The problem with HR gatekeepers

Sep 29, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 9.04.19 AMI love human resources people. Believe it or not, I was one of them once. I even authored the only hardcover book published on the topic for the A/E industry, Human Resources Management: The Complete Guidebook for Design Firms, published nearly three decades ago by John Wiley & Sons. HR people can do a lot of good for their employers. They help with new employee integration, create and manage training programs, help keep employ benefits high and costs low, draft policies, and try to keep you from being sued. That said, HR people can be a real problem when they see themselves as gatekeepers with the task of keeping bad people OUT of the organizations they work for. What I'm talking about is making HR – or rather making the wrong HR person – the first point of contact for all matters recruiting-related in your firm. When you have someone whose entire recruitment orientation revolves around keeping the bad people out vs. getting more good people to come in, they will kill your growth. And that‎'s very bad. Growth is related to profitability. Rapidly growing firms (20 percent or more annually), are significantly more profitable than average firms (they make about 70 percent more profit). They are also better places to work because they create more new jobs for their employees. These HR gatekeepers kill growth for one reason. There are never enough qualified people who will jump through all the hoops they create to support a growing company. Think about it. Do you think the BEST people out there would be willing to give a presentation on their skills to a potential employer? It's been asked. Or would the BEST people be willing to fill out a lengthy on-line job application and provide four references when they haven't even decided to leave their current employers? I see this regularly. Or would the best people be willing to suffer through a 70-question phone screening interview? ‎Seen it, even recently. The BEST people – the ones you should be trying to hire – are not unemployed and desperate and dependent on you. It's the other way around. They have a million options. They want to be sold on why they should consider working for you instead of the dozens – or hundreds – or even thousands of other companies out there in this business. Don't assume HR gatekeepers are necessarily the best way to hire people. You need HR people – particularly line staff – who are adept at making good people feel at home from the moment they speak to them on the phone through every visit they make to your office. In this way you will always have choices among good people to hire when you decide you have a need. Don't dismiss my advice here. This is a much bigger deal than most companies realize!

Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s founder and CEO. Contact him at

This article is from issue 1163 of The Zweig Letter. Interested in more management advice every week from Mark Zweig, the Zweig Group team, and a talented list of other guest writers? Click here to subscribe or get a free trial of The Zweig Letter.

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.