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HR horror stories

Following various deprecatory comments on this site about the HR profession, we’ve looked into whether things are really as bad as they seem. Upon investigation, the main critics appear to be recruiters, who have the following horrid things to say about their close genetic relatives:

· “It’s always helpful to speak to the line, but HR will sometimes get on a high horse and say come through me and I’ll pass on the message. It just doubles the amount of time it takes to do anything.”

· “The worst thing is when they hire people we’ve introduced to them behind our backs. When we query this they then lie about the size of the package they’re paying in order to reduce the fee. You’ll get a guy who you know was paid $4m last year and they’ll say they got him for 100k. The trouble is that they get paid according to how much money they can save.”

· “They’re always trying to set up in-house databases, and they tell you that if you want to do business with them you’ll have to enter candidates’ information onto their database first. Eventually they’ll have a database of their own and won’t need you any more.”

· “They love to try and disrupt your relationship with the line manager. If you’ve got a good relationship with the line you can often avoid them – the line manager will take the whole process forward without HR and bring them in at the end to draw up the contract. However, HR tend to remember this and the recruiter always gets kicked in the end.”

· “They’re generally a lot of ‘dolly birds’ who need to justify their position.”

There were also some nice things said about HR. “The good ones understand their roles in the process and don’t try to control it too much,” said one headhunter. “As facilitators they can marshall MDs and prompt feedback if they’re too busy to give it.”

“It’s much better now because all the rubbish HR people have been sacked,” said another one.

Comments (36)

  1. Really insightful comments on behalf of the recruiters – just completes the picture from employees in the front office. Everybody with reasonable experience should know that HR is only there when you are already fired.

    They are complete management drones – once they have been given a name and a hit target, they make sure that processes are followed as to minimise the severance expenses of a bank and also chances of unfair dismissal lawsuits. So a review is initiated and often painful processes followed in order to fire someone 6-12 months down the line rather than outright.
    If someone is in such a situation, see the game that’s on and hire a lawyer immediately.

  2. Who cares?

  3. I’ve always been baffled as to what they actually do. I encountered them once in 5 years.

  4. I work for a (proper) search firm in the city, and to be completely honest, I love dealing with HR. This is because we have 4-5 clients who do business with us, and HR are a dream come because they understand the lengths we have gone to in order to set these relationships up. As long as we are completely transparent in our processes they are a great asset to our company. It’s because of “CV spitting” recruitment firms that HR becomes an obstacle, because you are indeed undermining their role. Line relationships are critical to our business, but then again so are senior HR relationships. I can say that I have retained business with certain banks simply because I have a great relationship with a manager within human resources. So, regardless of their movement or mine, we can rely on each other to facilitate the expansion of their respective businesses.

  5. A poor workman always blames his tools and thus a poor recruiter always blames HR…

  6. Recruiters should be careful what they say. I used to be an agency Recruiter, and now I am in “HR”. When I was a Recruiter I hated HR, and now that I am in HR I sympathise; it’s actually not so easy being this side of the fence. You have to deal with hundreds of agency calls per day, and you are the one in the firing line with the business. The reason HR restrict line management contact is so that we can do our job properly; it’s only at the request of the “powers that be” that we channel things through the HR department. That’s the whole point of having a centralised recruitment function. In terms of setting up databases, I would love to see a Recruiter manage a recruitment process without THEIR database. It’s the same thing. How else can we deal with the hundreds of applications that we get directly as well as all of the agency CV submissions? Most of these “databases” have address and email details required as standard. I know this as I have just gone through the evaluation process for ours. This doesn’t mean we are going to “steal” your candidates.

  7. I sympathize with both sides of the argument here. In my experience the :dolly bird” type is less prevalent nowadays-They used to be there in abundance-almost deliberately being unhelpful and self satisfyingly smug, embracing their big brand name behind their own rather little personalities-and being deliberately difficult. Times change however, and I’m not sure that big firms can afford to have their existing or potential future employees p1ssed off by that culture anymore. I’ve had good and bad experiences recently. Oh, and my good lady is head of HR at a very famous International Bank!

  8. And that was because I needed a reference for my landlord saying I had a job. Next stop Bangalore methinks.

  9. Re ATL’s comments “love dealing with HR…they are a dream”:
    Strong stuff you have been smoking, please return to Planet Zog.

    17 years in ‘Proper’ Search Reply
  10. The folk who try to sidestep HR or undermine them with the line to make a couple of placements at OTT margins, arent the people that will still be involved with the client two years down the track.. The recruiters with real longevity will work through the clients system in the right way.

    The agents making the comments above, will by now be taking their spikey mullets and acne down to job centre plus, when their not sending their CVs for entry level in-house jobs.

