In the October 2, 2012 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a job hunter asks how to avoid HR and take a different route to “get in the door” at a target company:

I have tried a couple of times with different companies to avoid the human resources (HR) department, without success. The first company I called, I asked for the investor relation (IR) department, because I wanted to ask about some statements that were in the annual report. I had to leave a message. I didn’t receive a call back, so I then left a message for the public relations (PR) department. (No one answers their phones!)

A few weeks later, someone from IR called back. I asked my question, and they responded by asking me why I was asking. I told them I was looking for a job, and when I said that, I was told to go to the HR department, even though the question was a technical question about their products. No one from PR ever called back.

I realized that I had not exactly followed your directions, since you suggest asking for the Sales department. Today I tried calling another company in the same industry as the first. When I requested the Sales department, I was asked why. I mentioned that I wanted information about a couple products of theirs. They asked who I was, and I said I was a job seeker who wanted as much information as possible before the interview. Without another word, I was switched to the HR department, and listened to a recording telling me I should go to the website to apply.

How do I avoid the HR department? I would rather not be dishonest when asked why I am calling. Any help you could give would be appreciated.

My Advice

More than once, I’ve suggested that one way to “get in the door” at a target company is through the sales department. Let’s look at this approach again.

I frequently go to IR or PR to get info about companies. I’ve never been ignored. Investor Relations in particular always responds quickly. I guess I wonder what’s up at the company where you’re not getting calls back.

These alternate doors into a company that we’ve discussed before require some finesse. If you immediately disclose that you’re looking for a job, you’ll be dumped into HR, as you’ve learned.

Let’s discuss this method in a bit more detail. When you call the company’s main number, ask for the Sales department like this:

How to Say It
“I’d like to speak to someone who handles Colorado region sales please. I’m calling about your widget product line.”

If you specify your region and mention the product, they’re more likely to put you through to the right sales rep. If they “beat you up” with questions, just press right back:

How to Say It
“My name is John Smith and I’d like to talk with someone in Sales about your widget products.”

If they press you about where you work, tell the truth:

How to Say It
“Look, if I were a customer, I’d ask for the sales rep assigned to me. I’m not presently a customer and I’m not ready to disclose my company. Can you please put me through to Sales? Or just give me the CEO’s office.”

When you get a sales rep, inquire about the product and request up-to-date product details. This is key. It’s information you’d need to prepare for an interview. Once that’s done, ask for advice and insight about the company as a place to work, as we’ve discussed many times before. (How Can I Change Careers? includes the section, “A Good Network Is a Circle of Friends,” and covers this at length.)

But don’t shoot yourself in the foot. Until you’re talking one-on-one with the sales rep, do not disclose that you’re job hunting. Anyone else who answers the phone is going to do a mental calculation and try to route you to the “appropriate” department — not to the person you really want to talk with.

Of course, IR and PR are equally useful departments to talk with. Request appropriate information and web links from either office, then pause and ask for advice and insight about the company as a place to work. You may find yourself talking with an employee who is impressed at your approach, and who refers you to a manager in the department where you want to work. Of course, none of this is easy or quick. If it were, everyone would be doing it. You must prepare something to say in advance, to engage the person you talk to. Focus on their work, and on what they do before you start talking about yourself.

Someone’s going to read this and suggest that calling other departments in a company to research a job opportunity is a ruse — and that of course the IR or PR department is going to be upset that you are calling them rather than HR. All I can do is shake my head. Dedicated job hunting requires research and information gathering. All HR requires is your resume. Which approach do you think gives you an edge?

So in this case, the receptionist routed you to HR, which played you a recording that instructed you to apply on the website. That’s the corporate image IR and PR want to cultivate?

Is it any wonder I tell you to talk with anyone and everyone in the company — except HR?

There are other paths to the job you want. See Fearless Job Hunting, Book 3: Get in The Door (way ahead of your competition).

How do you get in the door? Whom do you talk and what do you talk about? Is HR even necessary at this critical point in your job search?

: :

  1. I think more seekers are taking your advise. I tried your approach several times to calling IR-PR and yes, got shunted around. In 2 different(organization) occasions I was asked if I read this in the I think this is starting to get popular (and worn out) It may work for those who have the silver tongue gift of gab in sales and marketing (and placement), but for technical it wasn’t what it used to be. It is becoming another jobhunt tool with the luck of the draw results.

    • I haven’t had to do this in 22 years, being on the receiving end of a phone call from someone you don’t know, you can’t provide many details about the company. As an employee you are told to pass these calls to investor relations. For all you know this is a newspaper or Wall Street calling to get infor.
      As an employee you sign a document not to discuss business with outsiders.

      That said, as I look for a new opportunity the bottle neck is HR, why? They could have 20 openings, say 40-50 resumes per opening, they try to weed through what they can, I’ve been told a 6-10 seconds scan of each resume. then your resume goes to the hiring manager, this process could be 3-4 weeks since you applied on line. Back to HR, bring you in, interview, etc

      And you may not even have your resume reviewed, so going to all these network meetings over the last month, 95% of the people are seeking to get to the hiring person based on their feedback. If you can’t get a recruiter to get your foot in the door, folks on the hiring side are telling us, send hard copy, address to XXX manager-you resume, cover letter would more than likely get passed to the area manager hiring.

      Ending, I can’t blame HR, just imagine having 100s of openings to deal with, so we have to get creative and get to the hiring person.
      D&B Hoover’s, Linedin, google companies, expand your network, you can even call main office, ask for someone in XYZ dept, even though you don’t have a name, you could eventually find someone to listen or help find that person-why-those people pickup up the phone have either been in your shoes or know someone going through this process – focus on the end goal everyday, when you lose focus, you are putting your own obstacles in the way.goodluck.

  2. I compare a job search with looking for a spouse.

    “Hi. I am Greg, your friend said I should call you. I understand you graduated from college. Me too. I am looking to get married, have three kids and a dog, and a stay-at-home wife…”

    The only thing more creepy than a call like that is if she says “ok!”

    If you talk with someone (call, networking event, informational interview) and you say your motive is one thing (to learn) but you are trying to manipulate it to another thing (weasel a job interview), you will be shut down.

    I see this on a regular basis. Job seekers want to meet and “learn more about me and my company.” As soon as they find out that I am not hiring and I “can not get them a job,” I never hear from them again…even if I bought lunch.

    So go around HR, talk to other departments. But do it to learn. Nothing more. Do it with the understanding that no one from that company is going to hire you. But you are building up your own knowledge. And if you come across a problem you can solve, great! And if not, you still earned.

    For those wanting help with the “silver tongue,” buy the book “Power Questions,” read it, take notes. When you can ask really good questions, people will notice.

