Shouldn’t HR be able to recruit their own people?

A couple of days ago a Twitter acquaintance of mine Ellison Bloomfield posted in her blog the rhetorical question; shouldn’t an internal HR department have the skills and knowledge to be able to recruit their own people?

Good question. Even though it was rhetorical, I’m going to answer it anyway as it’s a pet topic of mine. My view is this; recruitment AND selection are very specialised competencies within the overall scope of human resources management.

Not all HR Managers will have the necessary skills, commercial knowledge or time to be able to effectively do one or both. Often, particularly with senior executive search assignments, it will also be next to impossible to carry out the assignment appropriately via internal resources. Many companies have recognised this. Some bigger blue-chip companies even have specialised external recruiters sitting full time in their offices sourcing candidates (the RPO model). Some companies have specialised Recruitment Managers sitting within their HR teams. These examples are recognition enough of the specialised nature of recruitment and selection.

So what are these specialised skills? defines recruiting as; (the activity) to engage in finding and attracting employees, new members, students, athletes, etc. This is a very broad definition, and I draw distinction between “recruitment” and “sourcing”. Sourcing is the most difficult skill to acquire within the scope of recruitment activities. I’ve always held that anyone can recruit. In the traditional sense, recruitment is about drafting an advert and getting it out there on job boards, newspapers etc, wherever it will be seen (hopefully). Using this methodology certainly has a luck component. The success or otherwise of the advert will also largely depend on the language and marketing skills of the person writing it.

This form of recruitment is also largely a passive activity as an ad is posted and then one sits back and wait for the applicants. Sourcing however, is a much more active approach that involves detailed detective work, networking, market and/or industry knowledge, intuition, guile, time and persistence. A good sourcer (or researcher as they are often known) will uncover passive candidates and other potentials who are NOT out actively looking for roles. This is executive search methodology. These are difficult to acquire skills almost always outside of the scope of generalist HR personnel. At Mindset, it is the skill of our researchers in uncovering this so-called hidden talent that has made us so successful. Our researchers are one of the reasons why we are regularly engaged by HR Managers to find talent for their organisations.

The other and most important part of the process is selection. This is the choice of candidate (if any) from the available pool of talent that has been sourced by advertising or research.

In her blog Ellison goes on to ask; how well can a recruiter with an agency really know a position? Or, for that matter the personalities of the people in the team or the style the manager wants. Again this is a good question.

A skilled and competent selection consultant (this is distinct to a recruiter) will have taken the time to meet with and understand the often multiple stakeholders in the role. They will understand the company and its business as well as the internal and external issues that the company faces in order to achieve its goals. The more assignments a consultant carries out with a client the better they will know it and the more value he or she will create for their client. Further, if a consultant is a specialist in a field, say engineering or finance, they will often always be better at determining technical skills and experience than a generalist HR practitioner.

A company is only as good as the talent it is capable of attracting and retaining. As such, a skilled and commercially astute recruitment/search and selection partner will become a vital trusted advisor to a client. Their skills in attracting talent to the organisation can often have a positive strategic impact second only to the product or service that the client actually delivers.

And that is why so many companies turn to recruiters rather than their HR personnel to find them their people; their strategic advantage.

Views: 85

Comment by ryan morphett on May 10, 2010 at 8:51pm
Firstly great post and I think you have described the two roles effectively.
I do think however the common misconception out there is that recruitment is a HR function.
Human Resource professionals in today’s companies have a wide scope of work to deal with; effectively the HR department has become the area that deals with everything that doesn't fit anywhere else. So the role can become overwhelming, you have performance management, remuneration management, industrial relations, Equal opportunity legislation, discrimination and harassment policies, actually policies and procedures for every part of staff management, retention and training. These are just to name a few.
You are also correct that many companies are hiring Recruitment Professionals to work as part of their HR teams with the sole purpose of being proactive in their recruitment and finding passive candidates etc. This will become more and more prevalent over time, but given restrictions the Internal Recruitment consultant cannot put the focus on a role an external consultant can, given the large number of roles they need to fill. So they will out-source to specialist recruiters for the work.
This is the way of the future and you will see HR and internal recruitment becoming separate functions, with outsourcing happening on specialist roles.
Thanks and Be Awesome
You can find me on linked in at 'Australian Recruitment Professionals'
Comment by Chris Hofstetter on May 11, 2010 at 1:00pm
I really appreciate Ryan's comments bringing forth the overload of responsibilities that a HR Manager or Dept. has to deal with on a day to day basis. Also worth mentioning is their focus being on protecting assets and legal issues whereas line management is concerned about the bottom line or the business end of the spectrum thus hiring the best possible candidate in the largest pool to choose from.
Comment by Gina Cleo Bloome on May 11, 2010 at 4:13pm
I had to laugh when an HR director at my prior employer had a position open reporting to her and instead of giving it to the Recruiting Team to work on she refused to let us post it and handed it to a retained search firm. When I suggested that our team had nearly 100 years of sourcing experience and that there were more than a few of us who were very well networked in the local HR market, and that we could have saved a fee, she smiled and shined me on. And then hired someone internally who has never been in HR!

If we behave this way as HR people, what right do we have to tell our hiring managers outside HR what to do?


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