The Real Reason HR Hate Recruiters…..Finally

January 27 15 Comments Category: Opinion

OpinionThere is a constant undercurrent in the recruitment industry in the U.K. (what about the rest of the world? I’d love to hear from you) about how H.R. “get in the way” of recruiters doing their job. Many a recruiter will talk of how gatekeepers will keep referring them to H.R. when they really want to talk to a Finance Director, Technical Manager or M.D. (according to their recruitment specialism). Once through to them the classic holy trinity of objections:

1. We have no vacancies (that’s not why I’m phoning..)
2. We don’t use agencies (Yawn!)
3. We have a strict PSL (Contradiction if said after 2! and so what..)

However, before I get all excited about objection handling let’s get back to where we started. H.R. have a distinct dislike of the recruitment industry (Seriously, as well, let’s not get on to the failed new business recruiter turned internal recruiter who “knows how it works”. No you don’t – that’s why you didn’t stick at it!). I should know! I worked directly for an H.R. Director in a large recruitment business who despised the recruitment profession! Imagine her turmoil every day…
I am someone with 12 years hands on recruiting experience and I have met and dealt with my fair share of those types of H.R. people and the consultants who love to talk of H.R. as being the “Human Remains” department.
So, getting to my point; I know why this mistrust and dislike exists. A number of years ago I was gutted delighted when I found myself on a long train journey sat next to an H.R. Director from a FTSE 100 PLC (he was equally appalled enthralled to learn I was a Recruitment Professional with a hunger for new business. On such a busy train I took the opportunity to find out, straight from the horse’s mouth, what the deal was with the H.R. Vs Recruiter standoff. Here is what he said (I will refrain from quotes as I am paraphrasing):

The problem with recruitment consultants is they are too focussed on placing their candidate and don’t do enough listening. As soon as they are given an instruction to recruit they are off talking directly to the line managers behind our backs and pushing them to interview their candidates, take their CVs, creating urgency to make decisions and pushing to ensure that “their candidate” gets the job. I also understand that part of this is their job. What they don’t realise is what H.R.’s job is in the process. H.R. is, in part, about control. Our responsibility within the recruitment process is to protect the business from making mistakes (compliance and cultural fit etc) and also to manage the integration of new people into the organisation and ensure maximum retention of the talent we hire. Once a recruiter cuts H.R. out of that loop it causes us issues. When, god forbid, a new hire is made who turns out to be unsavoury, there is one place the directors turn to blame. H.R. “Who recruited this person? How did they get into our business?” Imagine what would happen if the H.R. team did not know the answers…It could cost them their job or at the very least their professional reputation. That is why we don’t trust you. That is why you are disliked. That is why we TELL you not to talk to line managers. H.R. are merely working to protect their business, it’s reputation and their own necks.

As a relatively experienced consultant at the time (5 years or so) this was the first time it had been explained to me. Yet having met numerous other H.R. pros this was the first time I asked. I so wish I had done before because it made my job so much easier.
My new found friend? Empathy. Genuine empathy that I could display with H.R. people about how I understand the way they feel, what their concerns are and how I am here to ensure they control any potential risks. Advising of the benefits of talking to their line managers, whilst keeping them fully in the loop of CV submission, interviews, references, candidate concerns and offer management. Suddenly I went from foe to ally – even with some of my most frosty H.R. contacts. Now you know, perhaps you may find a little understanding and a generous helping of empathy could assist you achieve what you want without having to keep hiding from the Human Remains department.
[As a footnote – at every possible opportunity aim as high as you can in an organisation when conducting your business development and get referred down. H.R. may be a necessary calling point though is unlikely to ever win you a juicy account. They tend to throw the scraps that no one else could fill ]

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15 Responses

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  1. I am a corporate recruiter who started out in an agency. For the past 10 years I have had many negative experiences working with agencies and only a handful of positive ones.

    I think there are several more reasons why we dislike agencies than you list.
    1. Agencies are competition to corporate recruiters
    2. Agencies send the same candidate to multiple companies at the same time and can make the negotiations muddier for the companies
    3. Many agency recruiters ignore specifications and try to slam a candidate into place to collect their fees
    4. Many agencies don’t do what they say they’ll do. For example make GOOD reference checks
    5. Agencies modify resumes to fit jobs

    Face it, you guys do get in our way. Many times, you create more work and more stress for us.