  3. @Eddie, Nick,
    It’s still a good tactic per se, particularly with sales. Giving the candidate the benefit of the doubt and that he/she is looking for a good company rather than trolling for a job, they really should be doing this kind of research anyway. That is bout the products, processes, technology, company health,etc.
    They are looking for someone in the company who understands the key elements of everyone’s job…to make that company successful, and to find good people for the company..which amounts to sell sell sell the company. If they do, they should not cop an attitude about someone who appears to REALLY BE in interested in the company.
    I think sales is a good place to go. Particularly Inside Sales if they have an inside sales team. Because you’d be doing what they do, cold call into a company trying to sell something. In this case, yourself. The right person will understand, and respect what you are doing.
    To counter the normal tendency to blow you off to HR consider doing deeper & wider research. This is where the value of networking would come to play. Find your way via your networking to a particular sales person, someone he/she knows that can grease the skids for you to have the conversation you want, which should be a good product(s) overview, then company culture, coaching etc. You can of course do likewise for any department & vocation..but sales should relate best to it, and be more receptive.
    Further, if you’re really truly chasing this company…go to sales bearing gifts, or follow up with same. What is quid pro quo for sales people are leads…leads are their bread and butter. the opportunity to make a sale. So research and network harder and do a bit of their job for them…reach into your network for people you know who will be willing to take a call, from a sales guy from your targeted company…
    And if that sales guy in your targeted company meets you half way, thank him/her with a good lead. You will not get deferred to HR, you will be positively noticed and have a contact inside the company that will work with you, that will likely walk the hallway for you.
    Further, this won’t work for everyone…but consider Inside sales as a door opener. It doesn’t have to be your life’s work..but can be a great entry point into a company from which you can learn, product, process, culture,…and grow the inside network to move to where you’d really like to be. It may cost you initially, but you’ll make it up.
    there are no guarantees. But as a recruiter the vast majority of people I meet, don’t even have questions, take notes, or show much in the way of the kind of research Nick suggests. Job hunting is sales…selling your value-add. sales is about differentiation..Those who research differentiate. You are looking for ways to show the company you’ve done it..or are doing it. Since it’s initially a research project…HR won’t get their nose out of joint because it’s not an end-run around them, it’s preparation for meeting with them. And who can fault being prepared.

  4. I understand that the standards are probably different for salespeople, but as a hiring manager, if you intentionally circumvent the hiring process we have laid out (on our website), then you will not be hired.

    Skirting HR is your way of telling the company “even though you have hundreds of applicants, I feel I’m important enough that you need to be paying your non-HR staff to spend their time talking to me so I can get a job here.”

    Sales people should always be willing to talk to people and share info about products; that’s their job. But if you’re taking their time to improve your personal chances of hire with no chance that they will make a sale, you are literally wasting the company’s time and money. That’s not a positive foot to start your relationship off on.

    I do initial screening for hiring. I do NOT want people doing valuable work getting pestered by job applicants, especially ones that are misrepresenting their purposes. If you do this at places I hire at, then you won’t get hired. End of story. (Well, I suppose if you’re the BEST in the candidate pool, it’s not a deal-breaker. But you’d have to be the BEST.)

    • Skirting HR is a future talented employees way of telling an employer “your’re hiring department has a problem”. Dont be so superior. One day there will be a labor shortage and it will be the other way around and going by the age of your avatar, id say you will definitely experience it. The way a company hires a candidate, including its openness to discuss possibilities, advertises the truth worth of an employer to a candidate.

  5. @ Kim
    I am an HR person and I could not disagree with you more. Today’s job market is way too competitive and a skilled applicant should go through the hiring manager to get their foot in the door.

    Nine times out-of-ten, when a hiring manager brings me a resume and tells me to check this candidate out, their resume is moved to the top of the pile and they get priority first over the 500 other resumes for me to look at. Afterall, referrals are the number one way to hire people.

    I use to have that “follow the hiring process” as set out by the company because I WAS HR! However, the more I read the Headhunter, the more I saw the value of getting referred into the position from someone in the company.

    I am un-employed at this time and the new reality for me is that HR really sucks and if I should get the chance to do HR again, I will have a new perspective and will admire the person who has the guts to circumvent the process to get a job, after-all, that is how I am going to land my next position.

  6. @Kim

    Would you consider it a good use of your people’s time to demonstrate to an outsider why your company is a worthwhile place to consider working? Or, if you are overwhelmed with first class talent begging you for jobs, why do you think this state of affairs will continue indefinitely?

    Would you consider working for a company if you knew nothing about its true internal dynamics, particularly in the department in which you would work? If your answer is no, as it should be, how else would you obtain this information?

  7. This approach might work for a small company, but it wouldn’t work at all for a big one. Our PR and IR departments know nothing about the people I’m looking to hire or the skill sets needed. Even if they wanted to help someone, they’d have no idea of who to call. Going to our website and searching for open jobs is a lot better.
    But not as good as the advice Nick gave before of finding a hiring manager or someone working in the same area as you to call. They will know if there is an opening or not. And I’d find it a lot easier chatting with someone who does the same work as me than with a salesman. It is harder to find the right person to call, but a lot more rewarding.

  8. @Greg: I give this advice so often that I often forget that people are predisposed to think this is all (and only) about getting a job lead. As you point out, that doesn’t work! I also tell people to choose their target companies carefully. The ones that they’re really motivated about. When you make those calls, you must really be interested in the company and its business. Not just looking for a job. (“Why would I want to date some guy whose main interest at this point in a friendship is 3 kids and a dog?”) Relationships are what this is about. Weaseling job interviews isn’t what it’s about. First you must establish some common ground.

  9. @Dee: Thanks for writing my reply to Kim for me. It’s refreshing to get this perspective from someone who has worked in HR.

  10. @Dee: I agree that the best way to get a job is to get referred to one. However, I think that applies to people using their network to get in the door; aka, talking to people you already know. If a hiring manager refers a candidate to me that they know in some way, then sure, top of the list. But if they just forward me a voicemail from some random person who called them, that’s not going to improve your chances.

    Networking is great, and you should definitely do it, but calling up when you’re looking for a job and expecting to get moved up the list because you called the manager directly is not networking, and it’s not giving me, the hiring screener, any information about your candidacy other than that you don’t think the rules apply to you, and that you can’t follow basic instructions.

    @Tim Cunningham: I would consider working for a company that I didn’t know about the internal dynamics of, but that’s what the interview process is for! IF you can follow directions and turn in good materials showing that you’re a potential match for the position, then you can come in, meet people, get a sense of the culture, etc. I DON’T consider it a good use of other employee’s time to be expected to provide all this information to anyone who calls them for it. We can work to demonstrate why we’re a great place to work for the 5 or so people whom we’re interested in hiring. Employees shouldn’t be rude or anything, but they should absolutely just forward any hiring inquiries to me, and not be expected to deal with it themselves.

    • Wow..I dont mean to be rude but really you sound so superior. You are HR. Thats all. And if I can get hired by getting around you, I will. God help you if there is ever a labor shortage…you have a lot to learn

  11. @Kim: So help me out here. Anyone who goes around your hiring system “will not be hired?” What happened to “thinking outside the box” and “innovation?”

    And no, I’m not suggesting you should pay your employees to help anyone get a job there. You should pay them (even extra) to help bring motivated people to work there. That’s what this gig is – attracting talent. Posting jobs and waiting for who comes along is not attracting talent.

