How to be Successful in Recruitment: HR - Recruiter Friend or Foe?

HR and a recruiter fighting

Traditionally in the recruitment industry there has been a reluctance to approach HR. Indeed many recruiters start their time in the industry being specifically trained and instructed to avoid HR.

And the problem is that when something like that gets repeated over and over it tends to get exaggerated. The repetition of the instruction builds the negativity. HR go from people to avoid where possible to people to guard against at all costs in case they steal your deals right off your table!

In turn HR, having been avoided and shunned by recruiters for years, have grown to be mistrusting and doubtful of recruiters.

In essence we’ve had our very own little cold war whilst the rest of the business world has carried on regardless!

Personally I think it’s time we all took a deep breath and a real look at the actual situation.

Before I give you an opinion let me give you some facts.

Executives Online ran a survey in 2012 with over 1200 companies and collated some very interesting results:

They identified that HR determine the recruitment process in 47% of all companies.

Further that number rises to 67% in companies with over 5000 people.

So, pretty much a good half of the time, a recruiter can expect HR to officially be the people making the recruitment process decisions.

Now in my opinion those stats alone mean that HR should be approached and spoken with.

Based on my own experiences, both as a recruiter and as a development specialist, I feel that HR can absolutely be your best friends and it’s entirely possible to have profitable, long term business relationships with HR professionals.

I’ve made placements as a recruiter with and through HR and I’ve arranged many training and coaching sessions again with HR being my main contact.

I think that a modern recruiter, rather than shunning HR, should endeavour to cultivate a practical relationship. And by that I mean a relationship where the recruiter doesn’t attempt to cut out HR and HR doesn’t attempt to block the recruiter.

Like all good relationships a little give and take is necessary. Recruiters should have direct line access to managers to ensure that they can take the full job and person details from the person that the new hire will actual work for.

A good recruiter asking the right questions of a line manager can pinpoint the personal quirks and specific job requirements to a finer level than when speaking with HR. This isn’t a negative reflection on HR simply a reflection of the fact that they are departmentally removed from the hire.

Similarly it is hugely helpful if feedback can be taken directly from line managers – whether that is in respect to submitted CV’s, candidate profiles or after interviews. Getting the story of what happened in a meeting is always going to be better first hand than from someone who wasn’t there!

That’s the type of access that recruiters need to do their job and should reasonably ask for when dealing with HR.

In turn the recruiter should accept that HR have a part to play, will co-ordinate interviews and the recruitment process generally as well as very likely negotiating rates.

Strong relations are based on trust and one of the things that helps build trust is transparency. Recruiters should approach HR with a constructive mind set and positively present themselves and their services. When discussing the recruitment process recruiters should clearly state the kind of access they would like and explain how they work.

Surprises in recruitment are seldom positive and few HR departments are going to warm to recruiters who talk to them one day and then go and talk to the line manager the next without warning HR first.

Explain at the outset how you, as a professional recruiter, want to work, why you want to work that way i.e. the benefits for both parties, and be clear that you understand that ultimately decisions will be made, or at least processed, through HR.

On the other side of the fence HR departments often work within a more structured and formal model than recruiters and it’s fair to expect that HR will have certain procedures and ways of doing things or processing applications. The best thing a recruiter can do is seek to understand how and why the HR department works as it does.

As to whom you should approach first in a company to identify if there are recruitment needs, then I do hold to the traditional recruitment method of approaching the most senior relevant decision maker and working from there. If they instruct you to go via HR then establish a relationship with the decision maker and then go have the conversation with HR.

As pointed out by the survey above, HR very often determine the process, so a smart recruiter anticipates this and works with HR to establish the right kind of relationship.

I genuinely believe that if the recruiter and HR can work together then it increases the chances of a successful hire which is beneficial to everyone.

Always interested to know what other people think so feel free to comment below.

Expanded Material

This topic will be expanded upon in the new subscription only podcast that will be coming out from Edenchanges shortly, aimed at all career minded recruitment professionals.

Until next time; be successful! 

Stephen Hart
Development Specialist,


Views: 421

Comment by Nicholas Meyler on July 11, 2014 at 12:29am

HR is not a foe of the recruiter.  It's important to have good relationships with HR people, as much as possible.  They are the spine of the client's hiring process.  To be opposed to them, categorically, is like the character in the Ray Bradbury story who hated his spine, and skeleton, and had it all surgically removed, until he was nothing more than a quivering mass of gelationous flesh lying on the floor.

Simultaneously, it is vital to have contacts and relationships with Hiring Principals as well.  Working with HR to facilitate that kind of connection is vital.  HR does us many favors, which we, as Recruiters, should acknowledge.  Still, Recruiters need to set up appropriate boundaries and be assertive about communicating with decision-makers when needed.  The idea of any one class or set or category of people being foes is generally dubious.  It is mostly a symptom of bigotry (in the sense of prejudice against any type or sort [identified by a 'sortal rule'] of person).  Bigotry never helps the recruiter... Xenophilia, on the other hand, often does.


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