June 22, 2018

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How to Bypass Human Resources, Most of the Time

One of the people in my mentorship and coaching program had a candidate that he was presenting to a prospective client and faced the issue that all recruiters eventually face: "Youíll have to go through Human Resources."

Iíve only met three competent human resources professionals in my career who I would consider to be partners in the placement process. All the others, in my opinion, seemed to be insecure about their position. Most of the human resource people Iíve encountered tried to take the ball and run with it, purely for the reason to make them look like the hero of the game, rather than trying to win it.

If you ever present a candidate to a real line manager (Vice President, Operations Manager, etc) and he or she tells you that, "Itís our policy that you have to go through human resources," then you can respond with one of these three options.

  1. One option is to test it. Say this to the line manager: "Itís our search firmís policy not to deal with human resources." Then stop. Let the silence stay there for a minute. When the prospective client asks you what you mean by this, tell him, "Because our focus is on effectiveness; (pause) and weíve seen how human resources can inadvertently sabotage the whole placement by either sitting on paperwork for a week, failing to return calls in a timely manner, or just not knowing how to sell the opportunity." Theyíll probably end up agreeing with you and will admit theyíve seen that happen as well. Even if you donít feel comfortable with this bold of a statement, then try this option: "Because weíve seen that itís the people like you, the line managers, who feel the pain the most and can help sway the decision of the candidate the most, not the human resource staffer." If the client doesnít budge, then say, "Okay, Iíll make a policy exception for you and go through human resources, but in exchange for that Iíd like to ask for a favor (then see number three)."

  2. Ask the prospective client: "Are you saying then that you donít have the authority in your company to hire people on your own?" Donít say it in a confrontational way. You are just asking to find out. If he or she hesitates in their response, then you know that they can actually go forward with the candidate. Then tell them, "Look, Bob, I know that you have policies and procedures that sometimes donít make sense. Iím just afraid that, based on my experience in dealing with other human resource people, we might lose this candidate and Iíd hate to see that happen to you just because of someone else in your company and how they do business. First, the HR person might sit on things longer than they should, and second, that they might not roll out the red carpet in the same way that I know you will for this candidate because you know how rare they are and human resources doesnít. Does that make sense?"

  3. If all else fails, then try this approach: partnering. "Okay, Bob. Who in HR should I contact? Great. I'll call Betty, and could you email or call her to let her know to expect my call? I want her to know that it's not unsolicited and that she will put this candidate on the front burner. Be sure to tell her to move quickly with this candidate. Once I talk with her and get the fee approved and submit the candidate, then I'll circle back with you to make sure we're both keeping things moving forward. Does that sound fair?" So you honor their policy, keep the VP out of hot water by not circumventing company protocol, and minimize your risk of losing a good candidate.

Hereís the real secret to developing winning relationships with human resources: find out how to make them look like superstars in their organization. If you canít bypass them, then youíll have to end up working with them, and the best way to do it is to develop a relationship where they know that you can help them. For example, I had one client, a large electrical contractor, where the human resource manager, a senior level executive in the company, eventually trusted me enough to just feed me leads to his various offices all over the country. I would then contact the operations managers, who had been alerted by the VP of HR that I would be calling, and then just kept the VP of HR in the loop and circled back to him when it was time to draft the offer.

If the human resources person knows that you are going to solve their problem and work in a professional manner, then they can be your best source of business, leads, and referrals. And at the end of the game, because of how they let you manage the process, they really do end up looking like the hero.

- Scott Love

Copyright © 2005 Scott T. Love

Scott Love improves the performance of recruiters and the margins of search firms and staffing agencies. His training website,, has become one of the largest free internet training sites for the industry. To have him show your staff how to produce more than they thought possible, call him at 828-225-7700.