    “But if you’re taking their time to improve your personal chances of hire with no chance that they will make a sale, you are literally wasting the company’s time and money.”

    This is EXACTLY what sales people are taught to do. Improve their personal chances of closing a sale! And cultivating relationships is the #1 sales technique that works! Why should job hunters do any less? Why shouldn’t every one of your employees be taught that credible conversations with motivated job hunters are GOOD for your company? Of course, I’m not suggesting indiscriminate wasting of time. Judge who calls you. Hang up on silly opportunists who have nothing useful to say. But the smart, assertive ones? HELP THEM OUT. It helps your company, too.

    “I do NOT want people doing valuable work getting pestered by job applicants, ”


    And what valuable work is HR doing when it sits on its butt in front of a screen all day scanning digitized applicants on some ATS? HR would do far better actively pestering top talent by actively RECRUITING instead, rather than hanging up on people who dare to call in personally.

    Sorry, but you really got me torqued. This is what’s wrong with HR today, and it’s why HR should not be in the recruiting business.

  12. @Kim: What if you met someone who was researching your company (along with your competitors) because they were looking planning their next move (NOT trying get the job you just had posted).

    Is there any value to having a person like that in your network?

  13. @Scott: Going to IR or PR (or any other department) is really a last-ditch measure when you can’t find anyone else in the company to talk to – like someone in the department where you’d like to work. I don’t expect someone in IR will know an engineering manager, for example. But chat them up a bit, in a friendly and respectful way, and odds are good they know someone near engineering who can offer you some advice or insight about technology in the company. It might take half a dozen steps to get you where you want to go. But it still beats being 1 in 10,000 applicants on the ATS.

    Finesse and sincerity are enormous components of success in trying this.

  14. @Kim: (re: your 2nd post) I just don’t get why the “rules” are all one-sided. Why is it that the employer decides what information is shared, and who gets to talk with whom? Last time I looked, the savvy job hunter was judging the employer for IT’S behavior, too. And telling busy professionals to “follow the rules” when they’re trying to talk with a manager isn’t going to impress anyone in the professional community to want to work at your company.

    Look, I’m not suggesting opening the flood gates to all comers. But that’s what you do the minute you post a job — and it’s why you can’t process them all in a thoughtful manner. It’s why you don’t even have the time to send out a personal thank-you — you’ve trained applicants to believe that applying for a job is a thoughtless, rote, automated “process.” That’s why corporate America is crying that it can’t find enough talent.

    Business isn’t finding talent because it’s too busy trolling for keywords.

    I do agree with your point that networking isn’t something to do at the last minute, when someone needs a job now. It’s a long-term investment, and unfortunately too many career advisors tell people to “go network now” to get a job tomorrow. That’s as silly as expecting last-minute job postings to deliver great candidates, right?

  15. All of the points made here are valid. Talking to IR or PR may provide you with valuable insight if you can get through the screening and talk with someone. If you are in a service industry like healthcare or consulting and it’s a private company, investor relations doesn’t exist and PR is a different department

    Job seekers are getting more creative and companies are aware. Instead of embracing it companies act as if it’s something to combat. There are talented, educated job seekers but companies are in a holding pattern. When presented with a candidate that meets all the requirements and even the wish list, they stall. Greg mentioned the dating comparison. In that case, it would be like saying you are looking for a spouse when you are a serial dater and can’t make a commitment.

    Do you think Erin Brockovich would make it in today’s job climate? She had a tough time back then without a degree. HR has a laundry list of skills you need before you’ll be acknowledged. Erin employed some of the techniques you’ve mentioned to get her foot in the door. Today the door would have been bolted and her toe stubbed.

  16. @ kim
    Your right about networking and perhaps I did not state my initial answer clearly. In my experience, when a manager brought me a recommendation for someone to put through the process, they provided guidance as to whether or not I should proceed with the process. Another-words, if it were just someone looking for a job, that would be stated in the introduction. However, if it were someone who the “hiring manager” took the time to build some type of relationship with, that would be stated as well.

    The hiring manager was always the driving force behind whether or not I proceeded with the recruitment process as they would let me know if the candidate was worth a second look. It made my life a lot easier.

    I also agree with Nick about sitting behind a desk & looking at an ATS for hours seeking the most viable candidates. It is a huge waste of time! I did that for years as a recruiter and it’s not the best way to find the best candidates. A true recruiter should be out there in the field looking for the best talent and/or working as a business partner with the hiring manager to find the best fit.

    I am in the job hunt as we speak and completing online applications as a way to be considered for a position and it is the most frustrating experience I have ever encountered. I am now on the receiving end of the process and it sucks!

    I had to become un-employed to realize how broken the hiring system has become.

  17. @Kim

    The reason people bypass HR is because they’ve heard or experienced poor behaviour/performance on the part of HR/Recruiters/Heand Hunters/etc.

    They feel that the only way they can get anywhere is to talk to the person actually doing the hiring/person they’ll be working for. I can’t blame people for doing it, because in the experience of many, it leads to quicker, more meaningful results.

  18. Guess I’m picking on Kim… I don’t know Kim, so it’s not my intention. Kim could be one of the best HR recruiters in the biz. I know it’s frustrating on both sides of this fence. But when HR puts up the “it’s the rules” defense, I just don’t get it.

    For those interested in the problem of “automated hiring” and in how online job application forms cause problems for job hunters and employers, check this PBS NewsHour segment that was broadcast just last week. Wharton’s Peter Cappelli and I take on “the process”:

  19. @Kim

    Having been burned by the interview process once before (and it was the best interview process I have seen to date), I know that a group of people putting their best foot forward to impress a potential colleague does not always represent the true state of affairs at the company. If I am going to work for a company, I want to know the real state of affairs.

  20. Dee is already experiencing what people like Kim will likely encounter in the future.

    Get a clue Kim. No employee is indispensible (not even a receptionist or “back office” help) and the unemployment line is likely to get longer in the near future.

    Just wait till a competent and innovative hiring manager (or two) comes along where people like Kim work.

    If these managers bother to track their own metrics (as well as that of the hiring stats of the company at large) they’ll clearly see that the BEST candidates consistently come from networking, partnership based headhunters and inquisitive initiative pursuing job seekers…NOT a paper shuffling HR jocky who really has NO in depth knowledge of what the hiring manager wants or even needs in a candidate.

    The entire “official” and “by the book” job process is a bust.

    I worked for a recruiter who brought quality candidate after candidate to his client yet continued to get snide jealous remarks from the HR department who obviously couldn’t get the job done.

    Jealousy and turf wars that focus on “the rules” (while letting prime talent move on to greener pastures) have no place in the hiring process. That, Kim, is the real “waste” of time and money.

    To HR drones everywhere, when was the last time YOU had to stand in the hiring que and got NO response ??

    “Cattle calls” (sifting through the mass response to ill prepared job postings) are for cattle.

    Don’t be a farm animal…be a sincere and enthusiastic candidate who investigates first, judges second and determines for themselves IF the employers opportunity is fit for THEM or not.

    Get attention, get hired or work for the competition.

