Angling Around HR – Good or Bad Tactic?

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Nick Corcodilos, author of the popular (and free) Ask the Headhunter newsletter/ezine, routinely advises readers who write in to his column to go directly to hiring decision makers and either bypass HR completely or go around them after an initial rejection. His advice to that effect in a recent column entitled “Should I accept HR’s rejection letter?” certainly raised the hackles on a number of HR professionals. His answer began, “The company didn’t turn you down; the screener did. When a human resources person rejects you, it’s like having the gardener tell you not to bother coming around a girl’s house. What does that tell you about whether the girl wants to date you? Nothing.”

Among the outraged responses were the following comments from an HR worker: “Wow, Nick! If I looked at your response to the reader as though it were your resume, I would have determined that you have little to no integrity, demonstrate poor judgment, are disrespectful, and are unable to follow the rules. Hopefully, the reader you advised won’t heed your advice because you have more than likely destroyed their chance to ever get into the organization now or in the future.”

Nick respectfully disagreed, and his opinion was supported by responses from other headhunters. These included observations such as, “In my 16 years of headhunting, not once has an HR rep ever been the ultimate decision maker for any hiring outside of the HR department.”

The bottom line in my view is the following: Where is the benefit to anyone on either side of the hiring equation—especially management and executive-level candidates—in meekly accepting the verdict of HR and quietly slinking away? There would appear to be only an upside and no downside to taking your case directly to the hiring decision maker. As headhunter Tony Pannagl, Managing Partner of IS&T; puts it, “Candidates should work the referral and introduction angles and only give up when the hiring manager rejects them. I’m sorry if your HR friends find this offensive, but it’s true.”

Of course, the best answer to this issue is to leave HR out of the loop in the first place: Do your homework, find out who the decision maker is, and take your knock-’em-dead executive resume and well-prepared business case presentation directly to them.