    My efforts have the best itersts of my company at heart. Everything you do is designed to increase your fee. You aren’t looking out for the best interests of my company, you are looking out for yourself. That is natural.

    David 28 January 2010 at 3:39 am Permalink
  2. Not an unfair summary and an interesting insight. The major critic however would be that this is a viewpoint from a competent recruitment consultant. The experience that is overlooked however is the volume of calls, unrequited ‘business development’ and speculative submissions that add no value and demonstrate limited awareness of the sector, discipline or worse, the candidate’s skill set and capabilities tarnishes the entire industry. This lack of capability regrettably is the norm rather than the exception and impacts competent consultants such as the author.

    As an ex-consultant and now internal recruitment manager, I do know how the other side works and redirected because as external, I felt I could never add the value or have the strategic contribution to business that recruitment is capable of. If the poorer consultancies/consultants were to leave the market (as we have seen in 2009), there is an excellent opportunity for recruitment consultants to reintroduce their value and strategic contribution and may even convince me to return to consultancy. It is therefore up to the industry however to take this window of opportunity to demonstrate their real worth before the weaker industry practicioners return to the market.

    James Armitage 28 January 2010 at 9:19 am Permalink
  3. Being that I have been on both sides –internal HR recruiting and working on the agency recruiter side –I totally understand. If everyone respects each other — meaning that the agency recruiter respects the HR recruiter position — it will make their life so much easier. I constantly coach the sales team that to NOT go around HR if you want to get anywhere other than one or two jobs.

    Patty Davie 28 January 2010 at 5:21 pm Permalink
  4. I am very young into Recruiting, to say something with experience but i would like to give my view too,according to what i feel is happening.
    External consultants will definitely be concerned about their business and in trying to protect themselves they try to fit candidates who are not for that requirement.
    But i guess internal recruiters who are interviewing the candidate will definitely be able to decide if the candidate is right for the company or not.Even though there are manipulations taking place in the resume,they can judge the candidate by putting questions and evaluating if he is saying right.This will avoid taking wrong candidates into the company and wasting time training them.
    According to me only the internal recruiter knows exactly, what he is expecting from a person to join him.External consultants cannot judge completely about company’s requirements as he can judge about his own benefits easily.
    I think not all consultants are same though, few are working right too.But once a impression is framed,it is never taken back!

    Sravanthi 29 January 2010 at 5:43 am Permalink
  5. After 23 years in recruitment, I think some HR Managers are a bit confused by me because I have been at this job for so long that I don’t try to blind side them. I just do what I’m best at: Listen, consult, deliver. My problem is that they are so used to fending off high sell, low delivery recruitment consultants that I get tarred with the same brush by default. And that really annoys me, because I truly can give them simple quick results without the sales pitch. When I consult with a company, I “become” their in-house recruiter. In effect, I think the hard way in which the recruitment industry drives for results and numbers, effectively being a sales rather than professional services industry, detracts from the vallue we add to our clients. I can understand why HR people dislike this kind of recruitment. I do too.

    Cathy Richardson 29 January 2010 at 7:29 pm Permalink
  6. Hi Cathy, seems to me you are one of the few who can help change that reputation! I agree with your assessment as well about the way many recruitment companies drive the sales part of their business compared to their service side has developed a poor reputation among HR professionals. HR dislike being sold to as much as anyone else does – they just seem to receive more than their fair share!

    RecruitmentDad 31 January 2010 at 10:41 pm Permalink
  7. Welcome to the recruitment industry Sravanthi and I wish you every success. Clearly, if you become a regular reader here at Recruitment Dad you should do well ;) Not all consultants are the same and what you say at the end is one of the biggest problems new starters in our industry face – overcoming the reputation the industry has based upon nothing they themselves have done!

    RecruitmentDad 31 January 2010 at 10:44 pm Permalink
  8. Well said Patty. Going behind HR’s back is likely to lead to trouble. Agreeing not to talk to line managers could also cause potential issues too though…My preference is to counsel the HR professional in the benefits to them (individually and their organisation) to allowing me to have access to the relevant hiring manager, when appropriate. Appropriate for me? Interview preparation of the client, delivering candidate feedback and to clarify technical and cultural aspects of the role. Thanks for posting and trust you’ve subscribed!

