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 Getting Past Human Resources and to the Hiring Manager

By Joe Stein

Oh boy! This weeks’ column may just get me kicked out of the Human Resources (HR) society. Human Resources, whether a Recruiter or a HR Generalist/Manager, serves a few roles in the staffing process. Besides providing administrative type support and offering guidance on who may be the best candidate, they also serve a role as the “gatekeeper” between applicants and the Hiring Manager. Or course, if you are applying for a small company/location, you may skip HR altogether (since they do not have anyone in that role). Generally, though, if you are pursuing a company with 100 or more employees, there will be a Human Resources type of person.
While Human Resources play a critical role in the process (you knew I would feel that way), ultimately a Job Seeker wants to connect with the Hiring Manager. The reason is pretty clear in that this is the person who usually makes the actual decision regarding who to hire. The Hiring Manager, therefore, is the person you most need to reach and connect with in order to be hired by the prospective employer.
You can take two approaches regarding getting past Human Resources. My preferred approach is to impress them enough that they will pass you along to the Hiring Manager. The other option is to try to circumvent Human Resources by bypassing them and going right to the Hiring Manager. Let’s take a look at both approaches so you can make up your own mind regarding which one is best for you.
Impressing Human Resources: A key in this category is to understand what HR is looking for in candidates. They typically are filtering candidates based on basic skill and experience (and perhaps education) requirements. Some may even know enough to do a review of more detailed qualifications, but that is often not the case. So, Human Resources are often looking for other items outside these core items.
So, what are some of the things looked for by Human Resources?  Below are five items you can stress in order to catch the eye of Human Resources and be passed along to the Hiring Manager.
·         A “Knock-Out Free” Cover Letter and Resume: By having documents free of typographical errors and customized to the position being applied for, you can impress HR. HR people take pride in their administrative skills and want to see an acceptable level of detail orientation from you.
·         Use Keywords – You want to catch the eye of the person reviewing your Resume. If it is a HR person, more than likely (as noted above) they will not be an expert in the field. By using easily identifiable keywords in your Resume, you greatly increase your odds of being identified as a qualified candidate. You can simply do this by using words found in the job posting in your Resume.
·         Be a Team Player – HR wants to see you being a strong member of the team. They want to believe you will be a harmonious team player. You can stress this by showing how you have worked well with others in the past. Stress that you are a “team player” when you are phone screened by Human Resources.
·         Show You Are Professional – Human Resources Professionals appreciate the little things associated with a job search, such as being available when needed, sending a “Thank You” note, etc.
·         You Are Planning to Stay – HR Professionals tend to place an emphasis on stability and continuity. If you think about it the more people that leave, the busier they are having to find replacements. By stressing how you are seeking a company that will provide you growth and opportunity, you will make the statement that HR is seeking to hear.
Bypassing Human Resources: In theory, it sounds foolproof…find out who the Hiring Manager is (via the Internet, or “old-fashioned” calling) and directly apply to this person. Taking this approach may actually work in that it may reduce company bureaucracy and/or the Hiring Manager may appreciate the initiative you are displaying. The strategy, however, does come with risk in that the Hiring Manager may really want HR to screen and do not appreciate the direct contact. In a larger company with an Applicant Tracking Software System, there may actually be nowhere to go with a paper or e-mail submitted Resume. You also may ruffle some people, which may give you the reputation as a non-Team Player, even if you are ultimately hired. I typically like taking a less risky approach than this one.
The entire point of your Job Search is to be hired. So, it makes sense that getting to the Hiring Manager and impressing him or her should be the game plan. Therefore, you may need to get past Human Resources in order to make this happen. This does not have to be an impossible challenge, however. By following some of the tips noted above, you can reach and impress the ultimate decision maker.
As always, best of luck in your job search