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What Hiring Managers Do In the Recruiting Process – and Why You Should Care

Let’s talk a bit about the role of the Human Resources department (commonly known as HR) versus the Hiring Manager, in regards to the hiring process. 

I’ve found there is a lot of confusion on the part of applicants as to exactly who does what and this can make a difference when you’re trying to direct questions and information to the right party.

The role of HR

The role of HR in most companies has evolved quite a bit over the years. Whereas in the past the HR department had an active role in the hiring decision and would at times do the actual hiring for lower-level positions, today they are much more of a facilitator for the Hiring Managers.

Yes, they are still the gatekeepers when it comes to communication with candidates before and after the interview. They will be the ones who will call you to schedule an interview. They are also the ones who answer all your questions about the interview process itself, such as:

  • The time of your interview
  • Where to go for your interview
  • How long your interview will last
  • What type of interview it will be – e.g. one on one or with a panel

HR also decides where to post the job openings and they take care of all the various procedures and forms associated with the hiring process.

However, they seldom make the actual hiring decisions. Those are made by the manager to whom you will report if you get the job. 

In other words, the Hiring Manager.

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This does not mean that the role of HR is no longer important – it is. They receive the applications and resumes and frequently decide which ones are passed on to the Hiring Manager. It is usually then up to the Hiring Manager to select which ones warrant an interview.

In many organizations, HR screens the applications and resumes against the job requirements to pass on qualified applicants to the Hiring Manager. They can do this either by manually reviewing the resumes submitted or using resume filtering software.

Resume filtering software screens applications and/or resumes against predetermined keywords and typically ranks them by keyword density. It’s used primarily by larger companies where dozens or even hundreds of resumes may be received for each job posting.

In some cases, although this is becoming increasingly infrequent, HR may perform an initial “screening” interview of candidates to decide which ones to pass on to the Hiring Manager. This is frequently done by a phone interview but some larger companies do it in person.

The Role of the Hiring Manager

The Hiring Manager has two primary responsibilities:

  1. Conduct the final interview. In some cases, usually in smaller organizations, the Hiring Manager may conduct the second or even the first interview, but always the final interview.
  2. Decide which candidate will be offered the job

In other words, regardless of how applicants are passed on to the Hiring Manager, ultimately it’s that person who conducts the final interview and decides which candidate will be hired.  

Once that decision is made, HR usually takes over again and makes the job offer, including salary negotiation, within the boundaries established by the Hiring Manager.

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My purpose in going through all this detail is to make the point that the Hiring Manager, not HR, is the decision-maker in the hiring process. 

Consequently, the Hiring Manager is whom you must impress. 

That is, unless HR does the initial screening interview.  In that case, you need to make a good first impression to even be considered for passing on to the Hiring Manager. 

The bottom line here is that HR is now a facilitator, not a decision-maker in the hiring process.

That said, keep in mind that in companies that are too small to have a full-time HR Manager, it may be the Hiring Manager who does everything. This means that the person to whom you first communicate about a job may be the Hiring Manager rather than an HR person.

The best advice I can offer you is that you should treat all people you encounter during the hiring process as if they were the Hiring Manager. Even if they aren’t, you just never know who has enough influence with the Hiring Manager to kill your chances for an interview as a result of a perceived slight.

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