Ask the Headhunter: 6 things that HR should stop doing right now

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Don't let the human resources department keep the employee manual and benefits package from you before signing a contract. Photo by BernardaSv/iStock/360 via Getty Images.

Columnist Nick Corcodilos has some simple suggestions for HR: Stop rescinding offers. Stop recruiting people then ignoring them. Stop demanding salary history from job applicants. Photo by BernardaSv/iStock/360 via Getty Images.

Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979 and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community.

In this special Making Sen$e edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.


Several readers have pointed out foibles of HR that we can’t keep ignoring.

Reader #1: Back in the 20th century, employers actually reviewed resumes by reading them rather than scanning them into a computerized ranking system. The keyword game has turned hiring into a pass-the-buck game, with HR complaining it can’t find talent! Well, HR isn’t looking for talent. HR isn’t looking for anything. Phony algorithms are keeping the talent unemployed while HR gets paid to do something else! The question is: what is HR doing?

Phony algorithms are keeping the talent unemployed while HR gets paid to do something else! The question is: what is HR doing?

Reader #2: Two weeks after I got a written offer from this company, after I quit my old job and moved, HR sends me an email saying there’s no job. That’s right: They hired me and fired me before I started! What am I supposed to do now? I can’t go back to my old job — I quit for this one. The HR person who gave me the offer still has her job. She should be fired.

Reader #3: I was selected for a new, better job paying more money after rounds of interviews. I was all set to start when my HR department called me in to say the job was withdrawn due to budget problems. This was for a promotion at my own company! How did they have the budget a month ago when they posted the job and gave it to me, but not now? What can I do?

READ MORE: Ask the Headhunter: Are disappearing job offers a new trend?

Reader #4: My friend attended a business roundtable where multiple employers complained they couldn’t find people. She stood up and said she was a member of several large job search networking groups, with an aggregate membership of thousands in the Boston area. She offered to put them in touch, help them post positions, and contacted them multiple times afterwards to help facilitate this. Nobody has taken her up on it. Talent shortage my…!

Nick Corcodilos: This edition of Ask The Headhunter is dedicated to good human resources managers who work hard to ensure their companies behave with integrity and in a businesslike manner toward job applicants — and who actually recruit.

This is also a challenge to the rest. Do the readers’ complaints above mystify or offend you?  You cannot pretend to manage “human resources” while allowing your companies — and your profession — to run amuck in the recruiting and hiring process.

The problems described above are on you, on HR. It’s your job to fix them. Either raise your HR departments’ standards of behavior or quit your job and eliminate the HR role altogether at your company.

Here are some simple suggestions about very obvious problems in HR:

Budget problems may impact hiring and internal promotions, but it’s HR’s job to make sure all the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed before HR makes offers that impact people’s lives.

Stop rescinding offers. Budget problems may impact hiring and internal promotions, but it’s HR’s job to make sure all the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed before HR makes offers that impact people’s lives. Don’t make job offers if you don’t have the authority to follow through. If your company doesn’t give you that authority, then quit your job because you look like an idiot for having a job you’re not allowed to do. What happens to every job applicant is on you. (See “What if my offer was rescinded after I quit my old job?”)

Stop recruiting people and then ignoring them. In other words, stop soliciting people you have no intention of interviewing or hiring. More is not better. If it’s impossible to handle all job applicants personally and respectfully, then you’re recruiting the wrong people and too many of them. Either treat every applicant with the respect you expect them to show you and your company or stop recruiting until you have put a system in place that’s accurate and respectful. Having control over people’s careers isn’t a license to waste anyone’s time. Your company’s rudeness in hiring starts with you. (See “How HR optimizes rejection of millions of job applicants.”)

Stop recruiting with a bucket. The job of recruiting is about identifying and enticing the right candidates for jobs at your company. It’s not about soliciting everyone who has an email address and then complaining your applicants are unqualified or unskilled. You can’t fish with a bucket.

READ MORE: Ask the Headhunter: Why you can’t win the keyword resume game

You say you use the same services everyone else uses to recruit? Where’s the edge in that? Paying Indeed or LinkedIn or Monster.com so you can search for needles in their haystacks is not recruiting. It’s stupid. Soliciting too many people who are not good candidates means you’re not doing your job. If you don’t know how to recruit intelligently, get another job. (See “Reductionist Recruiting: A short history of why you can’t get hired.”)

Stop demanding salary history from job applicants. It’s none of your business. It’s private information. Do you tell job applicants how much you make, or how much the manager that wants to hire them makes, or how much the last person in the job was paid? If you need to know what another employer paid someone in order to judge what your company should pay them, then you’re worthless in the hiring process. You don’t know how to judge value. HR is all about judging the value of workers. You don’t belong in HR. (See “Should I disclose my salary history?”)

After you waste too many applicants’ time, your reputation — and your company’s — is sealed. With a rep like that, good luck trying to get hired yourself.

Stop avoiding hiring decisions. In a market as competitive as today’s, if it takes you weeks to make a hiring decision after interviewing candidates then either you’re not managing human resources properly or you’re not managing the hiring managers in your company. Qualified job applicants deserve answers. Taking too long to make a choice means you have no skin in the game, and that makes you a dangerous business person. After you waste too many applicants’ time, your reputation — and your company’s — is sealed. With a rep like that, good luck trying to get hired yourself.

READ MORE: Ask the Headhunter: Employers, respect job applicants. Your company’s reputation depends on it

Stop complaining there’s a talent or skills shortage. There’s not. With 19.5 million people unemployed, under-employed, and looking for work (even if they’re no longer counted as part of the workforce), there’s plenty of talent out there to fill the 5.6 million vacant jobs in America. (See “News Flash! HR causes talent shortage!”)

“Human Resources Management” doesn’t mean waiting for perfect hires to come along. Ask your HR ancestors: They used to do training and development to improve the skills and talent of their hires — as a way of creating competitive value for their companies. If your idea of recruiting is to sit on your duff and wait for Mr. or Ms. Perfect to come along, then quit your job. If your idea of recruiting is to pay a headhunter $20,000 to fill an $80,000 job, then you are the talent shortage. Your company should fire you.

The good HR professionals know who they are. The rest behave like they don’t care. Ask The Headhunter readers are giving you a wake-up call. Do your job, or get out.

My challenge to HR professionals: If you aren’t managing the standard of conduct toward job applicants at your company, if you aren’t really recruiting, if you’re not creating a competitive edge for your company by developing and training your hires, then you should quit your own job. If you aren’t promoting high business standards within the HR profession, then there’s no reason for HR to exist. Your company can run amuck without you.


Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps,” “How Can I Change Careers?” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”

Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

Copyright © 2016 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark.

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