But WHY Go Around HR? #jobsearch

You’ve heard that you should go around HR, right?

But why?

Imagine you want to buy a specific electronics device at Wal-Mart.  You could walk into Wal-Mart and talk to the people at the Electronics Department, or you could walk to the Customer Service area in the front of the store and talk to them.

Which makes more sense?

I know, some of you are thinking “uh, I would not buy my electronics device at Wal-Mart!” Just work with me and my simple analogy for a minute.

Talking to the person in the Electronics Department will be a different conversation than talking to someone at Customer Service. When I’ve used Customer Service in a store, it is to make an exchange or get a refund. They are really good at that.  They are clearly trained to do that.  I’ve also seen posters for money transfers, and I’m guessing they are good at that, too.  But I don’t expect them to know about the differences in device models, prices, benefits, which I should get, etc.

The problem is, in the spirit of customer service, they might try to help me!  Without having expertise in the area, only their good intentions and service oriented attitude, they might say things, and suggest things, that are not correct.

The real answers come from someone who has some level of expertise or passion. Customer Service might be well-intentioned, but give us wrong information.  That’s annoying when you don’t buy the right thing. You felt like you went to an authority, but that person was not an authority.

This is the same thing that happens when you go to or through HR as a job seeker.  HR is usually not the right place to go, UNLESS YOU ARE LOOKING FOR A JOB IN HR.  It’s like going to Wal-Mart’s Customer Service department.

People go to and through HR because it seems like that is what we are supposed to do.  Who in a company seems to be tied into the hiring and employee stuff?  HR, of course.

The problem is, too often, HR is not involved in the hiring process like you think they are.  They might not know anything about the job requirements, even though they may have written or approved the job description.

Because some people in HR see and process a lot of resumes, we think they are the gatekeeper or the decision-maker.  Often, they are neither.  The gatekeeper is more likely to be software that will cut you out of the candidate pool before any human ever sees your resume.  But because they see a lot of resumes, we trust that they can “give us feedback” or maybe help keep ours on the top of the pile.  They can surely tell us why our resume stinks, and maybe even help us make it better, right?

Not necessarily. One thing to understand about HR is that is is massively broad.  When I designed software for HR, I would sometimes work with the team that managed the FMLA, which is one very specific focus of some people in HR. I would sometimes work with others who dealt with this employment issue, or that employment issue, but I never worked with (didn’t even know!) the people involved on the hiring side. You can have a career in HR without ever being involved in hiring… but because you are “in HR” people think you are they key to them getting a job.


Perhaps most important, HR might have nothing to do with who finally gets the job.  This is usually at the hiring manager level.  The hiring manager knows what they want (requirements of the successful candidate), what type of person they want (cultural fit), and might even have some insiders or referrals who they are eyeing (hidden job market).

Look, I like HR people.  They come to my presentations, and they are good people. Many of them get into HR because they want to help people.  This is not a post about HR being jerks or unqualified… not at all. This is a post about making sure you go to the right person for what your needs are.  And if you are a job seeker, unless you are looking for an HR job, you have been advised to avoid, or go around, HR.  These are the main reasons why.