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In the July 12, 2016 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader refuses to waste time interviewing with HR.
Your column HR Managers: Do your job, or get out reminded me that most of what HR does makes no sense, and it’s not smart to bend to HR’s will when I’m looking for a job.
HR always wants me to do a meeting with them first, before they’ll let me talk to the hiring manager, but that’s a guarantee of doom! HR knows nothing about the work I do, and rejects me before I can even meet with someone who is qualified to judge me and what I can do. I know your advice is to tell HR I won’t talk to the hand, but how do I actually say that without sounding like a jerk?
“How to say it” is a big part of Ask The Headhunter — and I know this is where people often stumble. They know they have to push back sometimes, when an employer makes demands, but they freeze up when it comes to actually expressing themselves.
I get it. I used to wonder what the problem was, but I’ve realized that unless you’re dealing with these situations all the time, it’s hard to come up with the right words. Some readers can do it; others can’t. (If headhunters didn’t know how to do it, we’d starve.)
The specific challenge you’re facing is something I wrote about in detail in Fearless Job Hunting, Book 4, Overcome Human Resources Obstacles, pp. 5-6. Here’s how to tell HR you don’t talk to the hand:
Candidates don’t realize they can insist on interviewing only with the manager. (Why waste time with anyone else?)
How to Say It
If the employer insists that you meet with a personnel jockey before the hiring manager, try this:
“I’m afraid my schedule is very busy, and my time is limited. I’d be glad to meet with a representative from your HR department, but only after the hiring manager and I have met and decided that there’s a clear, mutual interest in working together. Once that’s established, of course I’ll make time to meet with HR.”
If the company balks, be firm.
”Thanks for your interest, but I’m afraid I’ll have to pass. If the manager decides to meet with me, I’d be glad to schedule some time.”
Then let it go. Move on to another opportunity, where the employer respects you and your time.
Is this risky? Of course it is. But so is wasting your time with someone who isn’t qualified to evaluate you. “Playing along” isn’t going to change this. It’ll just demoralize and frustrate you. (See How HR optimizes rejection of millions of job applicants.)
The approach I recommend emphasizes that your time is not free — it’s valuable. And, while you might respect HR’s role in hiring, you’re no dummy — you know that only the hiring manager is qualified to judge you. If the employer is really interested in you, HR will back off and respect your wishes and your time. If they’re just putting you through a mindless meat grinder, then it’s better to find out up front. That’s what makes this a good test of whether you’re looking at a real opportunity, or the blind leading the blind.
I’m glad you found the HR Managers: Do your job or get out helpful. But it wasn’t just a challenge to HR. It’s also a challenge to you. Are you willing to stand up for yourself, and for sound business practices?
HR’s behavior will not change as long as job seekers keep agreeing to silly demands. Why would you want to get screened by HR, when HR isn’t expert in the work you do? Would you let the gardener tell you not to knock on the homeowner’s door? (See Should I accept HR’s rejection letter?) You don’t have to talk to the hand.
If you want to optimize your chances of winning the right job, keep your standards high, and don’t do foolish things just because someone tells you to. Insist on meeting with the hiring manager first.
Are there “magic words” you use when HR confronts you with unreasonable demands while you’re applying for a job? Please tell us “how you say it” when you tell HR to take a hike. Let’s talk about where you draw the line, and about what works.