There’s a reasonable argument that says they should, but several years ago a great client was seeking a senior professional to join their in-house marketing team. I, along with Dave Beckert that handled the media, was asked to meet with the new person on the morning of his first day. The client had been seeking a top-level marketing person for several weeks, even to the point of offering the job to me or any member of my vendor group. But on a warm day in October the HR department struck gold. They found the perfect candidate and RUSHED to sign him up. He was the perfect hire. Worked in all the right places, said all the right words, had all the right clothes and even had the right haircut. The CFO approved the hire. The CFO? Whatever.
At 9 AM on his first day the new wunderkind was introduced to Dave and me for a little get to know each other chat. Within five minutes the whole conversation started to smell bad. We didn’t have to check into his background or call references. We knew just from the way he asked questions and answered ours that he had no idea what marketing or mar com was. How could you be a senior marketing professional and not know what share of voice is or had never heard of Y&R or BBDO? Ours is a business full of pretenders that often have little trouble getting past the HR layer.
And I’ve seen this same scenario half a dozen times. The HR department isn’t looking for the best candidate; they’re looking for the one that they can’t be criticized for. He looked good on paper, so don’t blame HR. If you’re with a small or mid-sized company, don’t hire a marketing person without talking to your ad agency. If you don’t have an ad agency, call one up. There isn’t an ad agency in the world that wouldn’t want to participate in filling a marketing position. Hell–they’ll help you write the specs and do the search. Is that a problem? They’ll do a better job than the average HR department whose screening process typically filters out the best candidate. Oh, you think the agency will have a bias about who they might recommend. Yes they will; their reputation is at stake. If they screw this up, they can expect to never hear from you again.
Last point. Too many students have told me after an initial interview with the HR department that they don’t think it’s the kind of place they want to work in. The HR interview was uncomfortable and the woman I spoke with was a jerk. If you’re an HR manager and you work for lousy company, there’s no problem being a jerk yourself. Consistency and continuity are good. But if you work for a top shelf company that is a great employer, act like it.