Recruiters block good HR candidates

by 25 Jul 2007

I do have an issue with the carte blanche inference that Australia is running out of HR managers, as reported in “HR generalists in demand” (issue 132, 10 July 2007, p1).

“Regular job movement is leading to increasing demand for HR generalists,” the story said. If you want a stable workforce, employ stable people. Try older, experienced people who have commitments and who are not looking for short-term gains.

“Meanwhile, with organisations increasingly looking to get high levels of performance and effectiveness from their staff, contract-based change management specialists are in demand,”it continued. Why would you do that? Optimum performance is a long-term supportive process, not a ‘seagull’ six-month project. Short-term gains will come, probably at great expense to morale, long-term you are asking for trouble going down this path. Ask call centres why they have such apparent efficiency and costly high turnover.

“Candidate shortages are also prevalent in organisational development, training, capability development, remuneration and benefits, change management and occupational health and safety, largely due to employers seeking specific academic qualifications and experience,” it said. Most generalist HR managers with 10 or more years experience can probably do four out of these six, and have formal qualifications to do so. Big drawback – they are probably over 50 as well and have a commercial or an engineering background, and not an IT or financial one. This does not preclude them from learning local system requirements; they can still think.

“With many organisations looking to strengthen their HR functions, generalists are in demand” and “due to the shortage of skilled HR professionals, companies are increasingly adapting their strategies,” the article said. I would suggest this is a complete fabrication or ‘spin’ by recruitment agencies. There are plenty of experienced, well-qualified HR practitioners who are more than capable of doing the job, but employers are allowing the ‘bright young things’ in recruitment agencies to filter the ‘appropriate’ candidates.

Allowing such a vital role as recruitment to an organisation that thinks anyone over 30 is ‘old’ reflects on the stupidity of the employer who accepts such information without looking to source the information themselves. That’s like not buying a house because the agent says there are none that are appropriate for you! Clearly you would not accept that, so why would you believe recruitment agencies who profess similar ideas.

Case in point: If there is such a shortage of HR generalists, why does an applicant with a degree in education, a degree in commerce (HR), an MBA, an engineering/science degree from MIT and 15 years of HR experience, currently managing an HR department for more than 400 employees and studying organisational psychology, not even get short-listed?

There have to be a lot of extremely good candidates to knock this one out of the short-list. I am lucky to have him, because an agency knocked him back for our selection as inappropriate for the position. Yes, he is over 50, ugly and overweight, but he is one of the most capable, enthusiastic employees I have. Because we had our logo on the advert he approached me directly. Maybe recruiters don’t want that, but it paid huge dividends to me.

I would suggest there is a chronic breakdown in communications between employers and candidates. Employers are allowing recruiters to control employers’ agendas, or there is rampant age discrimination within the recruitment sector. I do not know the answer, but I can assure you there is an abundance of well-educated, experienced, multi-skilled HR practitioners if you, as an employer, are willing to think beyond the limited scope of applicants delivered to you by recruitment agencies which use the same selection model over and over again, thereby rejecting a whole class of employees.

I have stopped using agencies and now have no trouble in getting six to 10 applicants for every job advertisement I place. Try an advert in your company name: “We want a generalist HR manager to do XYZ in Melbourne, nine-day, 76-hour fortnight, $90,000–$120,000, depending on experience and qualifications. Initial five-year, renewable–ongoing contract.”

Unless you have a poor reputation or are a socially undesirable employer, I think you will be surprised by the richness of the response.

Start thinking beyond recruitment agencies. As a final poke, “Why do you keep doing the same thing and expect different results?” If you know it doesn’t work, change yourself. Remember conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.

– Craig Dandeaux, human resources, Glenorchy City Council.