Yes, Most Recruiters Are Usually NOT HR Professionals

Recruiters are not HR professionals.  And not all HR professionals are recruiters.

In companies, it’s typical to see recruiting fall under the broad human resources umbrella but it shouldn’t. Recruiting and HR need to be totally separate job functions joined at the hip so they can collaborate on succession planning, onboarding and the business-related priorities surrounding humans.

Full time recruiters are not HR professionals. They’re recruiting professionals.

Recruiting vs. HR

A full-time recruiter does not have the breadth of experience (not knowledge, experience) that an HR professional does. Recruiters do not handle performance issues, coach managers or tackle the many other day-to-day nightmares matters surrounding workplace regs like the ACA, FMLA, ADA and FLSA.

Recruiters should know about work authorizations and recruiting-related regs like the EEOC, Affirmative Action and OFCCP to name a few. (Although don’t get me started on the number of recruiters who don’t understand the difference between an employee and an independent contractor. That’s a story for another day.) A true HR professional should know about all of these regs.

Ever hear a job seeker complain about a bad interview experience? I have. People automatically assume that a recruiting professional represents the broad term of “HR.” All of a sudden a new HR-hater is born. HR professionals take the rap when the job seeker should be pissed off at the recruiter.

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Let’s talk about the skill sets for each of these roles. How many HR professionals do you know who are great sales people? That’s a large part of what it takes to be a successful recruiter.

Recruiting means a focus on relationship building

Great recruiters are relationship builders. Whether they’re internal or external they build a network of clients and candidates. When done right, it’s a full-time job because recruiters don’t stop working, even if their company has no open positions.

There’s a difference between an HR professional and a recruiting professional. It’s more than just vocabulary. They’re not interchangeable occupations, period.

This was originally published on Kimberly Patterson’s Unconventional HR blog.

Kimberly Patterson is the founder of Unconventional HR. An HR pro turned consultant, she has 25 years of progressive experience as a strategic HR and business leader in a variety of industries. Her hands-on and innovative approach allows her to create and deliver HR solutions to meet business challenges and needs by managing human capital, talent acquisition and technology. Connect with her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/kimberly_patt, or at kim@unconventionalhr.com .

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13 Comments on “Yes, Most Recruiters Are Usually NOT HR Professionals

  1. I respectfully disagree here. In this day of “do more, with less,” I come from the “generalist” species of HR professionals. I learned to be a recruiter early in my formal HR career. My personality profile (MB: INTJ, PI: Lowest B, High C, High D) says I’m not naturally good at connecting with people, or I don’t get my energy from people. However, I have learned that to be successful, I must do this, and when I know my company/product/service, I can sell the heck out of it. In this case, I am skilled as a connector, networker, and I engage the interviewee in the interview. I make certain to understand the job I am recruiting for, and I connect with the hiring manager before I recruit. I understand the legalese of recruitment/hiring, and I’m a pretty decent coach on employee relations, I also coach my HR team similarly. While each has their own strengths which we play to, each also learns enough “to be dangerous.” One might say, ‘jack of all trades, master of none,’ but in a small business (<500 ees), we must keep our (HR) silos low.
    Yes, perfect world, recruiters and HR would be separate. Unfortunately, most of us don't have that luxury.

    1. Hi Dorothy, I do agree with you to an extent. I’m a generalist as well and have spent my career in the smaller (<500 ees) too and have been a one-person shop for years. I also respect that smaller companies don't have the luxury of having the roles separated.

      Having said that, it also depends on the company dynamics. During periods of hiring, it's time consuming! Now throw in a significant employee relations issue or having to address an EEOC claim into your workday. That has to take priority. If you were working alone, how much time would pass before you could get back to your recruiting? (I said alone because you mentioned that you had a team — that spreads the workload out a great deal). I do get it and it also reinforces the point I was making. When someone is juggling both functions and both of the roles (recruiting and HR) are active, it's not possible to do both jobs well because there's not enough time spent on each function.

  2. Recruiters are HR professionals and more. “A full-time recruiter does not have the breadth of experience (not knowledge, experience) that an HR professional does”. That is a subjective statement about all recruiters. Recruiter have to understand HR objectives and deal with hiring managers at all levels of the organization. We must have in depth business knowledge to effectively eliminate the “B.S” from the “talent”. We are also the face of the organization as we interview candidates. “HR professionals take the rap when the job seeker should be pissed off at the recruiter.” Sounds like you have had some bad experiences with recruiters that does not mean you have to write an article defaming recruiters an essential piece of HR. As a typical recruiter I must say this article is a bunch of “B.S”.

    1. Hi JR. I haven’t had a bad experience with recruiters nor am I in any way defaming them. In fact, I was clear in stating that recruiters have a different talent for what they do in their relationship building. Most folks who are not in the HR or recruiting industry do not realize the difference in the roles. There IS a distinct difference.

