Recruiting the Recruiter

Companies want HR pros who know HR, but can you break the code of the employer’s business, culture and mission.

By Sharon L. Florentine

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Sometimes being out of work offers you the opportunity to learn and become better at your next job.

For Ralph Chapman, the experience gave him a very valuable — though opposite — perspective.

When he left the Navy 17 years ago, he became a recruiter. He slipped easily into a role placing former military personnel in civilian jobs. But in 2001, Chapman found himself on the other side of the recruiter’s desk, looking for placement.

The event put the recruiter in the position of being recruited, and it led him to discover that few recruiters and human resources managers really understand how to recruit other HR professionals.

“HR folks are great at giving advice … But they don’t always take that advice themselves,” Chapman said. “It’s not just about finding someone who is the cliché: ‘good with people, detail-oriented.’ HR is the front lines of a client, and there are certain mind-sets and personalities that are and aren’t good for this industry.”

“HR should be just as well versed in their company’s goals, mission and their day-to-day business” as the company itself, he said.

Chapman founded  HR Search Pros  three years ago in Garland, Texas, to specialize in finding and hiring HR executives. His approach focuses entirely on making a philosophical match between candidate and company — the candidate’s mind-set and personality must be a fit for the engagement to work. Identifying that fit requires someone who specializes in the field, Chapman said.

“We’ve had a lot of clients come to us after trying their search with other, more generalist firms,” he said. “And we’re getting inquiries from clients who are saying, ‘We put up our own job advertisement and got 1,000 resumes in an hour. Can you help us sort through this deluge?’

“When we look for candidates, obviously we look for folks who are strong and successful in the HR field but who are also willing to dig deep and understand their potential employer’s business, the mission of the company and its culture,” Chapman said. “And, of course, we learn all that we can about all these facets of our client, too,” he said.

Some clients want someone who’s extremely efficient at the administrative aspects of the job and detail-oriented, while others want a candidate who will focus on interpersonal aspects of the role, Chapman said.

“It’s a matter of knowing what each client wants so we can find the people who are perfect,” he said. “We spend so much time on each candidate and on each company, we have to be able to understand where the company’s coming from so that we can find candidates who are going in the same direction.”

Sharon L.  Florentine covers executive recruiters for Ladders.

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