What is the consensus about bypassing HR in the job interview process when the hiring manager is known (either through a warm introduction or a cold call).?

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getting past hrI have been in transition mode for 2+ years but keeping very busy with an array of interesting consulting projects. I have also been interviewing with companies that require HR to do the screening part of the process. Four out of the last five interviews I've had, my candidacy got stalled in this part of the process as HR did not pass me on to the hiring manager (even after lengthy interviews). I am interested in various points of view as to breaking the chain of command and going right to the hiring manager.

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This is a risky proposition when one considers the hiring manager created the process of HR screening the candidates.

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While Anonymous (II) says it is risky because the hiring manager (I assume this is the president/owner) created the process, you are in effect going to be the number 2/3 at the company.

The hiring HR people are stumbling blocks, as one never knows who set the requirements and whether these requirements are in fact real (as they refer to the business and not a book of fiction). While you may not seem impressive to the HR person, the hiring manager may look at you and your resume completely differently.

Touching base with the President/Owner can show may good attributes most people want in management, which is an assertive go-getter approach, finding new and unique ways to get the job done.

Given the stated failure rate, where is the risk?

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Go for it! HR is nothing but a "screen out" obstacle to really great people getting interviews. At the CFO-level, it makes even more sense to go directly to the top dog via introductions to those decision-makers.

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HR screeners are rather like the wait staff in a restaurant. They've been given an order by the hiring manager and usually lack the flexibility to substitute one ingredient for another. If you fit the posted job requirements, play the game through HR. If you don't, you MUST find a way around it.

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Hence, if you find the hiring manager (president/owner), and introduce yourself, you have in essence found your way around an inflexible system and met the hiring manager.

Makes perfect sense to me.... especially since these are the same people (HR) who in most organizations will report to you, the CFO.

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In my opinion, HR Staffing is usually a stumbling block for Sr Level Positions. Just think about this, the staffing groups are usually overworked with the number of open requisitions they have in larger companies or if is a small company, the HR Business Partner is trying to manage all the company needs (payroll, benefits, staffing, policies, talent mapping, etc). Therefore, HR in many cases has very little time to capture the essence of what the role requires and are trying to match resumes with key words in a job description and miss the bigger picture of the overall message in the CV. In addition, HR is doing is best to find the best fit “on paper” and close the requisition so they can move on to the next opening.
The best thing is, get to the hiring manager if you can…

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You're right, Harold. Additionally, sometimes HR doesn't even "get" the demands of the job either because he/she doesn't understand them or because of a breakdown in communication. That leaves the job seeker at a distinct disadvantage.

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Harold, spot on!

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Its equally frustrating being a hiring manager and having to work with HR who continually block the process. But if you go direct to the hiring manager, you may not have any more success because he may not have the discretion to even speak with you about the job never mind interview you and hire you.

I have also been in your position and am now in the position of hiring manager and would love to "disintermediate" the HR role in recruiting. I have never heard anyone praise HR for their role in hiring.

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I couldn't agree more. My husband actually got a rejection letter from HR at a large corporation AFTER he had been on the job for a month!

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Anon:

First point; to my mind HR's job 1 is to keep the company legal with regard to employees; to represent the company's interests and to reduce risk. This is a good thing. This is different from recruiting, and I've often thought that it is an unnatural combination.

This recently came up in a print publication: an interviewee (Sr. Exec) went so far as to apply for his own job, and was rejected by screening as being unqualified. Another person was rejected because their last post had a different title than the post they were shooting for...a title that was unique to the hiring company!

A friend at a large (local to me) company (that we all use daily) complained that he wanted to hire me but could not get around HR. They have 000's per week to sort through, so they put in screens that narrow that to dozens (phrase matching, repetition, rare experience, etc). Their screening often pulls in very smart people, but very bad fits...frustrating for any exec!

To Fiona's point, at places like this you *must* cross that hurdle. However it is easier to do that *after* you have been offered the role. The "needs" expert is the hiring manager, and the sooner you get to them (preferably, before they even post the job), the better. When there is a hard screen in place, having an advocate can help you get through the process (like re-writing your resume to match the description, or vice-versa).

The unanimity above should be telling to us all: there is no question here. Go to the top, and go there first.

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If you can go direct to the hiring manager, you should. The worst that is going to happen is that he/she will send you back to HR. As a CFO, if a candidate contacted me directly and I was interested enough, I would schedule an interview, then send them to HR to ensure that all the protocols were followed.

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Exactly, Randy. That's how the process "should" work, especially at the senior level.

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Being in HR and also having conducted job search (for myself), I have had similar experiences. I think the issue is specifically with the recruiting function and the some of the cases described above can broadly fall into an "employee referral" type scenario which most companies promote. Candidates from employee referrals typically get higher priority in the hiring process. HR, in general, should be involved in understanding what new talent is entering the organization and as a new employee you want HR to know "who you are" in the talent pool. Being on the radar screen for new or growth opportunities is a good thing.

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In all of my experience, I would recommend going directly to the hiring manager. When I am doing the hiring, I have found HR to often be an impediment to getting people hired effectively and efficiently.

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If the original question is regarding an executive role, I would guess that going to HR is due to the person not knowing the hiring manager. I usually fill most of my roles with people I know but if someone I don't know does an end-run around HR I will throw their resume in the garbage. It's a test, if I ask candidates to submit to HR and they come to me, I presume they cannot follow directions. I should also state I only work with top-notch HR folks (at small companies) so they know exactly what I need and I trust them enough to give them the latitude to do so.

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Dana -

I have to disagree with your end-run scenario.

If I wanted an robot as my executive, then you are right. If I want out of the box thinking, innovation and dynamic individual, then I want to meet the person who has the audacity to do an end run around "my HR system".

Maybe they are not the right fit, but maybe they are... and if HR is stifling candidates who don't fill specific buckets, then it just might be worth some of my time.

W

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I want to throw a slight curve ball into the discussion.
What if the person who is blocking the path is a Retained Search Consultant i.e. a Headhunter?
The scenario is the job (CFO) is in a city about 160 miles from where I am now. Have had many e-mails back and forth between myself and the recruiter. Then all of a sudden I get a “Thank you for the information. We continue to first focus on local candidates and expand to Oregon as we go forward. The data you provided will be helpful.” Like I believe that, as she knew where I lived when the discussions began. I write back “So as to not be a pest, but to remind you of my continued interest what would be a good time to check back with you to see how things are progressing?”. To which I get “As soon as I have any updates I will let you know. Thank you for your interest.” Obviously it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what that means.
So do I now go straight to the CEO with my resume etc.?

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Why not... Do you really have anything to lose?

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Might be better to see if you can connect with someone inside the company or who services the company or who is in your network to get an introduction to the CEO.

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Coincidentally, or not, the discussion of hiring methodologies came up at the CFO Conference in Dallas last week. The CEO of The Lucas Group called hiring through HR "Match.com." So appropriate.

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Personally, I have never been successful with HR. But I seem to connect fine with Hiring Managers. Regardless, you need to follow the company's direction. Dana's approach is very common, especially in this market.

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Regis -

See my comment to Dana - just as the role of CFO has gone from a cost cutter to a value added to top line revenue; getting a job means stepping out of that old box...