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There Are No Perfect People, So Why Expect Perfect HR Candidates?

It may be time to adjust your expectations.

A group of mannequins with necklaces on them.

​Sixty-nine percent of recruiters reported difficulty filling HR positions last year, according to SHRM’s 2017 HR Jobs Pulse Survey in California. And the average time-to-fill for HR roles was an astounding 38.6 days, higher than the already-sluggish national average of 28.4 days for jobs across industry sectors.

While some may claim that these numbers point to an HR talent shortage, many experts believe the issue may be more closely related to hiring managers’ own unrealistic expectations. 

 “With agile organizations evolving fast, today’s HR employees need continuous development,” said Laura Mazzullo, owner of East Side Staffing, a New York City-based recruitment firm focused on HR roles. “The clearer you are about what is truly necessary in a candidate and not solely ideal, the easier it will be to identify great candidates when they come along.”

In other words, you can’t expect to find perfection. “When employers are hiring for HR roles, they’re going to need to take responsibility for at least a certain amount of training and development—and that’s regardless of skills,” said Meghan M. Biro, a leading talent management and HR technology analyst and founder of TalentCulture, based in Cambridge, Mass. Other expert tips for finding HR talent include:

Practice empathy. “If you were a candidate, would you want someone to hire you even if you lacked a few things on their ‘wish list’? Would you want someone to stretch you, train you and set you up for future success?” Mazzullo asked. “Remind yourself of a specific time in your HR career when someone gave you a chance … .”

Be selective about what you’re asking for. Write down the top three soft skills required for the role, the top three technical skills and the top three priorities you want the new employee to focus on in the first year, Mazzullo advised. “Once you have articulated your specifics, discuss them with your recruitment partners and share with all interviewers involved,” she said. 

The most in-demand soft skills Mazzullo hears about from hiring managers are empathy, agility, flexibility, the ability to customize solutions and relationship building. “Humility is another soft skill that is often requested—leaders want HR pros who are willing to roll up their sleeves and help out where needed,” Mazzullo said. “The mindset of ‘that’s beneath me’ or ‘that isn’t in my job description’ is not an attractive trait to today’s employer.”

[SHRM Member2Member article: Ten Steps to Create Your Ideal Talent Acquisition Process.]

Be open to people with experience in different industries. Companies are missing out when they reject someone for not having worked in a specific industry. “I have found that most HR professionals are completely capable of transferring between industries, and yet too many employers remain incredibly particular about this,” Mazzullo said.

Biro added, “From software to apps to even the relative formality or informality of feedback and performance evaluation, it’s highly likely that a great HR pro from one company won’t actually know all the tools another company is using. For all those reasons, I think it should be a given that HR professionals be brought in not just for the skills they have, but for the potential for how much they can learn and execute new skills.”

Reduce time-to-fill. Leaving HR vacancies open for the length of time that survey respondents cited creates problems for everyone.

“There are tactical, negative effects to waiting for perceived perfection,” Mazzullo said. “HR teams become disengaged and burnt out, as they are doing more work than they are compensated for or can handle. They wait for months for help that doesn’t arrive.” 

Your brand will likely take a hit as well. “It’s very easy for an employer to be known as the one with slow and unreasonable selection and hiring processes,” Mazzullo said. 

Roy Maurer is an online manager/editor for SHRM who focuses on talent acquisition. 

Illustration by Steve Dininno.


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