Brief thought exercise: should recruiting really go through Human Resources?

Admittedly, often “HR” and “recruiting” are segmented — that is, even though recruiters are listed as members of the HR department, they think of themselves differently (and others think of them differently) as more “traditional” HR members.

Here’s the thing, though: global talent acquisition challenges are on everyone’s radar, and people — not necessarily processes — may legitimately be the future of business, especially as millennials dominate the workforce. In that context, should recruiting really roll up through HR? Or should it be linked to another department — such as, let’s say, marketing? The argument for is that marketing is essentially telling the story of an organization, so who better than people that work on that to pitch and contextualize the culture? The argument against is that HR/recruiting are a highly specialized series of skills. I actually disagree with the latter to an extent.

The hiring process is no doubt an inexact science, but I honestly think most people are ultimately assessing fit; while that’s an amorphous word (and one that’s easy to hide behind when rejecting someone), it’s also tangibly important. If people lack X/Y/Z skills for a job, provided it’s not highly technical, they can probably learn them as they grow with the organization; you can learn skills, but it’s much harder to unlearn being an asshole. Fit does matter. Any department could assess for fit — finance could even do that, so long as it’s people who have been there for years and know the type of people that succeed internally (and have the potential to grow internally).

Here’s what I’ve been thinking about more and more recently, though: when you ask someone the core function of HR, often people come back to this issue of compliance, right? Aren’t the realities behind compliance — essentially, checking boxes, making sure elements are aligned — inherently different than the realities behind recruiting — looking for passion and innovation, assessing personality? The same department shouldn’t necessarily handle those two functions, even if it’s a highly segmented department.

I’ll give you two recent examples.

1. I had a Skype interview the other day with a company out in Seattle. It was with an official recruiter, and she admitted straight up that she didn’t know much about the position and that would fall to the hiring manager (a complaint of some), but that it would be a general screener. Questions included “What makes you tick?” and “Give me three adjectives that describe you.” I liked the recruiter — and that’s an important aspect of being a recruiter — but let’s be honest: those aren’t highly-specialized skills. Anyone could ask those questions. Why not someone from a different department, and maybe one that could assess fit a little better?

2. I saw a LinkedIn thread the other day from an HR veteran within a sub-group. The question was pretty basic — it was something like “What is your favorite interview question to ask?!?” — and the answers were brutal to read. There were over 200+ of them, and almost everyone put forth a completely unscientific question that in no way would get at the critical thinking skills of a candidate (“Walk me through your resume” was said a bunch of times on this thread). I went to school just now with a bunch of people who will enter HR or recruiting as a primary functionality; I sat in the same classes with them and I can tell you there is some specific knowledge, yes, but the process of determining a best fit doesn’t have to exclusively run through HR.

In fact, maybe moving recruiting away from HR in some contexts — and tying it back to HR for the specialty skills, such as the compliance aspects — would provide a new approach to the challenges of talent acquisition. A lot of people with “connections” tend to view HR as more of an impediment than an assist anyway (not everyone feels this way, but you probably know one or two people that do), so why not shift it up?

Ted Bauer


  1. Why even have a hiring process? From a Lean perspective hiring could be seen as muda, or waste, which ideally should be eliminated. Stelio Verzera, the Cofounder and Managing partner at Cocoon Projects, runs an operation that does not have a hiring or recruiting process. As consultants they teach others how to create Liquid Organizations too. http://www.managementexchange.com/hack/liquid-organizations-realizing-next-evolutionary-stage-anti-fragility

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