why I wouldn’t hire an HR person for an HR job

I can be pretty judgmental about Human Resources because it’s my field, I’m passionate about what it can do for business, and I’m appalled at how many HR “professionals” want to hold the field in the stone age. But really, Human Resources is no different than any other field. A few people are really, really passionate about and great at their jobs, most are fair to middlin’, and there’s a group at the bottom that really drag things down. As the old saying goes: there’s the people who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened.

If I were filling an HR spot today, I’d be inclined to look well outside the field. I’m pretty sure I could train a top performer to be a great HR pro quicker and easier than I could take an existing HR pro and help them to be great. That was Nucor Steel’s insight when they located their plants in rural areas outside of the rustbelt: they found it easier to teach farmers to be steelworkers than to teach steelworkers a different way of doing things. I’ve seen this applied in other industries: I know of an owner of auto repair stores who hires his store managers from popular restaurants. He has found it’s much easier to teach a restaurant manager about the auto repair business than to teach mechanics to excel at providing a great customer experience.

Would I really not hire a human resources person for a human resources job? I would, but here’s what I’d be looking for:

  • They really, really get that the focus is on customer service and managing the customer experience.
  • They are collaborative problem solvers who strive to figure out how to do something vs. deflecting innovation with the shield of bureaucracy.
  • They view themselves as a business person with an HR focus vs an HR person who somehow ended up working in a business.
  • They are FUN. I want to surround myself with people who enjoy their job and enjoy their lives. Managers and employees should look forward to visiting HR, not feel like they’ve entered a crypt. HR is tough, tough, tough. A lot of the job involves difficult conversations because people haven’t been at their best. It’s easy to get bitter, cynical, and self-righteous. But please do it at my competitor’s company, not mine.
  • They get stuff done. They don’t talk about how busy they are or use “I tried, but…” as an excuse. They produce.
  • They enjoy helping people.
  • They love learning and improving their skills.
  • They are driven to succeed AND value the team’s success as much as they value their own success.
  • They have been exposed to finance, accounting, marketing, sales, etc. They don’t need to be an expert, but should understand how the business works and how all the departments fit together.
  • They like innovation and view change as a core part of progress. If you hate or fear change, please go work for someone else.
  • And, yeah, they should probably know something about employment law and HR best practices. But, if they have the rest, this one is the easy one to teach. I can’t teach someone to have fun (even when the job isn’t fun) or to enjoy change, or to enjoy the hard work of self-improvement, but HR basics I can do.

That’s my wish list. What’s yours?

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