    Let your mouth (networking) do the talking before your feet do the walking.

    Why waste your time, during your initial information search, under HR’s thumb ?

  21. There’s another side to networking that many in HR and recruiting seem to overlook: you can’t assume that the person you’re dealing with is just a job candidate.

    There aren’t two separate universes, one for job candidates and one for customers, with no communication between them. Candidates communicate with potential customers, and may even become a potential customer at some point. You can be sure that the treatment they received at your company will have an effect on the outcome.

    In other words, the person you frustrate today may be the person who gives the sale to your competitor tomorrow.

  22. Even with Nick’s advice (on getting your foot in the door) becoming more widely known–and even with more job seekers following Nick’s recommendations–the numbers doing so are still low. Most job seekers still avoid doing what is uncomfortable.

    It takes initiative and self-confidence to circumvent HR and their archaic practices.

    Companies are complaining that they can’t find talent. Yet, when talent seeks them out, too many companies are not smart enough to welcome them. Companies and HR get (or don’t get) what they deserve.

    Innovative companies who welcome those who disrupt the status quo will have more(and better) candidates to choose from.

  23. Job hopper here ! Average 2 years at a place, every position have been a step up from the last one . Never tried networking but did spend good amount of time on writing my resume and come up good in interviews. although I am in a niche field but I think there is no one solution fits all across the industries. Networking is great, if it can be done right. Although, quite frankly, when people call me via linkedin profile etc to discuss any potential jobs, it doesnt suit well with me and my response is to visit company website.

    I have had a great success over the last 8 years following online applications and I think it does work well!

  24. A question I would pose here is why is there a need to circumvent HR processes ? If one is qualified for a job and substantiates it on resume, why would there be need to go about doing any or all of the other ways mentioned here ? My experience is in hard engineering so may be its a different, however, I find it odd to go around HR!

    • To get the results you have achieved it is clear that you must be one of the five in every one hundred applicants whose resume actually works for you rather than against you. Congratulations!

      It is the other 95 job seekers who experience problems with the hiring process in general and many HR procedures in particular.

  25. It is unbeleivable to think one would need to go around HR. They are after all looking out for a companies best interest, right? Not in my experience. For the most part HR ( not all) do not have a clue as to what a position entails…nor do they care. They screen for the “matching magical words”, may not like they way your resume is presented, may not like your name, judge you because they think they’ve heard that name before…all sorts of ridiculous reasons not to pass your resume forward. In my daily contacts with clients I try my best NOT to deal with HR…yet, some companies just insist upon it. It is the “GOLDEN RULE” not to bypass HR. Those companies are the real losers…they truly miss out on some very good candidates who I will then send to other clients in their same business even if not asked to..guess what? They often at least get an interview and sooner or later end up with a position. Why ask for qualified candidates if you are not going to interview them? Such a waste of time and energy for everyone. Next time around ,my best candidates will not be presented there first.

  26. Job hunting today is so bizarre. Companies and agencies say they need good help/top talent, yet when there are vacancies, they scream “there’s a huge talent shortage” because the single magical candidate didn’t present himself or herself to the company via the automated online application process. I just started a part-time job (finally, work, after being unemployed for nearly 2 years!) and I got the job through a personal connection. She talked me up to the dept. head, so I had an interview with the hiring manager/dept. head BEFORE they even posted the job. The job never made it to their website/never got officially posted. Afterwards, I was told I’d have to go to HR to fill out paperwork (I’m working for the state, so paperwork is part of life), and part of that paperwork was an application. Even if I had applied online, I still would have been required to fill out yet another application. Ditto if I had submitted a résumé, or a “sales letter” (what I’ve started to use in lieu of a résumé). The HR person I spoke with was very knowledgeable about payroll and benefits, and which forms had to be filled out, but she made a comment acknowledging that most people who apply for jobs posted on their employment website or who come in to fill out an application are never hired. And she said that HR never second-guesses the hiring manager’s decision. She didn’t so much as bat an eye at the sequence–I was hired before the job was posted, and my filling out the application at that point was just to comply with HR’s rules, not the Commonwealth’s, not the hiring manager’s, and they wouldn’t even look at it.

    My last job was the same–I knew the hiring manager, and although I had a formal interview, I was offered the job and hired, then HR was informed, rather than waiting for HR to screen applicants and send who HR thinks is best (when HR doesn’t know beans about the job, the dept., etc.) to select a candidate.

    I’m not surprised that more people are going around HR, nor am I surprised that HR is reacting this way. If management and hiring managers realize that hiring can be done better without HR (save for the whole payroll and benefits thing), then that makes that portion of HR’s function obsolete, doesn’t it? And if that’s the case, then there’s no need to spend money on software that scans for keywords, or for HR to be involved in the process at all except for payroll and benefits. And if that’s the case, then HR has good reason to fear that the next time the budgetary guillotine falls, it will be on them. I’m sure that somewhere there are conscientious HR staff, but in these 2 years that I’ve been unemployed, I haven’t found any. They’ve been more obstructionist than anything else. Don Harkness noted in a post a while back, there’s plenty of blame to go around too. HR does this because management is complicit or lazy or both.

    Since my new job is only part-time and non-benefitted, I’m continuing to look for work, but I’m following Nick’s advice. I’ve been networking all along, and I’m trying to do a more thorough job researching companies and agencies. The challenge, as others noted, is finding someone who is willing to talk to me. I never go into it with “is there a job” unless I know there’s a job vacancy. Job hunting should be like a courtship–if I don’t date the right guy, ask the right questions, date him long enough to get to know him, marrying him too soon will only result in misery and divorce.

    @Nick: I saw the PBS program. Nice job! You’ve long convinced me. Now the challenge comes in convincing employers not to penalize those of us who do go around HR and to stop using software to screen out applicants. How about having human beings actually read letters, résumés, applications? And it would be nice if they didn’t have such ridiculous requirements and were willing to train the right person.

  27. @safebet

    The problem with HR/Recruiters/Head Hunters I have met have NO formal training and/or experience in what they are recruiting for.

  28. As a couple posters have noted, the system works for them. For those who can thrive in the system as it is (workers getting jobs, companies getting talent), great! Probably not much here of use for you.

    A theme I see in the posts is “recruiting” as many companys do it is not really recruiting (“to engage in finding and attracting employees”).

    The best test of your recruiting program is how many people you\your program, who are not actively seeking a change, have you been able to bring in to your work place.

    If you are able to do that, you will not have a talent shortage.

  29. @marybeth: You’ve been part of this community a long time, and I know you’ve been unemployed a long time. Congratulations! I’m very happy to learn you’re in a job that you chose, even if you’re still looking for a full-time gig. Thanks for sharing your story, and the HR rep’s comments. It’s especially interesting because we’re talking about a state job, where one would think “the process” is more rigorously followed. It seems to be indeed — but not in fact! Good for you! I wish you the best.

  30. Hey, Dave: That’s because “recruiting” is a separate function, unrelated to any other function in a company. It stands alone. It’s measured… by number of applicants processed. What applicants? ANY applicants. What is there to know about any other job??