    RecruitmentDad 31 January 2010 at 10:48 pm Permalink
  9. Hi James. Your point about sales call volumes and speculative CV submission is another reason that adds fuel to the fire. I read recently that the average HR professional receives, on average, 23 unsolicited sales calls from recruiters every week (in the UK). 23! even if each was 2 mins that is a fair amount of time saying thanks but no thanks! Add to that the unsolicited emails (delete) and it paints a tough environment for a good consultant to stand out in. As an internal recruitment manager, what approaches work best from recruiters that would convince you to give them a few minutes of your time?

    RecruitmentDad 31 January 2010 at 10:54 pm Permalink
  10. Hi David, Thanks for your comments and contribution. Unfortunately, I think that there are quite a number of poor practitioners in the industry and I wonder what steps could be taken to regulate it more stringently. If you were to give any advice to those out there seeking to succeed what would it be?
    I would point out that although recruiters are looking out for themselves, if the client is not happy they get nothing so your happiness creates their happiness, doesn’t it?

    RecruitmentDad 31 January 2010 at 10:59 pm Permalink
  11. Hi,
    I have been running a placement agency for just about 4 months now So,you will have to excuse a silly query. i am finding it difficult to understand whether these Hr guys are also into poaching from the placement agency.
    What i mean is that, they can interview a candidate reject him and later recall the person,which would spell doom for the recruiter in both the cases where he is charging the candidate or the company, he has lost in both situations and this could have happened because of a handshake between the Internals and the Interviewee, thus edging out the recruiter and saving money .This situation is more relevant to India and I request you for some tips on how this can be plugged.This could happen in spite of an empaneling with the Company. Regards Prashant

    Prashant Joshi 19 August 2010 at 5:04 pm Permalink
  12. having been on both sides of the table, (i.e the client side being slung millions of CVs that an agency hopes will stick and actually the one doing the slinging)and taking the time out of my life to complete a computer science degree, only to find that i had no access to computing jobs in the UK, due to the recruitment “profession”. Then deciding to jump in to this industry, (to find out how any group of people could live in such a warped existence to behave the way they do) i can honestly say the state recruiters live in is partially due to the recession.

    in reality, a number of brilliant people used to constitute the recruitment industry, however during the last few years, it has become a playground for under 25 no achievers, unintelligent , selfish individuals and more concerning downright self concerned liars to make a quick buck.

    some of these individuals used to pursue careers in banking high end sales etc where that kind of aggression and willingness to do pretty much anything to succeed was masked and eventually swallowed up by a need for actual knowledge.

    however with the onset of the downturn, these individuals turned to recruitment, and in most “specialist” areas such as technology, there is no real requirement to learn anything other than buzzwords meaning that the previous focus required for a sales hungry grad to have to learn about accounting and gain a CPA or ACA qualification is…. gone.

    and thus all that remains is the willingness to say anything you must, to whoever you must without understanding anything to make a placement.

    the terribly sad thing is, especially for the UK, is that all this will cause is a talent exodus of those internationally mobile, high end IT professionals who are tired of the industry going the way it is.

    because so much economic activity in England is focused in London, it becomes a hotbed, as opposed to the spread of this kind of recruitment activity in a large spread area, such as the USA.

    the only real way to fix this is to do something about the next up and coming generation of young people, and give the oppotunities to gain access to the industries they really want to work in via direct talent enagagement, with a truly wide talent pool, instead of focussing on just the oxbridge cream.

    if this doesnt get done, there will be a nation of salespeople and recruiters in the UK and a VERY small talent pool of IT, Finance and Healthcare professionals indeed.

  13. I am of the opinion that while it is nice to see things from a corporate HR/inhouse HR viewpoint it is unfaair to castigate Recruitment firms beyond a point.HR has a tendency to be unduly prejudiced while dealing with Recruitment firms and take the term”vendors” a little too seriously- ie they view the latter as vendors who sell their wares and deserve to be treated as lesser beings. Not all Recruitment firms follow unethical practices.HR should be a little more sensitized while dealing with Recruitment firms which are run by experienced, senior people with corporate experience.
    One has seen unresponsive HR who project requirements but show total lack of urgency in giving feedback and filling the vacant position- almost as if they are keeping the so called vendors amused.To see such unprofessional behaviour is extremely demoralizing for young recruiters who lose motivation and the desire to provide the desired levels of service.
    Sp please- lets see both sides of the coin—

    NKS Warrier 30 September 2011 at 1:50 pm Permalink


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