Hiring Managers vs. HR for Contract Job Orders

A common questions we hear from recruiters who are new to contract staffing is “Where do I go for contract job orders?” Conventional wisdom has been to go to the  hiring manager rather than human resources (HR).

That's because the direct hire and contract hiring processes were often handled separately, so much so that HR may not have been aware of open contract positions within organizations.  Many recruiters still hold the belief that the hiring manager is the best source for contract job orders, but that may not be true in today's business environment.  

As companies move more toward blended workforce models that incorporate BOTH direct hires and contractors, HR is increasingly directing ALL hiring efforts.  Therefore, bypassing human resources could cause you to miss out on some great contract staffing opportunities.

At a recent industry convention, veteran contract staffing recruiter Linda Blakemore gave a presentation on contract staffing in which she urged recruiters to start with HR departments because they tend to have the best feel for hiring, both direct and contract, throughout an entire organization.

“Recruiters are often surprised when I tell them I work with HR. They ask me, ‘Don’t they get in the way,’” said Blakemore, who is the owner of the Atlantic Pacific Group.  “I say, ‘No, I need them.’ Even if HR is not your niche, don’t be afraid to talk to them. They often know what needs to be filled.”

Blakemore shared her reasons for starting with HR:

  1. Get on the approved vendor list.  HR often tells hiring managers NOT to give job orders to vendors. THR often is in charge of choosing vendors, so if you want to get on the approved vendor list, you need to start with HR.
  2. They have the inside scoop. Because they are on the front line when it comes to employee issues, they can quietly give you a heads up when a future opening is likely, like when employees are on performance plans or someone is about to take a leave of absence.
  3. Get your foot in the door. By starting with HR, which is Blakemore's main niche, she often gets introduced to other areas of the organization, which leads to more job orders.
  4. You don't want to burn any bridges. “HR holds onto the contracting piece very, very tightly,” Blakemore said. “If you try to back-door it, you aren’t going to win any brownie points.”

The hiring manager may still be your go-to person in smaller companies. But when there is an HR department, you should try to keep them in the loop even if you already have an established relationship with a hiring manager or HR has given you the okay to work directly with the hiring managers. This approach has gained Blakemore the appreciation and respect of the HR department as well as additional, unexpected job orders.

“They appreciate the heads up on things so they don’t get blindsided,” Blakemore said.

Debbie Fledderjohann is the President of Top Echelon Contracting, Inc.

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