  31. @Greg: You don’t see this debate in many corners of the HR world, or even in the business world. Why do they call what they do “recruiting” when what it really is, is “waiting to see who comes along?” The biggest misnomer (and ad industry racket) is “recruitment advertising.” Running an ad is not recruiting. Not any more than farming is form of hunting. Oh, you might turn up a dead groundhog now and then…

  32. @H Chaudhry

    You say, “A question I would pose here is why is there a need to circumvent HR processes ? If one is qualified for a job and substantiates it on resume, why would there be need to go about doing any or all of the other ways mentioned here ? My experience is in hard engineering so may be its a different, however, I find it odd to go around HR!”

    Two things come to mind:

    1. You want to change careers or do something different in your field. HR may or may not know where your transferrable skills are. I.e. if you want to move from Java Programming into .Net programming. The actual people doing the work at your company may have a better clue if you can pick up .Net since they can have a technical discussion.

    2. If the company is simply scanning for keywords and requires them all to be present, or if you don’t write in the correct desired salary, you’re automatically rejected without a human looking at the rejects. Actually talking with a human at the company gets around this.

  33. @Nick: thank you for your many words of wisdom over the past 2 years and for your support! I’ve learned ALOT from you, and from the others who post on this board. I wish I’d known much of it sooner, and not just because of my job loss, but because I would have approached job hunting much differently, even in a different, stronger economy. I intend to continue to check in, because even though I’m employed, I’m underemployed, and I find your weekly Q&A and the comments useful. And even my new job were full time, I’ve learned that there are no guarantees, that no matter how long you’ve been in a job, it can be eliminated in a spate of budget cuts, or companies can go under, get bought out, jobs get out-sourced to India, China, etc.

    I know that I have to play the game (but how I hate playing these kinds of games), and I’m hoping that being employed, even if only part time, will help make me a more attractive candidate for a full time job. It’s a step in the right direction.

    I was a little surprised by the HR employee’s honesty, not by the content. Her comments mirrored what I’ve been reading on your blog these past couple of years. I was surprised because I didn’t expect such honesty from HR. The state/government is no different than the private sector when it comes to filling jobs. Real human beings are dept. heads and hiring managers, who still need to hire people. In gov’t, you can only “do more with less” up to a certain point, and trying keep cutting back on staff while increasing job duties only means burned-out employees and bigger mistakes. Sure, there’s a process, but hiring managers are human too, and are just as likely to hire someone they know, or someone who has been recommended to them, than to wait for the software to select candidates.

    Keep up the excellent newsletter and advice!

  34. @Greg: To answer your much earlier question, yes, scouting out companies and trying to get an idea of who you’d actually like to work for in the future is totally OK, and a good idea. But I would still recommend going through a gatekeeper (like HR or an admin assistant or receptionist). Request a meeting or whatever with someone whose department you’re interested, let the company deal with it through the channels they’ve created to deal with such requests.

    @Nick: First, I’m glad this has you torqued. That means we’re having a good discussion. I love reading your blog because it seems our perspectives are a lot different; my experience is a lot in non-profits, and the rest in retail, so having a true corporate, higher-level hiring and recruiting perspective is so useful! :)

    Second, I think we actually agree on a lot of things, and while I understand why you have the ideas you do about HR (because a lot of HR departments suck and do the things you mention), I am a bit miffed at your characterizations. I send a response of some kind to every applicant that sends me their info. And most of the time, it’s a solid reply; either you’re not getting hired, you might get hired, or we’re not hiring now but you can sign up for our jobs listserve.

    I also strongly agree that the ATS’s are probably ruining hiring. And I’ve never even used one. But it’s a computer program. If you don’t like the way it’s filtering candidates, you can change it to filter them more effectively. The ATS isn’t the problem, and really I think being able to pre-screen people that are *actually* unqualified is a good thing (companies just need to be a lot more reasonable than they are about what they’re willing to train).

    Employers need to do things a lot better before they can expect candidates to follow the rules. If their systems are screening out good people, then it *can* be effective to circumvent those systems. But I don’t believe for a second that refusing to fill out a required box on a form, or refusing to follow clearly spelled-out processes to getting hired is a display of “creativity” or “thinking outside the box.” Those things can easily be demonstrated in a cover letter or resume. And if the employers uses a shitty ATS that doesn’t realize it, that sucks. But you don’t know that from the outside. There are TONS of people rejected for any given job despite being very qualified, and that’s just life in a bad job market.

    The only time I think you should deliberately circumvent HR when applying for a job is if something went legitimately wrong on the form and you’re not sure if you’re materials submitted properly, or you couldn’t submit them at all.

  35. The vocabulary that people use gives insight to their thinking, and this quote should help us understand the difference in thinking between Kim and Nick:

    “The only time I think you should deliberately circumvent HR **when applying for a job** is if something went legitimately wrong on the form and you’re not sure if you’re materials submitted properly, or you couldn’t submit them at all.”
    (emphasis added)

    Kim uses the words, “when applying for a job,” and, as marybeth pointed out above, when she was actually *applying* for the job, she did use HR (as did I for the job I just started this past spring). However, as Nick reminded us again, the purpose of networking in various company departments is not to *apply* for a job, but to find out if that company is worthy of your application in the first place.

    And this is information HR rarely, if ever, provides.

    The best recruiting (using the word as Nick would) company I have experienced so far is Orion International, which recruits (again, using it Nicks’ way) Veterans for hard technology positions at Intel, and in the aerospace industry. The recruiter spent about six hours on the phone with me over about three days. He sent me a job description, a company description and a description of the department and the kinds of people I would be working with. He also sent me a list of behaviors that would make it more likely for me to be successful in the interview, including suggestions for how to dress conservatively, and a list of important interview questions for which I should develop clear, concise and coherent answers and suggested outlines for those answers. The last step before being presented to the company, was a meeting where someone from the company itself presented the company and the position again and recruiters from Orion conducted interview practice.

    I did not chose the job that Orion had offered me, but I used all of their materials on my own to turn myself into the recruiter for the position I have now.

    Because I had been reading Nick’s material for a couple of years already, I was able to recognize the quality of the work that Orion International does for their candidates. It’s important to note the Orion International devotes this much effort to recruiting even in a market that is flooded with job candidates because Orion has a reputation to maintain of placing high-quality candidates into positions for the long term. They need their employer-clients to know they can deliver the candidates, but they also need their candidate-clients to know that Orion is worthy of applying to in the first place.

    How many of you have ever encountered a recruiting process such as I described for Orion International? How many HR “recruiters” would ever even think of spending that much time and effort on finding candidates?

    Because the behavior of Orion International is so rare, we job seekers have to create that kind of recruiting environment for ourselves. That is why we *must* go around HR.

    And, as Gandhi taught us, if the rules suck, there is no dishonor in breaking them.

  36. @Kimberlee
    Thank you for staying with the post. You\HR have been beat. I respect your staying with the discussion.

    As Micheal pointed out, the core is networking. Not networking to manipulate a contact to allow you to cut in front of the line.