  11. @ ‘Proper’ Search

    Don’t forget that I said we only work with 4-5 clients. Stay with for the long run, don’t trample on their feet and treat them with some respect, and I can tell you whole heartedly that HR can be a real asset. I don’t know your background, and with your comment, don’t really care, but do things by the book for long enough and I guarantee things will work out for the good. Let’s not forget who has the Big Say on compensation ;)

  12. I hire people if they are good, I do not if they are not – simple. HR/Personnel do not bother me and I don’t bother them. Proper order.

  13. Consider this real scenario: Recruiter calls line manager (a Sr VP in a city firm); SVP is happy to discuss new job – it’s a big one, a VP to support him with some very specialist asset class experience. Can he have CVs? Of course he can! Recruiter gets to work and scours the market. Recruiter gets researchers on the case, and starts pre-interving. After hours of work, a shortlist is delivered. SVP interviews 5. SVP’s boss interviews 2 finals. SVP gets go ahead for an offer and tells HR so they can do ‘their contract thing’. HR (who in this instance is an ex-recruiter with many years in senior s&s, not a ‘dolly bird’) politely inform SVP that his MD hasn’t authorised the hire and he should have asked him first. Recruiter is told he has wasted his time.

    Could have been avoided if HR weren’t avoided – does anyone actually believe line managers are infallible? Unless there’s no governance in your business, you have due process and that is what an HR recruiter juggles and unblocks every day.

  14. In my 30 years of recruitment experience of which 16 years has been dealing with banks, I have found that HR tend to undertake their role with a few simple goals in mind:1) Pick a recruitment firm that will do as it is told regarding following the HR process. 2) reduce the fee per hire as much as possible (which will increase their personal bonuses). 3) They want to build a database of future recruits- they search e-financials, linked In, etc, and will often take on board a CV, ideally they will supplement the details with the personal data acquired at interview toi complete the picture. 4) they will demand adherence to the PSL which will normally have the low end fee agancies on on it and a few top end (for MD level searches). anyone else even if their candidate is the best in the market will not have the CV accepted.
    I understand that Line Managemeent need to be protected from 100s of cold calls and floods of emails. But there should be a compremise. HR need to be aware that if the best 10 people in a given market work elsewhere and a recruiter can make an introduction to the firm from 1 or more of those people, screw the PSL get the best guys seen.

  15. HR = Hopeless Rescources

  16. Dave are you in HR?

  17. Any good HR team will retain good working relations with good recruiters. It takes work to create and retain that relationship and a recruiter will rise or fall on the attention they pay to the requirements of a given role, a good knowledge of the industry within which they are working and patience to understand the client company. A good HR practitioner will use this relationship to gain informal understanding and knowledge of the industry outside their own organisation, so it’s beneficial to all parties. HR are in it for the long run, not the quick buck. Any recruiter who fails to recognise this will fall foul of the drones. It is another relationship to maintain on top of the line manager but a more essential one if you’re interested in a long term working relationship.

  18. Human Remains

  19. they are just there to be the admin part of things when a place fires you – have little other ability of skill

  20. I’ve been a Headhunter in FS for 17 years. in all that time I have met only HR Recruitment bods who are worth their salary. I know I can’t post names on this site but no of them are at UBS, Goldman, Citi or MorganStanley. 90% of them are an absolute obstacle to recruitment. They are uncommercial, ignorant of the businesses they serve, little Nepolian Empire builders who think they can replace the position of real value providers. They are the ones who should be losing their jobs in this tight market.

  21. I’m just amazed at how much attention this article got Sarah…

    Lots of responses…. Mainly from bad recruiters who got bored scouring efinancial for the ‘best candidate’. These recruiters obviously have with too much time on their hands (or no jobs to work due to the bad relationships they have).

    Also I was surprised at how many winney HR professionals were responding. Surely they have more to do that than defend their name – or where the recruiters correct?

    I’m impartial – I do not work in recruitment, HR or banking. I am from old money – very bored and very spoilt.

  22. People – don’t waste your time reading this when the most amazing post ever on this site can
    be read in the archive section. That post is Lunchtime Links: Goldman now on track to pay $773k per head dated 14 Jul 2009
    The article itself is not interesting but the comments below it are terrific. Sarah can we have these permanently displayed
    on the front page of the website to inspire future generations. There is no doubt about it. James is the new GS

  23. bc – Try the ability to form a coherent sentence. Works wonders when you’re doing your admin.

