QUESTION: I have been getting stuck lately with some very powerful entrenched chief human resource officers. The problem is we have to present to them, then they present to the hiring managers, and obviously that is not ideal for success. Any newer tips or old refreshers to get them to let them present to us?  – Vin, Hartford, CT

ANSWER: I just shudder when I read those words. My strategy to gain trust with HR people was to ask, What can I do to make your life easier? I had a great client that brought in a new HR person who wanted everything to go through him. What I had to do was present through him for a period of time to earn his trust so that the people he saw through me were always interviewed by the hiring manager.  

What might work for you is to negotiate expectations on the front end. Vin, if you are the chief human resource officer, I would say: 

Vin, I do not have a problem with presenting all of the candidates to you. Here is what I propose.  One, when I present candidates to you, the hiring managers are going to have questions that you and I have not talked about that I will have the answers to. I need you to help me defend the candidate, meaning if the hiring manager has a question, that you do not say, we are not going to interview. You are going to say, “I am going talk to our recruiter and get right back to you. I will get the answers to those three specific questions, and based on the answers to those questions, you will then make the decision.” 

Here is what I am essentially doing, I am making his commitment make his job harder, so eventually he goes, “Never mind,  I am just going to have Mike talk to Mary Smith, the _(blank)_ officer.”  

I want to negotiate that commitment upfront and so I am happy to do that. You can impress upon the human resources person that these candidates are hard to find. You can tell them how many people you have to talk to to get one interested and what their scenario is. I would do a great presentation because HR loves stats. And say, the only way I can do this is the hiring manager cannot reject a candidate until I am allowed to defend them.  

You can explain that you are happy to have everything go through them, but need them to share the hiring manager’s concerns, for example Mary Smith did not seem to have enough of x, y, and z. Many times the hiring manager’s concern will be something that was not discussed between you and HR, therefore it is not on the resume. Gaining commitment that HR will come back to you with concerns allows you to share where they candidates possesses the skills, knowledge, or experience with x, y, and z.  

Once you answer their questions, you will want to again commitment that the HR person will come back ot you with additional feedback from the hiring manager. Eventually, when the go through that process and they begin interviewing people, they find that everything you said is true, then you can say, “We have done this on a couple openings. I have not been wrong yet. There was one guy, his background was marginal. Let me make your life easier. Introduce me to Mary, and I can get some of the nuances. As part of that process, I would at least want to have a conversation with the hiring manager to take the search because I need to hear in their emotion and their words the assignment.”

The most important factor when looking to make this transition is it needs to be crystal clear why it is in the chief human resource officer’s benefit that you talk to the hiring manager, at least to do the initial assessment.  

A great question. Hopefully those gave you a couple of ideas.  

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