    A friend of mine put it this way: “I hate it when people want to meet me because they just lost their job an need another one. They want me to help them build a trust network in six weeks that took me ten years to build.”

    My question to anyone who is trying to get in a company through a back door and meet someone: “When did you decide you wanted to work for the company? Before or after you knew about the job posting?”

    There are many ways to meet people who are associated with a company. Chamber of Commerce is a great place to start. Service organizations (Rotary, as well as others). Civic groups. Boards of professional and philanthropic organizations.

    BEFORE looking for a back door, try these.

    As Kimberlee pointed out, admin assistants and gatekeepers are great resources. Help desks too. They are the most connected people in the company. They know the truth about the people in the company (good and bad). And their BS detectors are the best. If you try to manipulate them, they will shut you out in an instant…probably give you an 800 number to HR.

    Keep in mind this is not to discourage innovative people from learning more about the company. It is to weed out the lazy and the manipulative

  37. Jane Atkinson has a good point about “the applicant” not always looking for a job.

    Once in my role as an auditor I was part of a QA audit of HR and pretended to be an applicant. Auditors usually DO the interviewing so it was interesting seeing how good an interviewer the people in HR were :-)

    Another time as part of a “due diligence” audit of a company we were taking over I played other roles to judge the quality of the staff and hence by implication the effectiveness of their hiring process to obtain good talent. A failing grade in this situation would not only result in staff terminations but most definitely in a purge of HR since they had demonstrated they couldn’t garner good talent.

    So be careful about the assumptions you make. That guy “investigating what its like to work at the company” may not be an applicant, he may be from an investor.

  38. @Michael: Now that’s recruiting. What does it look suspiciously like? Relationship selling. Which takes a lot of time, focus, and effort. It also requires carefully choosing targets, so as not to squander resources or waste time. Orion’s managers and recruiters are selling a working relationship. What personnel jockey in another company does THAT?

    You point out one key thing that I don’t want anyone to miss. Virtually all companies today claim they are forced to use impersonal, automated applicant tracking systems because of the flood of applicants. That’s a straw-man argument for a lazy, inept business practice. As you point out, Orion LIMITS the incoming applicants by CHOOSING them FIRST. Filter first, avoid drek. Most companies solicit any and all applicants, then claim the software does the filtering. A human should choose whom to go after INSTEAD of soliciting anyone. That’s recruiting.

    The “investment” that companies claim they make in “human resources” must start with recruiting. Slapping job postings on Monster or pulling names off of LinkedIn is not recruiting. It’s irresponsible and very costly — in money and reputation.

    Thanks again for posting.

  39. @Kimberlee: I admire your efforts to contact all applicants, and your personalized approach. I have quite a few HR buddies who work like you do – I wish there were more.

    I understand your wish that everyone should come in through the HR office. But my advice stands: If a job hunter really wants an edge over the competition, his or her ability to think out of the box is demonstrated when they make personal contact through a manager, employee, or someone connected to the company. Filling out forms and such is fine – for later. I don’t think a serious candidate should fill out anything until after a substantive talk with a hiring manager.

    (I know, I know – federal rules require documentation. That’s HR’s problem. Sorry. There have to be better ways to do this than to waste a busy professional’s time before the company puts some time into the process, too. That’s why herding tons of applicants through the process is not a good thing for HR to do. Less is better.)

  40. An added thought: If an employer is really recruiting, then the people it’s targeting are probably not looking. Expecting them to fill out forms before talking turkey simply makes no sense. You don’t invite someone on a date and ask them to fill out a form first. First you seduce them a bit with your charm and character. This takes time. And time is something that HR as a whole seems to have forgotten is the huge investment that must be made to do this properly.

  41. @Nick

    “An added thought: If an employer is really recruiting, then the people it’s targeting are probably not looking.”

    I couldn’t agree with this more.

    On the flip side, if someone is seriously taking your advice and looking for a better job/company, they are probably bypassing the job boards and tools like LinkedIn.

    The company recruiting has to make a really good pitch to canidates. None of the so called recruiters/head hunters who contact me really sell me on why I should move.

  42. Weighing in from the hiring manager side here. I’m all for people from the outside building relationships with managers on the inside. That’s great. I want that. It’s in my interests as well as theirs. But you do not do it by deceiving your way in the door — misrepresenting or hiding why you’re calling. That says something about how a person operates, and it goes to integrity, and it’s a huge, huge strike against anyone who does it. Prohibitive, really.

    To build relationships with hiring managers, you become active in your field, reach out directly, etc. If you don’t feel confident about your ability to do that, well, it’s worth asking why. That’s where you need to focus.

    The other piece of this that I wanted to throw out there: In my experience, the people who use really aggressive tactics like this (and I’m putting evasion about the point of your call in that category) are never the strong candidates. I’ve had a ton of these tactics used on me and with others I work with, and not a single time has the candidate doing it turned out to someone I wanted to interview — not because of the tactics themselves, but because once I got a look at what they had to offer, they weren’t that competitive. The really good candidates don’t operate this way.

  43. @Alison: I’m not sure why you’re characterizing this approach as deception. Does a guy who decides he’s done just dating and interested in getting married need to announce to every woman he asks out that he’s looking for a wife? Perhaps that’s his goal now, but there’s lots of other relationship building to come first. Talking marriage is presumptuous. Not talking about it is hardly deception.

    What I’m suggesting is that the steps leading up to a job interview include meeting people, getting advice and insight, joining their circle of friends, earning attention as a potential co-worker, and introductions to managers.

    A ruse and evasion are not part of it. But nor is the announcement that your goal is to get married… er… a job.

    I’ve seen heavyhanded tactics, too — for example, at “networking meetings,” where there’s no effort at all to get to know anyone. It’s a gangbang. But thinking carefully through an organizational structure and talking to people to educate yourself and to develop contacts shouldn’t be “tactics.” It’s how you make friends. But you have to start by taking steps toward people.

    Sorry if you read my advice as a sneaky way in the door. That’s not how I intend it at all. On the flip side, I frankly find it offensive when someone shows up for an interview saying they want a job. What’s up with that? I’d like to get to know you first, find out whether we click and whether your motivations match mine and my team’s. What efforts have you made to show me you have gotten to know my operation before you come to me?

  44. Nick…I believe all those job seekers using your suggestions are doing the job search the right way. However, those that have not been successful have one thing in common: they gave up too early!
    Your suggestions work but the whole process is a “numbers game” and require massive numbers of potential target companies. If a job seeker thinks he will only work for a specific company or two, that is not going to work. The target list needs to be big, like 50 to 100 firms big. OK, maybe not every firm will be “exactly” what the job seeker wants but it will have some of the things that are desired.
    Getting a job is hard work. But by reading this blog job seekers have already shown they are way above the competition in brains. They can get what they want, they just need to talk to more companies

  45. @mike: Why is it a numbers game? Why does a person need to talk to lots and lots of companies? If we were tossing coins, in a situation where nothing other than “flipping” influences the outcome, maybe I’d agree with you. But in job hunting, innumerable factors can come into play – if you bring them into play.

