AMA: Hiring a Company's First HR Manager

June 13, 2014 at 6:00 AM by Kathleen de Lara

Last week, we launched our AMA: Recruiter Edition series and the questions came piling in. We pulled one from the rick and put on our Ann Landers caps. 

AMA: I'm recruiting candidates for our company's first HR manager and have no idea where to start. Any tips on hiring HR for a small company? 

HR management at many small companies and startups are notorious for being nonexistent and ineffective, and the root of the problem is the hiring of someone unfit for the role, whether it be because they're inexperienced, lack proper training, or because they're completely out of their element as someone who's faking it til they make it.

In HR? Not a good idea.

Company's longest-serving employee ≠ HR pro

As most companies are strapped for cash and other resources, or don't have the time to source candidates, recruiters often look to the organization's veteran employees as suitable substitutes for a human resources manager. Long-time employees who know the ropes of a company's team members, politics, and culture are often confused with those who understand how a company's management teams should function, and enforce accordingly. In this case, form and function don't go hand in hand without proper training and experience.

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In this case, even if an employee looks and acts like an HR director, they aren't necessarily the right fit for the role without proper training and experience. Stick it to someone who knows more than just a thing or two. An HR director deals with a bevy of the company's internal functions, including payroll, compensation, employee relations, training, records, and risk management. Now imagine handing over all that responsiblity to someone who doesn't have the right background, expecting they'll wing it and get the job done right? 

Good company culture is not a quantifiable measurement of HR success. 

At least not entirely. Bear in mind that when it comes to culture, HR's role isn't to keep the peace, but to develop and adapt culture through a company's growth, ups, downs...and disasters. Oftentimes, small companies look to their culture as one of the draws of employees benefits and compensation packages, which is great. But a general, maintained happiness isn't the sign of a company that's progressing.

Does the candidate understand how to address issues, and design plans and solutions that come with scaling a company? Regardless of the rate you expect the company to grow in the upcoming years, a viable candidate for the current HR manager role should be able to evolve into the role you'll need years from now, as someone who can manage operations, relations, and recreation. This isn't to say that culture should be ignored, as having strife within a company can equate frequent turnover, increased re-hiring costs, and lowered incentives and motivation for productivity.

Good luck! 

Got a question you'd like to ask? Send us a comment below or submit your question here! Share your biggest hiring challenges and check back every Friday for more AMA: Recruiter Edition!