What Is the Hiring Process for an HR Manager?

by Ruth Mayhew

Hiring a human resources manager could be as simple as the company president handpicking someone she knows who has the expertise and willingness to direct the HR activities for a small company. On the other hand, hiring an HR manager for a large organization might require an extensive application process, several interviews and perhaps even a demonstration of her platform skills and a lengthy discussion about her strategic vision for the company's workforce.

Application Process

For formality's sake, many organizations start the hiring process with an online application, typically through what's called an application tracking system, or ATS. Just like other positions, the information obtained via the ATS contains personal information about the potential HR manager, such as her name, contact information, education, work history, academic credentials and certifications. For an HR-manager-level position, uploading a cover letter and resume to accompany the online application should never be an option.

Preliminary Screening

It might be awkward for the HR department recruiter to conduct the preliminary screening for the candidate who might become her boss. If there's an incumbent, she might be responsible for conducting the screening via phone or in person. Ideally, interviews for HR managers should begin in person because demeanor and personality could be primary considerations for the department's leader. Although a brief telephone interview can save time, it shouldn't last too long -- just long enough to determine whether the candidate has the requisite skills and is still interested in the job. At most, a 10- to 15-minute conversation is all that's needed to obtain sufficient information.

Face-to-Face Interviews

If the current HR manager is still on board, there might be a brief discussion between her and the candidate before the candidate moves forward in the selection process. But with this approach comes the challenge that the incumbent may struggle with being objective as she must be. The candidate she's interviewing may have a completely different personality, professional background and approach to HR development than she does and, should these differences become obvious, it might be difficult for the incumbent to pass on to the company leadership someone who could bring a fresh perspective to the company.

Second-Round Interview

When there appears to be a match -- meaning, the HR manager candidate checks all the boxes where professional experience, job knowledge, education and industry expertise mesh -- there's typically a second interview with a member of the organization's top-level leadership. It's not unusual for this to be a panel interview, because the prospective HR manager will need to appeal to a broader group than, say, the sales department manager. In a medium- to large-size organization, panel interview members may consist of the CEO, chief operations officer, chief financial officer and maybe the HR director if the HR manager isn't going to be the top person in the department.

Third-Round Interview

HR department employees need to feel good about their prospective leader. Given the nature of HR, it wouldn't sit well to suddenly bring in a new HR leader who inherits a team of HR specialists and generalists without meeting them beforehand. An informal interview is all that's necessary for the HR manager to meet her future subordinates. When they meet an HR manager they believe they can work for, and someone whom they trust will motivate them and aid in their professional development, it's practically a no-brainer at that point. If the HR manager jells with the department members, she could be a shoo-in based solely on the connection with her future staff.

Final Round and Job Offer

Depending on the organizational structure and whether the company has a centralized office where the management-level hiring decisions are made, there could be another final interview with an organization's executive who resides in another city or isn't involved in hiring decisions except for managers. By this time, there's usually just a final candidate left. The amount of time it takes to bring two candidates to this stage could be costly. Once the HR manager candidate receives the blessing of top leadership and HR department staff, a job offer is usually in the works.

About the Author

Ruth Mayhew began writing in 1985. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry" and "Human Resources Managers Appraisal Schemes." Mayhew earned senior professional human resources certification from the Human Resources Certification Institute and holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

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