    Suppose we were competing – who’s going to get a job first? On Monday you send out 10,000 resumes to job ads. I call my uncle who works at a company that’s hiring and that same Monday he takes me to lunch with a manager who’s got a job open. Now it’s Tuesday. How much would you bet that you’re more likely to get a job than I am?

  46. @Nick: Using these tactics to circumvent HR when applying for a job is bad, and I stick by it. However, I would also say that cold calling a department head in the middle of the workday (and possibly being evasive about why you’re doing so) so you can get to know them better is almost as bad.

    Send an email inviting them to lunch or coffee or drinks, so they can respond to you on their own time (if they even want to). Attend conferences and networking events. Meet people at places and events where it’s understood that people are there to make connections. Then, when you’ve got the connection (and hopefully this is several months later) and a job comes up that you’re interested, you apply *through the regular prescribed channels* and then shoot an email to your friend the department head letting them know you applied.

    The part of the advice I’m seeing here that I really object to is that it’s totally fine for random applicants/people to force employees who have nothing to do with the hiring process to deal with your career on the employer’s time. And if you call (or worse, stop by the office), they have to deal with you right then. It’s putting people on the spot, it’s rude, and you’re doing it purely for personal benefit.

    At least an email can be responded to at convenience. If you’re using these tactics and not bending over backwards to be respectful of professionals’ time and work, then you’re likely irritating more people than you’re engaging (and if you’ve jumped to contacting people that you don’t have pre-existing connections with in the process of applying for a job, circumventing our application procedures, you just don’t stand much of a chance of being interviewed by me).

    You are not such a special snowflake of a candidate that you get a special application process. Refusing to fill out a short form or write a cover letter is NOT “thinking outside the box,” or innovative. Cold-calling department managers is NOT “creative.” Following (often bad) hiring advice you read on the internet is not “creative”. It’s demonstrating that you don’t think the rules apply to you, or that you don’t care enough about the details to check all the boxes. I don’t want to work with either type of person.

  47. @Kim: I don’t expect any company manager or employee would waste a minute talking to an opportunist that cold calls them. If the caller (or e-mailer) doesn’t have something useful and compelling to say, I’d hang up or delete the mail. That’s the challenge that Ask The Headhunter is all about — How do you legitimately talk shop with people you’d like to work with?

    Sorry, but I think you’ve got your own bias about this. You seem to assume that anyone who calls a manager “on company time” is wasting their time. What about a recruiter working on behalf of your HR office calling to recruit someone at another company on company time? Is that wrong? Isn’t that “purely for company benefit?”

    I think where the problem lies is in this assumption: You believe that recruiting and hiring are primarily an HR function. So all applicants should be routed through HR. I think every manager should devote at least 20% of their time to recruiting. It’s a HUGE part of every management job. And it’s also a part of EVERY employee’s job — or a company isn’t recruiting effectively. Recruiting “on company time” by talking to people interested in a job is part of the job. It’s not a waste of time. Locking down recruiting in HR by imposing rules about which little tunnels an applicant must navigate leads to… perceived talent shortages.

    Please consider: HR IS BLOWING IT. There is no talent or skills shortage. The problem has been documented by Wharton researcher Peter Cappelli. The problem has been created by employers’ own goofy, counter-productive practices.

    I’m sure your motives are great. But I think there’s a huge problem with the assumptions you’re making. Why is there anything wrong with one professional calling another at work to talk shop? Why does talking about a job have to be relegated to forms and impersonal applications? Look around — it’s corporate America crying “talent shortage.” Its recruiting methods aren’t working well at all. Suggesting that alternatives are improper sounds more like a turf war than interest in solving the problem.

    The parts of your note that I really like pertain to respect and civility. No job hunter should behave presumptuously or rudely. That’s a great reminder. It’s on the applicant to make that contact friendly and respectful and useful to both parties.

    But then again, employers behave disrespectfully all the time, by policy. And I think that in a “talent shortage” forcing the people you desperately need to hire to subject themselves to impersonal online forms is kooky. I recruit by calling people up. It works because I’m good at it. Job hunters can be good at it, too. Know why I don’t have people complaining I don’t respond to their applications? I don’t solicit applications. I go find the people I want. Less is better.

    Look at it this way: Consider the manager who gets a call from someone interested in a job, and the call is good enough that the manager loves the conversation and invites the person in to meet. What would be the substance of such a conversation to make the manager react that way? That’s what I try to teach. It think it’s a far better bet for both employer and applicant than diddling the online job forms and playing by “the rules.”

  48. Kim,

    I don’t think Nick is advocating just calling someone up and pestering them. As he’s detailed here and elsewhere, you’re trying to build a relationship. Thus, one doesn’t call the department head and say, “Hey, I’m looking to work at your company, can I ask you some questions?” One says, “Hi, Nick. My name’s Chris. I saw your name in an article in Awesome Future Technical Stuff magazine about how your company manufactures warp phase induction coils. Do you have a few minutes to talk?” If you’ve done your homework, you’ll talk shop and the manager will respect that, even if he knows from the get go that you’re probably looking for work. A good manager will develop and keep a list of people who know stuff. (If the person is busy, well, ask for a good time and quickly get off the phone.)

    Also, you don’t want to apply through the regular channels and let your contact know. When that happens, you’re now competing against everybody else who saw that job (assuming they didn’t just post it to comply with equal opportunity laws or company policy because they’re already selected the person). Even if you’ve got the recommendation of your contact, you’re now also competing against everyone else who had a contact in the company, regardless of department.

    You want your contact calling you and saying, “Hey, we’re putting in the paperwork now to get approval to bring on a new person. You interested?” Now you’re two steps ahead of the competition.

    Finally, I don’t see it as “purely for personal benefit.” If a company hires a good employee, both benefit. Also, it looks good for the existing employee when a good hire is made. “Hey, where did we find Mike again? Oh, Cindy in engineering brought him to our attention.” Bonus points for Cindy, no?

    I think you may have this perception of a bunch of unqualified people pestering a company. I understand; I used to work in sales, and the one thing I hated most was some independent “consultant” asking me for quotes/pricing/technical information for multi-million dollar pieces of equipment. I could tell in a heartbeat this was going nowhere.

    However, Nick’s technique can work. I had no problems with talking to people who called me and said, “Hey, I have a question about one of those dryers you guys make. Can you answer some questions about how they work?” (I love talking shop.)

    Neither conversation would get me a commission, but you can guess which one I didn’t try to end quickly while making obscene hand gestures the other person couldn’t see.

  49. @Chris and Allison

    I think Chris answers Allison’s question/issue.

    There is a delicate line here between “Give me a job” and actually talking and showing genuine interest.

    Loved the “I saw your name in an article in Awesome Future Technical Stuff magazine about how your company manufactures warp phase induction coils.” line ;-)

  50. Timely blog post by Set Godin:

    Get the listing

    Most successful (and honest) real estate agents will tell you that their business is about the listings, and that sales ability comes second. All other things being equal, the agent with a better home to sell will make a better sale.

