Inside Staffing – Human Resources – Keepers of the Gate

Often times the staffing world butts heads with corporate human resources. Often depicting them (HR) as the mighty gate keepers preventing the firm from working with a hiring manager and ultimately making money.

Before fleshing this out, it’s important to understand the roles and motivations of those involved when dealing with a job vacancy.

The Firm

No, not the Grisham novel, the IT staffing firm. The sole purpose of the firm is to place a candidate at a company and charge the company an hourly rate while paying the candidate for doing the job. The account executive wants to deal with the people that make the final hiring decision and are holding the money.

Human Resources

HR will be typically be responsible for posting the job, gathering the applicants, phone screening the applicants, partaking in the face-to-face interview, construct an offer, extend an offer and on board the hire. Some will say this is a key responsibility of the HR rep and ultimately save the company the expense of hiring a firm. The HR rep will feel it’s their job. If a firm does this, then what’s the value of the HR rep. When I refer to HR rep it’s typically not a corporate recruiter, necessarily, but can be.

The Hiring Manager

The hiring manager is the ultimate decision maker and needs a person for the vacancy in a timely manner. While they collaborate with the HR rep, they know what they’re looking for – experience, skills, industry lingo, and have more weight in the hire or not hire decision. They also have the budget ok to make the hire, hence they hold the purse.

You can make the above relationships work, but there has to be mutual respect among all parties.


Is using a firm to staff the vacancy a viable option?

Maybe it’s a tough skill set. Partial to working in the IT staffing area, many HR reps don’t understand the skill sets required for a technical hire. Sure, the soft questions can be asked and answered, but how do you determine if the person is even in the ball park, technically?

Then there’s the money issue. Some small companies say they can’t afford the 20% placement fee or the equivalent contracting bill rate for the candidate. Some will debate that the cost to hire via a firm or HR comes out the same, but that’s for another article.

Say the position has been open for 6 months without any viable candidates. The use of a firm may be justified.

What firms don’t understand is that their may not be an open position. Many account execs make cold calling part of their daily duties. Why advertise in the Yellow pages when you have an account exec that’s supposed to advertise the firm’s services through the ‘dialing for dollars’ model? Just ensuring the managers are aware the firm exists is part of the mission of the account exec because, eventually, the manager is going to need to hire someone and the firm wants to be there with open arms.

Now consider the hiring manager only allowing their choice firm to work on a given job opening. This creates animosity from other firms. “Why does Firm XYZ get the req, and we don’t?” What’s their incentive to work _with_ the company and not go around the reps of the company? HR can help level the playing field. If nobody gets the special treatment, and everyone gets a crack at the job, then money can be better negotiated and ethical competition can occur.

Happy Happy, Joy Joy

The ideal process is that firms work with what’s acceptable as outlined by the company/client, but also ensures that it’s enforced. If a firm is engaged, multiple firms are notified at the same time. The rules, guidelines, policies apply to everyone in the process – from how applicants are submitted all the way to the offer stage. This prevents a lot of issues. If a staffing firm tries to skirt the process, then ensure the hiring manager understands why it’s not in the best interest of the process and shows a unified front. Do they really want to get bombarted by account execs a couple hours a day? Surely they have better things to do.

There are ways that the three-way relationship can work. People just need to understand how it can be beneficial to everyone. It really comes down to this. If one party has a motivation that supersedes the other two, the playing field will be titled and chaos will ensue.


Be sure to put in your own 2 cents worth in the comments section!

Image: David Castillo Dominici /

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