to hire or recruit for the more difficult-to-fill openings. Get him/her to understand that their limited understanding isn't how it really is but obviously do so in a way that is didactic and disarming in nature.

Lastly, remember that this is a team effort. You might be the maverick but until Recruiting is a separate department from HR in every organization nationwide (which will probably never happen because of HR's reach), you will have to realize that you are only one cog in the wheel (albeit a significant one). Everyone on the team has a hand in identifying, interviewing, selecting or onboarding the candidates that will be employees for your organization. Acknowledge others and give credit freely, stand your ground when you need to, and make sure that you always have your ducks in a row with your data. Then working for a boss that doesn't know recruiting might not be such a disadvantage to you. In fact, it might be the perfect scenario of "managing up"!

Happy Recruiting!

Sung N. Kim is Managing Partner & CEO for Servane Cross, Inc. Servane Cross is a premiere executive search firm specializing in recruiting middle to senior healthcare administrators and management. In addition to his healthcare recruiting expertise, he also is the Chief Training Consultant for StrongRecruiter.com, a website dedicated for recruiter training and development. Sung also has a regular blog on ERE entitled, "The Life and Times of a Healthcare Recruiter".

Sung can be contacted via e-mail at sung@servanecross.com. Servane Cross, Inc.'s website is http://www.ServaneCross.com.

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