    The same thing is true for baseball managers—if you have a better lineup you’re more likely to win the game. And of course that’s true for the sushi restaurant with fresher fish. And the tech company with better programmers, and the college with better professors…

    If this is all so obvious, why do we spend all our time trying to find cheap average inputs and then make them special through our magnificent sales and management skills? Why do we industrialize the hiring process, spend very little time on scouting, and seek out the replicatable instead of the special exception? Our ego demands that we spend all day polishing the average instead of seeking out the exceptional.

    Better to invest the time and money on special people and raw materials instead.

  51. I read the Capelli article re the problem with the so-called “talent shortage”. Capelli applied for a job at his own company via the online/automated application and got rejected. He’s got a very senior position, and what it taught him was that if even he couldn’t get through the automated process implemented by HR to hire talent, then there’s a very big problem.

    The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over yet expecting different results. You’d think that if companies are complaining about a talent shortage, it would occur to them to take a look at the process…especially with unemployment and underemployment still high.

  52. @marybeth, I completely agree. I think people on this thread are far too eager to say “HR people are awful! The ATS concept sucks!” when the issue is really that their settings on their ATS need to be adjusted. There’s not an inherent problem with an ATS, but if it’s filtering out applicants you want to hire, something about the process needs to change. And if you don’t have the resources to have people out in the field recruiting or having all your managers spending 20% of their time on recruiting, having a *good* ATS with reasonable filters is a good option.

  53. @kimberlee: for the most part, the people on this thread (myself included) are not too eager to say HR people are awful and the automated system sucks for the simple truth that the whole system does suck. I don’t know you personally or professionally, and I’m not about to paint everyone in HR with a broad brush, but people here are writing about their own personal experiences, and many of us have family and friends who have also experienced the same thing. A couple/few months ago Don Harkness (another frequent poster here) commented that there is plenty of blame to go around, and that in some companies, the problem could be solved if management would reassert their authority over the hiring process rather than leaving it to HR. People have a negative opinion and impression of HR for a reason, often a good reason. There are some HR folks who do take the time to respond to applicants, but many more never bother. Yes, I appreciate that everyone is busy. I used to run a graduate program at a large university, and I’d receive hundreds and thousands of inquiries, and I’d read and respond to each one, answering their questions, directing them to the website, sending out hardcopy fliers when requested for materials. The admission process was even more meticulous. The last year that I was there, there was some discussion re automating some portion or all of the admission process. I rejected it out-of-hand, despite being the only one in my dept., as did the admissions officer for the day programs, and as did the folks in other depts. who handled admissions for their programs. Sure, it would have been easy to buy a program and plug in the settings–a minimum score required on the GRE, minimum undergraduate GPA and if applicants don’t meet them, then 2.5 seconds later they get automatically rejected without my eyes and the eyes of the GPD or other faculty reviewing the file and documents (including personal statements, letters of recommendation, resumes and CVs). I can tell you that if the kind of system you so love in HR to automatically reject applicants for jobs had been in place for admissions in my old program, more than a good handful of students would never have made it past the computer’s screening. And those students turned out to be excellent students, great additions to the program, and now making good use of their degrees. Using an automated system is the lazy way, and in the long run you are only hurting the company. How do you know that of those applicants your computer system rejected, how many could have learned the jobs for which they applied, if given some training and mentoring? An employee benefits a company too. Computers and HR don’t see that, and that’s what has been lost. It is a shame. I only hope that more companies will realize just how ass-backwards your system is, and will put an end to it. Anything worth while is worth doing, and shunting people who may benefit the company to an automated system to be “processed” tells me a lot about the values of a company.

    I respectfully disagree with you that having a good ATS with “reasonable” filters is a good option. I think it is a terrible option. If companies want good people and good talent (which in turn keeps the company profitable and helps it grow), then it should allocate some of those resources to recruiting and allocate time for its managers to do honest recruiting (not recruiting by posting job vacancies on your portal and then feeding those applications through an automated filtering system).

    Kim, I’m with Nick and the others. I’m glad that you stuck with this discussion, but you haven’t persuaded me, and if anything, your comments have made me realize that HR is not acting in the company’s best interests. HR is acting in HR’s best interests (protecting their own status and jobs). It takes time to find good help (or good students), and that means human eyes should be reading applications (or transcripts and GRE score reports, letters of recommendation, etc.). The computer program will only scratch the surface; only a human being can dig deeper.

  54. Unfortunately, I cannot read every reply in this thread – but I will say this…

    I had to help out a former employee after we had sold our real estate business. He was looking for sales opportunities. He did the usual thing of sending his resume via job boards and online applications, and had very little to show for it after a month or so.

    I told him to give me ONE DAY – and I cold-called companies across the metro area for six or seven hours on his behalf.

    Found 12 companies (who were hiring) that wanted to see his resume and 3 of them wanted to get his phone number and call him right away.

    What did I do?

    My name is Kevin – I’m wondering if you can help me. I’d like to speak to a sales manager or the person that hires for sales.

    (I rarely have issues with them wanting to transfer me to HR – but it does happen.)

    Hi [sales manager] – Kevin Downey here. I’m former owner of LOBC in Leawood, KS, and my former manager is looking for sales position. Really good kid and as loyal as the day is long. I’d like to get his resume in front of you – if you’re hiring.

    (Let them answer or ask questions.)

    Easy stuff – he had a job within a week.


    • Kevin: You just wrote another version of this column, and a more succinct one at that. Your script is how I learned to place job candidates when I learned to headhunt. It’s perfect.

      What most people don’t realize is, all they need is one former employer or boss, or someone they’ve worked with, to make those calls. It’s a fair investment for anyone to make, once they realize they will need a call like that themselves one day. I call it a “pre-emptive reference”:

      People wonder how 60% or so of jobs are found and filled through personal contacts. You just explained it. Thanks. And kudos for what you did for that “kid.” I hope he passes that favor along one day, because this is how all business really works.

    • God BLESS you, Sir! And I mean that from the bottom of my heart, TRULY!

      • *I was referring to this commenter:

        Kevin Downey
        1:54 pm on August 12, 2016

        Unfortunately, I cannot read every reply in this thread – but I will say this…

        I had to help out a former employee after we had sold our real estate business. He was looking for sales opportunities. He did the usual thing of sending his resume via job boards and online applications, and had very little to show for it after a month or so.

        I told him to give me ONE DAY – and I cold-called companies across the metro area for six or seven hours on his behalf.

        Found 12 companies (who were hiring) that wanted to see his resume and 3 of them wanted to get his phone number and call him right away.

        What did I do?

        My name is Kevin – I’m wondering if you can help me. I’d like to speak to a sales manager or the person that hires for sales.

        (I rarely have issues with them wanting to transfer me to HR – but it does happen.)

        Hi [sales manager] – Kevin Downey here. I’m former owner of LOBC in Leawood, KS, and my former manager is looking for sales position. Really good kid and as loyal as the day is long. I’d like to get his resume in front of you – if you’re hiring.

        (Let them answer or ask questions.)

        Easy stuff – he had a job within a week.

        :) “