Thursday, May 9, 2013

When and How It Is Best to Communicate With Human Resources, (Pt I)

When you are seeking a new job, Human Resources is the most likely first stop for the majority of job seekers, regardless of whether they apply indirectly online, or proactively with a phone call or a visit. It is to where you will always be directed and, for most people, that’s just fine. But I want you to think about the process with which you are engaging when you have interest in a job – according to the standard template. Resumes are routed through HR, who in turn, file and review them for further consideration. They then go through a sieve and filtering process, and it is at this point when they disappear into a deep black hole, leaving applicants hoping, wondering and waiting for a positive reply, but most often getting an automated response informing them that their resume is on file; in essence saying “Thanks for playing, better luck next time.” 

Human resource professionals are no different than the rest of us; they have a job to do and often a thankless one at that. Within all professional sectors there are those who’ll make real effort to help you and those who are not very forthcoming or, worst of all, a few who are ambivalent and they won’t even bother with you, your questions or needs. “Thanks, now don’t call us, we’ll call you” is often the order of the day. Most of the time it isn’t meant to be rude, but that is the way they’re set up to operate and, especially in recent years, they are shielded by automation and technology. I often joke with a little bit of sarcasm that they might try to re-inject a little bit of human back into the human resource function. They don’t even call themselves Human Resources any longer, instead referring to themselves as Human Capital or Talent Management or some other term du jour. Frankly, I think they ought to go back to what they were referred to a few decades ago, the Personnel Department, but what do I know. Regardless, here’s the thing, you will have little real interaction with them unless or until they call you to schedule an interview. They may even participate in the initial screening interview, and then there isn’t much for them to do with you until there is a job offer, at which time they will coordinate the whole thing. I am not diminishing their role but just trying to keep it real; it is important work and essential for a positive outcome. However, be aware that unless you are applying for a job within human resources, they do not make hiring decisions. They may be involved by coordinating the interview process, administer testing and profiling or conduct initial screening interviews. They may be asked for their opinions, but the final hiring decisions are made by the hiring managers, who work in the departments with the vacancies and needs. So if you have an opportunity to speak with someone more directly involved with the position in which you are interested, wouldn’t you capitalize on it? 

Furthermore, human resources (as a department), due to their wide scope of responsibilities, possess only basic info and understanding of any particular job opening. Anyone you ask, barring the most senior staffers, will refer to the same job description you read when you chose to apply for consideration. One exception would be smaller companies where HR wears many different hats so they have a detailed understanding about that which management seeks. In medium to large company structures, they are process oriented. Therefore, I contend that while they have an important role and you will interact with them, they are not my choice for first contact.  

Are you committing a sin if you initiate contact in a different direction than HR? Is it detrimental to inquire with anyone else; is there some kind of etiquette that, if you stray from their routines, you are doomed to be dropped from future consideration? Nope, there is not. If you do something slightly different than others, the world is not going to unravel into chaos and most people will continue to apply as they have been. You’re simply choosing the road less traveled.  

Next time I’ll explain how this works and how to make it work for you. 

(Part II will be posted on Monday) 

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