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How to Avoid Speaking to Human Resources During Initial Contact with a Hiring Manager

Question: My question is what would be approach or what would I say when speaking on the phone to a hiring manager for the first time in order to avoid being sent to Human Resources? – Giselle

Answer: You do not always avoid going to Human Resources, because there are certain times when it is part of the process. Paul Millard, Greg Doerschering, and I talked about this not too long ago and we all agreed our best clients incorporated Human Resources, but Human Resources as a teammate, not as somebody that was holding up a wall to prevent us from talking to anybody in the company.

So there are a couple things . . .  If you are talking to a hiring manager and they say you have to go to HR, especially if this is my first time speaking with them, my question usually is if you need to be cleared by HR. Avoid arguing against going to HR, because you are in zero relationship and they have very little motivation to stay on the phone with you. Avoid the objection by saying, “I have no problem with that”.

If you were the hiring manager I would say “Giselle, let me just ask you first, let us talk a little bit more about what you need right now, the role you want to fill, and you go through the whole search assignment the right way, and ultimately at the end they say, okay, well you are still going to have to go to HR”.

Now there are two scenarios. One, I would ask is the fee coming out of your budget or is the fee coming out of HR’s budget? Depending on the company, it goes either way. If it comes out of their budget I want to understand. “So if I am understanding you Giselle, as the hiring manager the fee comes out of your budget and what role will Steve in HR play in our interaction and in getting this approved if it is your budget?” If he says, well even though it is my budget, HR has to approve it all our recruiters. Okay, fair.

I would then say, “Now here is what is going to happen Giselle if I call Steve in HR without your sponsorship, without your endorsement, Steve does not know me from a hole in the wall. Even if I say Giselle said to call, I have done this long enough, he is not going to call me back. So you can arrange a call, and it might be just a brief meeting because it was just a matter of them vetting me for five minutes, if we have a three-minute conference call and I will make myself completely available to work around your schedule, can you set that up for us?”

When you do it at this stage of the call, you are doing it after they have invested a half an hour on the phone with you. If you try to overcome, if you try to pick away at that concrete wall two minutes into the conversation, they have nothing invested and they are not going to do it.

In the worst case scenario, they do not agree to that and they say, “Now you have to trust me. Steve is a great guy, he will call you back.” Yea, right. I ask the hiring manager what the our game plan if Steve does not call me back?

“So today is Thursday. What is our game plan if Steve does not call me back and we set up a time to talk next Monday or next Tuesday. Let us put it in our calendar.  If I know we are all set, what is going to happen between now and then anyway is I am going to have a couple of followup questions when I go through our conversation. I am going to want to do the i’s and cross the t’s on with you and I will let you know the fee was approved, or we can take it to the next step because I have done this this way in the past and 2 out of 10 times the client was right, the person called me back, 8 out 10 times they had not.”

Presenting it in this way, I am challenging the hiring the manager a little bit because at some level they do not want to have that followup call set up, if I did not get to talk to HR.

I do not ever want to leave that conversation with that new prospect without a defined next appointment. Even if I take the search, even if they are set up to approve the fee, one of the ways I have always tested their sincerity was to set up a call. I would say, that we had a great conversation, I am going to go through this with my team, and we are going to come up with a couple of areas with a couple gaps in knowledge that we are really going to need to hit a home-run on this, and that follow up call is probably going to be 5 to 7 minutes. So this way they are not thinking, I just spend 45 minutes on the phone with you. I do not want to spend another 45 minutes . . . 5 to 7 minutes and you call with 1 or 2 questions. Do they take the call?  If they are not there, do they call you back? It is a great first test.

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