I know, I know, it’s all HR’s fault. The fact that you didn’t get the job, I mean. You saw the posting and figured you’d be a good fit: After all, you have some of the experience the company’s looking for, you’ve worked in a related industry, and though you don’t know Ubuntu all that well, you know UNIX. So you send in your resume, anticipate setting up a phone interview and then….
Nothing happens. And that’s HR’s fault.
When you’re frustrated because you’re not getting offers for jobs you’re qualified for, it’s natural to look for someone to blame. Most often it’s the folks in HR who have the target on their back. In my experience, HR usually doesn’t deserve the condescension, if not the fury, candidates direct at them.
The HR staff’s role in the hiring process is well-defined. They post the ads, engage the recruiters, handle the initial screen and conduct the first phone interview. Their job is to winnow down applications into a set that’s workable for the hiring manager.
It’s true these folks aren’t tech professionals. They often won’t know ASP.NET from PHP. But by the time the job’s posted they’ve been back and forth with the hiring manager and they’ll recognize the basics of what he or she is looking for. They’ll recognize red flags that managers won’t, like consistently big gaps in a work history or the consistent misspelling of words like, say, Linex. They also know their company’s culture, and so have a sense of whether or not you’d be a good fit. In short, they know enough to recognize who’s probably worth the manager’s time, and who isn’t.
The Flip Side
And believe me, those managers are leaning on them. Managers want the new employee at work two days after the post is live. They’re sure that their opening is way more important than anyone else’s. And they’re as prone to protest when they get too many resumes as they are when they don’t get enough. Either way, HR loses. Managers are frustrated if they don’t get the right candidates quickly, candidates are frustrated if they don’t get a callback.
There are two truths to recognize about HR: First, they don’t actually make hiring decisions. They screen on the instructions of the manager, and their greatest influence lies in their ability to discourage an offer to a particular individual. Second, HR people can be your best friends.
For one thing, they’re more likely to answer the phone than the manager is. More important, they’re more likely to remain accessible even if you’ve been passed over. Given how many successful hires result from some sort of personal connection, this isn’t a small thing. Creating a cordial relationship is a good way to learn early about new openings and quickly put your foot in the door when one of them fits. All you need to do is be professional, stay in touch, and do the occasional favor. For instance, if a new posting doesn’t suit you, maybe you can recommend someone else.
No, not every HR person you meet is going to be reasonable, or educated, or even nice. If they’re not, you’ve wasted time on a few phone calls and emails. But if they are, you’ve established one of the best connections you can get inside a place where you want to work.
Image: Wikimedia Commons