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Henry Lee

Morgan McKinley Recruitment

Recruitment Manager - London - Human Resources

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Recruitment: how to hire HR professionals and why it’s not as simple as you think


Most people think HR recruitment is one of the easiest areas to recruit for. HR people are ‘lovely’, there are lots of candidates out there, and you can pretty much guarantee that every company has an HR team.

All of the above is true, but when you start to dig a little deeper into the HR market there are a range of challenges that mean HR recruitment can be particularly tricky, whether you are recruiting directly or partnering with a recruitment agency.

Let’s start by highlighting the range of specialist skills and areas that HR can cover (see below).

If you then consider that each of the areas above have four to six levels, there can be up to 48 roles you could be recruiting for.

In addition there are multiple industries, and this number is multiplied every time you look at a different industry. After all, HR in different industries can require different skills.

This means that you very quickly end up with a huge number of candidates with differing skill sets, backgrounds and preferences who could be your next perfect hire.

The issue of relevant sector experience

Before you all start commenting on this article that HR is a universally transferable skill (which I also believe), when it comes to the crunch, most organisations look for relevant sector experience.

The number of clients that I have recruited for over the last eight years who end up hiring an individual with a background outside of their sector is minimal.

I think this is an important factor when it comes to recruiting an HR individual, and is more apparent when recruiting for senior HR positions.

The first point is to understand the language the hiring company uses, and if you haven’t worked in that sector, it’s hard.

HR professionals are required to be technically astute, demonstrating specialist skills and experience, whilst also meeting and matching a client’s culture and environment too. This needs a human touch to get it right.

As part of a senior HR interview you are likely to meet senior stakeholders from across the business.

At this stage, it is unlikely you are being quizzed on your HR skill set, but rather your ability to build rapport with these senior individuals.

The best way to do this is to communicate in a language they understand, possibly name-dropping businesses or individuals, as well as market intelligence to show your knowledge, network and understanding.

This will demonstrate to them your ability to influence HR projects, should you be successful.

Of course these senior stakeholders, without knowing the workings of an HR function, find this relatability comforting and are likely to give that candidate their endorsement.

I have experienced this first hand. When you have two candidates with similar skills sets interviewing at this level, essentially it’s human nature to align yourself to what you know. This is further impacted by the ‘likeability’ factor.

In the majority of businesses, HR will lead on a number of complex projects (engagement/change/redundancies) and the ability to deliver these sometimes sensitive messages is demonstrated not only in the candidate’s experience, but their personality and character too.

This can then filter down into hiring practices when recruiting for lower level positions too, such as an HRBP that will be partnering with a certain business unit.

Understandably, an HR director would want their HR team to be able to relate to the staff they are supporting.

Tips for recruiting HR professionals

If you’re recruiting for HR roles, the following advice should help you on your way.

1. Cast the net widely

Many businesses will choose to partner with a recruitment agency for this exact reason. HR recruitment consultants develop and maintain huge candidate networks across their entire target market.

This is because you need the widest network possible to be able to identify the right candidate, especially when considering the wide range of possible roles.

2. Take a multi-pronged approach

You can use a range of search methodologies to create extensive networks in order to best meet the needs of the business. This includes filtering for a blend of skill sets within a specific sector, and aligning personalities to a hiring manager and wider senior leadership teams.

With this in mind, we use jobs boards, targeted marketing, social media (particularly LinkedIn) and our own professional network, as well as candidate and client profiling.

3. Personalise it

The changes to the recruitment industry over the last decade have been huge and technology has created many opportunities for us to automate and streamline the process (e.g. online job boards, social media, artificial intelligence).

There’s also an increased pressure in today’s volatile business environment to reduce costs – for example by using direct hire teams, reducing usage/fees and enforcing stricter PSL agreements.

Despite all of this, the complex nature of HR recruitment means the personal touch will always be required.

HR professionals are required to be technically astute, demonstrating specialist skills and experience, whilst also meeting and matching a client’s culture and environment too. This needs a human touch to get it right.

Hiring your next HR professional may not be as simple as you first thought but, with a little forward planning and careful consideration, it is possible to find the perfect fit.

Interested in this topic? Read ‘Hire’ ambitions: recruitment in the modern world.

Author Profile Picture
Henry Lee

Recruitment Manager - London - Human Resources

Read more from Henry Lee

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