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Human resources: an exec’s worst enemy

John Heckers //September 29, 2009//

Human resources: an exec’s worst enemy

John Heckers //September 29, 2009//

One important group to avoid when applying for a job at an executive level is the dreaded Human Resources. These folks are the worst enemy of the upper level corporate employee. Here is why, and some tricks for avoiding these people:

1). HR can only tell you “no.” HR exists to keep gates closed, not open doors. While a few HR departments exist to facilitate hiring of qualified people, most HR professionals are trained only to screen people out. This is fine for a fork-lift driver or mail room clerk.

But executives don’t operate on a list of credentials, which is all HR has the skill to look at. Executives operate on a wide range of skills, cultural fit, creativity, and so on. These things tend to make HR people nervous. Therefore, the best executives can get screened out.

2). HR loves to have power. The HR departments in most companies are trying hard to grab more and more power. In this they are often backed by corporate “legal.” These two departments,  These departments are concerned with the safe, the tried and true, and the stodgy. These are, of course, the very things that keep a company from actually rising above the competition and getting noticed.

3). HR is not trained to evaluate executives. HR people are trained to read job descriptions, not people. Their track record for selecting the right people is not likely to be very stellar. They can choose people who, on paper, are qualified, but not necessarily the best person for the job. They also don’t understand the duties of executive level personnel, nor technical personnel..

4). HR likes to obstruct and take lots of time. Because HR likes power, they want to make executives jump through useless and senseless hoops to get employed. Those who are actual hiring authorities want executives to start work. Where do you think you’re going have a sooner start date?

5). HR has delusions of necessity. Many companies are eliminating HR departments. They are luxuries that just plain are not needed, other than a couple of benefits administration folks. All but the large corporations are finding that they make out fine without an in-house HR department as various “HR services” companies are rising who can do a better job for less money. Well trained managers and supervisors and a couple of benefits clerks are usually enough for all but the largest corporations.

Instead of going through HR, find the person who has the authority to actually hire – usually the person who would be your boss – and contact that person. Here’s how.

1). Ask everyone you know who they know at your target company. Then engineer introductions to the people your friends and family know. Most hires are made by someone who knows someone.

2). Search your LinkedIn connections, take a look at Facebook and Tweet. Sometimes your networking partners don’t know who they know. But if you tell them, “Hey, did you know John Smith was at ABC Company?” they’ll be surprised, but happy to introduce you. Keep in mind that all of us know lots of people in our town, but don’t necessarily know them in a business connection. I’ve had friends who were in very influential positions, but we were discussing sports, weight lifting, politics, spirituality or other issues, and even avoided business topics.

3). Ask people at your non-profit, religious and volunteer connections who they know. You’ll be surprised at the connections there, too. Again, if I don’t know someone through business, I don’t necessarily connect them with a certain business…and I’m a career professional!

Your job to get a job is to make connections, then use them to go around the gatekeepers to reach the person who can tell you “yes.” Avoid gatekeepers whenever you are able to.

There is one exception to this. Make friends with the executive admin of all of your targets. If they like you, they will move from “gatekeeper” to “the person who tracks down Barbara or whoever.” Don’t underestimate kind words and a plant or two, as well as finding out birthdays, anniversaries and so on. Executive admins, unlike most HR people, can become your best friends in the job search. But more on that in a future post.

For now, avoid HR like the plague. They are not your friends, and can be your worst enemy, and, most of the time, they are.

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