Ever wondered why you struggle to hire for an HR position?

Published on: 4 Jul 2019

Is HR one of the hardest markets to recruit for? And how can you successfully find your next HR hire?


Most people think HR recruitment is one of the easiest areas to recruit for. HR people are ‘lovely’, there are lots of candidates out there, and you can pretty much guarantee every company has an HR team.

All of the above is true, but when you start to dig a little deeper into the HR market there are a range of challenges that mean HR recruitment can be particularly tricky, whether you are recruiting directly or partnering with a recruitment agency.

Let’s start by highlighting the range of specialist skills and areas that HR can cover:

Specialist skills and areas HR can cover

If you then consider each of the areas above have 4-6 levels, there can be up to 48 roles you could be recruiting for.

If you then consider multiple industries, this number is multiplied every time you look at a different industry; HR in different industries can require different skills. Very quickly, this means you end up with a huge number of candidates with differing skill sets, backgrounds and preferences that could be your next perfect hire!


Now before I get a huge number of individuals writing that HR is a universally transferable skill (which I equally believe), when it comes to the crunch, the number of clients that I have recruited for (over the last 8 years!) that end up hiring an individual with a background outside of their sector is minimal!  

I think this is a really important factor when it comes to recruiting an HR individual, and is more apparent when recruiting for senior HR positions.

The first point is to understand the language the hiring company uses, and if you haven't worked in that sector, it’s hard. An example of this is: as part of a senior HR interview you are likely to meet senior stakeholders from across the business. At this stage, it is unlikely you are being quizzed on your HR skill set, but rather your ability to build rapport with these senior individuals. The best way to do this is to communicate in a language they understand, possibly name-dropping businesses or individuals, as well as market intel to show your knowledge, network and understanding. This will demonstrate to them your ability to influence HR projects should you be successful.

Of course these senior stakeholders, without knowing the workings of an HR function, find this relatability comforting and are likely to give that candidate their endorsement. I have experienced this first hand and it happens when you have two candidates with similar skills sets interviewing at this level; essentially it’s human nature to align yourself to what you know. This is further impacted by the “likeability” factor.

In the majority of businesses, HR will lead on a number of complex projects (engagement/change/redundancies) and the ability to deliver these, sometimes sensitive, messages is demonstrated not only in the candidate’s experience, but their personality and character too.

This can then filter down into hiring practices when recruiting for lower level positions too, such as an HRBP that will be partnering with a certain business unit. Understandably an HR Director would want their HR team to be able to relate to the staff they are supporting.


All of this needs to be taken into account when recruiting for the HR market:

1. You have to have a wide reach!

Many businesses will choose to partner with a recruitment agency for this exact reason. HR recruitment consultants develop and maintain huge candidate networks across their entire target market. This is because you need the widest network possible to be able to identify the right candidate, especially when considering the wide range of possible roles.

2. Multi-pronged approach

HR recruitment consultants utilise a range of search methodologies to create their extensive networks, in order to best meet a client’s needs. This includes a blend of skill sets, within a specific sector and aligning personalities to a hiring manager and wider senior leadership teams. Because of this, we utilise job boards, targeted marketing, LinkedIn & social media, full utilisation of our network, as well as candidate and client profiling.

3. Re-humanising recruitment

The changes to the recruitment industry over the last decade have been huge; the advancements in technology (job boards, social media, Artificial Intelligence) and the pressure to reduce costs (direct hire teams, reducing agency usage/fees, and stricter PSL agreements) to name but a few!


The complex nature of HR recruitment means the personal touch will always be required. HR professionals are required to be technically astute, demonstrating specialist skills and experience, whilst also meeting and matching a clients culture and environment too.

For these reasons identifying, attracting and retaining the best talent for your HR team is extremely challenging and it is why businesses will choose to partner with a trusted HR recruiter.