  24. “Dave” thanks for you insight. So many o your ilk have now been wiped out I am suprised that you still think this way. Sounds like you would rather brown nose your ice queens in order continue to be thrown the scraps that are impossible to fill. May I suggest it will be you my friend who will be seeking alternative employment if you don’t pick up the phone and forge some relationships with some real decision makers. The recruiters with real longevity will be those that survive by making placements and revenue in 09/10.

  25. @Ex-Rec
    I do admin?

    if i actually did do any admin, then there would be no need for my company to employ people like you.

  26. HR = Hardly Relevant

  27. @RichKid

    You are douche … you complain about bad recruiters and whinny HR staff and yet there you are guilty of moaning and whining too. Get a job and a life

  28. There are two types of HR contacts for recruiters. The rare individuals who add value to the process/relationship whilst allowing you direct contact with line, and try to understand the group they are trying to recruit into, whilst being able to tell the difference between a good recruiter and a not so good recruiter (which I appreciate can be hard). Then there’s the “other” HR contact….the one that doesn’t know the size or dynamics of the team you are hiring for, yet wont allow you to call line to find out…the one who would struggle to get a job in any other walk of life…..the one that has come straight out of uni and thinks they know everything, but yet spends more time planning their social life than understanding their “role/market”….the one that makes preferences to recruiters who buy them drinks, instead of recruiters who actually know their market and deliver results….
    With a bit of luck, you’ll occasionally come across the first type….
    PS – To the individual who works for a “proper” search firm in the city – well done mate, one day you’ll do a 360 role where you have to win business instead of it been handed to you and you’ll see what recruitment is like….

    Another recruitment consultant Reply
  29. bc – thank you for your incisive come back and obvious understanding of what my job entails. I can only imagine the dizzy heights you must have reached.

    Anyway, some of us have work to. Those search Enjoy your bitching ladies! ;)

  30. Having worked in both HR and Exec Search, I have had exposure to two different types of people. HR people tend to be process focussed – also, they are obsessed with NOT making mistakes (no matter how slowly progress is made). Recruitment people are in sales and stand or fall by their numbers – corners are cut, risks are taken etc etc. The bottom line is that good recruitment people earn FAR FAR more (on average) than good HR people. Anyone in HR who is goal-focussed and wants to earn 400,000 is frankly in the wrong job.

  31. HR = cockroaches. useless and feeding off the talents and hard work of those who arrive during the early hours and leave late. they add nothing but their false, insipid smiles as they recline in shameful indolence whiling away another day on c.79k (average) . these people who are prepared to work in this so-called profession are little more than thieves.

  32. You know what makes me chuckle? all this arguing and moaning… please cast your minds back 20 or so years ago, before the time when we needed HR and all that silly admin rubbish that comes with it… before recruitment agencies were a reality…. if companies cannot be depended on to hire one person (or however many needed) to recruit their own dam staff, then they and anyone who works for them only have themselves to blame… these jobs and I think most of you would have to agree have been made up out of thin air and if the world was going to end tomorrow NONE of them (in fact probably most of the ‘finance’ world) would be completely irrelevant and peg off at the first sign of trouble.

  33. @Louise2850

    Can you please learn to articulate yourself, or try to learn proper command of the English language. I’m sure you had an important and relevant point to make but you’ve ended up making yourself sound like an idiot :)

  34. @bored

    At least I had a point! Anyone with an understanding of the english language would have gotten it. You on the other hand obviously are a rather unintelligent human being who couldn’t come up with a valid point if your life depended on it. So you go around making snide comments towards other people. Go and be bored somewhere else!

  35. @Louise2850

    I’m still bored. At least this time you’ve managed to put together a comprehendable sentence!

    Back to your original point. The financial services industry has undergone rapid development over the course of the last two decades. Therefore we need new solutions for new problems. Therefore your arguments that one person should be responsible to all hiring activity within a small-medium size firm (let alone a large one) is defunct. Further, Human resource managers need to play a more active role within any bank or institutions (especially for cost-associated issues around Human Capital). Companies should also limit the number of recruitment agencies and search firms they work with; set up transparent processes with properly vetted companies. And lastly, once a role and process is initiated there must be a clear line of communication between the line, the HR manager and the recruiter.

    I believe this to be a straight forward way of approaching the issue. And I’m confident my opinion is credible as I come from a Corp Strategy and Governance background within Investment Banking.

    Bored of Louise2850 Reply
  36. There are some very good HR people in Switzerland: they recognise when the headhunter knows what he/she is talking about and welcome giving the HH access to line. There are HR people who are there to help and those whose prime role in life is to hinder. There is also that rave from the grave the “resourcing team” Number driven, no idea of the market in which they operate and highly possessive of “their” line mng. There does seem to be a few of these around again which is highly unfortuante for any line mng that actually wants to recruit!

    Mr Pooter the 3rd Reply

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