      While you think that my statement about a recruiter not having the breadth of experience that an HR professional does is subjective, it’s not. The only time a recruiter will have this level of detailed experience is if they’ve worked in an HR generalist (< key word) role prior to being a recruiter and have had broad work experiences.

      As you state: Understanding HR objectives and dealing with hiring managers at all levels has nothing to do with the day to day work of an HR professional. Neither does having in-depth business knowledge. Do recruiters handle sexual harassment investigations? Can a recruiter tell me if a position is exempt or non-exempt?

      Thanks for your comment.

      1. Now I know your not being honest because I can assure you everyone has had a bad experience with a recruiter and you are right there is a difference between the roles.”the only time a recruiter will have this level of detailed experience is
        if they’ve worked in an HR generalist (< key word) role prior to
        being a recruiter and have had broad work experiences." again working along side a very supportive HR team gives me broader work experience as I see how issues are dealt with from all perspectives.You also say "understanding HR objectives and dealing with hiring managers at all levels
        has nothing to do with the day to day work of an HR professional.
        Neither does having in-depth business knowledge" that is an embarrassment to HR as a profession and shows why people don't have much respect for HR. A good recruiter can handle all of your HR questions and can find someone who better understands your role to replace you.

        Thanks for your comments.

        1. You obviously misinterpreted my comment. Let’s try this again.

          In your original comment, this is what you wrote:

          “Recruiters have to understand HR objectives and deal with hiring managers at all levels of the organization. We must have in depth business knowledge.”

          While those are broad initiatives and objectives that impact the actual work that an HR pro does, it is NOT the actual work.

          Just because a recruiter understands the HR objectives, deals with hiring managers and has in-depth business knowledge, does not mean they can do the DAY TO DAY WORK of an HR professional.

          I’ll ask you again: Can a recruiter conduct a sexual harassment investigation? Can a recruiter tell me how to figure out if a position is exempt or non-exempt? Can a recruiter talk to an employee about the details of COBRA? Can a recruiter give me the definition of a disability under the ADA? Can a recruiter tell me what type of documentation is required for an employee who wants to apply for FMLA?

  3. And when you separate HR from Recruitment what you tend to get are “order-takers”. Asking a Manager what they want and what the job description indicates. Good HR/Recruiters look for “talent”. They see the need in the organization and look beyond what the manager needs on the surface.

  4. Wow – I could not disagree with you more! First, let’s be clear that we’re talking about in-house recruiters since agency recruiters are most assuredly not HR — I’ll give you that. But in-house recruiters damn well better understand the ADA or else there could be major issues that result from the interview process! Also, as the “face” of the company and the person the employee first met in the process, the recruiter is often the one that new employees go to with issues. They already have that trusted relationship. Your theory is like saying that running is not sport. HR is the umbrella and recruiting, employees relations, training & development, benefits, compensation, organizational development, etc etc are disciplines that all fall under that umbrella. The “humans” that are being dealt with in “human resources” are part of the company because of the recruiter. And as we know, without people there is no company. I can go on and on. But congratulations on insulting the entire recruitment community!

    1. Where was the insult? Please point it out. I’d say that your comment is more insulting to external recruiters.

      This post pointed out the distinct differences between the roles: the one of a recruiter (both in house and external) and the one of an HR professional.

      No theory here, just fact. The jobs are different.

      1. And that’s exactly the point you are missing. An in-house recruiter IS an HR professional – albeit a specialized one.

  5. As an HR professional with an in depth knowledge of all HR AND a trained behavioral interviewer, I agree that, for the most part, some HR generalists are good interviewers, but not good recruiters. There is a distinct difference. I founded my recruiting and HR consulting firm in 1992 with the goal of providing added value to the process. Most companies hire recruiters, but all they are in most companies are just interviewers. They screen applicants in the ATS and then interview who they feel are the best based on their resume and profile. Very few company recruiters actively seek those not looking for another job. These candidates won’t have their resume posted and won’t be reviewing on line job boards. However, most of these candidates are open to hearing of opportunities that might help them in their career goals. I find these people. Most in house recruiters don’t. What amazes me is how many HR professionals in business have little to no interview training. During a six year stint as VP of HR with a large healthcare provider, I had to do extensive training for all managers and the HR staff on how to effectively interview. So, I guess I was an anomaly. I have an SPHR designation with real world experience and a DDI trained Targeted Selection interviewer.

    1. Thanks for your comment Richard. Yes, there is a difference both in the jobs and the skills required to be successful in each job. In my experience, I have found that many HR professionals who do recruiting are not “proactive recruiters”. They do exactly what you stated — screen applicants in the ATS.

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