QUESTION: Sometimes when making marketing presentations, the VP of HR will refer me to a junior HR professional. Typically the junior HR professional, with no budget authority, is their main recruiting point of contact and has firsthand knowledge of what is actually happening in their recruiting function. Is it okay to work at this level or should I only work with a VP of HR? Also, if I should only work with a VP of HR level, how do I stay at that level when they refer to me? – Mike, Chicago
ANSWER: One, I would not be contacting HR, period. I would challenge you to make your initial call to whoever the hiring manager would be for the type of position you are marketing. Then, depending on the size of the company, you get referred to the VP of HR. HR is inundated with calls from recruiters, which keeps you in the vendor commodity zone.
When you develop $100,000 or $200,000 a year clients, HR is an integral part of that process, but it is part of a team with the hiring managers that do the hiring. So this is not the exact question that you asked, but I would challenge you to go back, if you are calling HR and you place engineers, I would start calling some Directors of Engineering. If you are placing salespeople, I would be working with a Director of Sales. If what you are doing is working and maybe you are calling HR because you place HR professionals, which then you should call the VP of HR, and you get referred to a junior level HR person you should clear the terms and fees with the person that has the budgeting authority which is the VP.
I just think it is a life of purgatory, if not borderline hell, to manage all your placements through HR because now you are positioning yourself as a “body shop”. Again, if that is what you want to do, no judgment. I am just saying the fruit is juicier and tastier when you are working directly with hiring managers. Additionally, I would also be targeting companies that are probably less than $500 million in revenue because there is a lot less of that bureaucracy to deal with.
In reference to the second part of your question…Should I only work with a VP of HR and how do I stay at that level when they refer to me?
Again, it is hard because if it is not an HR position the VP of HR’s job if they have junior level recruiters is not to process your resumes, so it is hard to stay at the VP of HR level because they have so many things going on.
We have actually had some successful clients where we worked with internal recruiters, a lot of times though in conjunction with hiring managers. The term I use is setting up a “strategic triangle” so that we are all involved in the conversations, email dialog, etc. We have had relationships where we billed multiple six figures with clients interfacing with internal recruiters. I do not have a lot of them to point to, but it can work. It is that it cannot be your sole point of contact.