Written by Agnieszka Szczerba Recruiting | Recruitment Agencies

How to work with HR if you are an agency recruiter?

There are often tensions between agency recruiters and internal HR. This is caused by several factors.

Firstly, HR is not always directly involved in recruitment. A company's HR department encompasses a number of other areas, such as talent management, organisational development, training, and advising management on a strategic level. HR often combines the areas of soft and hard HR, i.e. maintenance of personal documentation, financial settlements of employees or compliance in the area of labour law, personal data etc. Recruitment is usually only one of the areas that your HR partner deals with. Therefore, he/she does not necessarily (mostly not) understand the nuances of recruitment that you do.

Secondly, on the line „external recruiter - internal HR - hiring manager” communication noise is created, which is actually quite human and natural. We all know from different areas of life the effect of distorting facts in every subsequent indirect communication.

Thirdly, external HR wants to live well with the business that hiring managers represent. Especially junior people on the HR side are often afraid to convey to hiring managers the external recruiter's comments about the process, the candidate market, or the fit of the salary brackets with market expectations. In a previous post I described why talking to HM is often not easy and how to approach it. Paradoxically, external recruiters find it easier than HR.

Last but not least- internal HR is often afraid to hire an external agency, for fear that HM will seem unprofessional. "Why hire an agency if we have HR people that can do recruitment ?” And although this attitude is completely unfounded (as discussed below), it is precisely such fears that result in HR blocking the conversation with the HM because "he shouldn't be disturbed, he's extremely busy".

For the above reasons, agency recruiters tend to bypass HR and set up a relationship directly with the HM. And while I always stress that an in-depth, hour or so conversation with the HM is absolutely necessary to fill a commissioned position, bypassing the HR person in communication is not a good idea. In HR's place, you wouldn't want to feel 'bypassed'by the supplier either.

So how do you get on well with internal HR?

  • Assertively explain that in order to start the process we need to talk to the HM - not only do we need to understand the nuances of the technical competencies, but we also need to get to know the HM personally to know how to match the candidates personality-wise.

  • Be sure to invite HR to meet the HM. Take notes at the meeting and send a summary to both contacts. Establish a procedure for possible contact with HM that does not bypass HR (unless HR agrees).

  • For larger clients and more work, set up a weekly call with HR - ideally in the latter part of the week.

  • For smaller clients and urgent assignments, agree with HR exactly when you can call (time slots during the day).

  • It is much better to talk than to email. Don't get caught up in endless e-mail correspondence. It wastes time and time is one of the most important factors in recruitment.

  • I know it's difficult, but in a gentle way make HR aware that you don't want to show HM in any way that the HR department is incompetent. Show yourself as an expert in a particular market.- both to HR and HM. Show how difficult it is to master your market and domain knowledge and why it is also so difficult for HR.

  • If you have come across a junior person on the HR side who is scared of HM, offer to show them how to talk to HM in a substantive yet assertive way. Don't be afraid to even offer to do a role play. Above all, however, using the coaching method, try to establish with the HR what very concrete arguments she should go to the HM with. The more numbers the better: "An external supplier contacted 100 candidates, 4 wanted to talk, but 3 out of 4 have expectations above the salary brackets we propose. We need to raise the salary brackets by X amount".

  • At the initial interview involving both HR and HM set the rules for closing the project with the successful candidate. In my opinion, it is best if the client offers the candidate directly, but consults with you on the amount and details before making an offer. You also need to carefully establish with the client that you can (in agreement with the client) negotiate acceptance of the offer.

What to do if the above advice does not work?

Unfortunately, this can also happen. Should you then give up on working with the client? Not right away. I would suggest arranging an interview with HR and HM and proposing a 14-day deadline, where we try again on the condition that the client improves certain elements of the process.

If all of this doesn't work - unfortunately we have to redirect our energies to other clients.

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