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HR, Recruiters, Hiring Managers…they all have different missions


It is so hard to figure out the “rules” of job search.  Probably because there aren’t any, really.  But you should know the difference between HR, recruiters and hiring managers. Each has a different set of priorities. 

I have sat on both sides of the hiring desk.  I have worked as all of the above: HR, recruiter and hiring manager.  I also know colleagues in all three functions.  I thought it might be helpful to help you understand the different roles they play so that you can understand where they are coming from when they provide advice or when they don’t return your calls.

enforcerHR/Human Resources

These are typically people who work for the organization (sometimes they can be contracted).  Their roles are to ensure rules are followed and processes are in place.  If the company does a lot of hiring, they may even have internal recruiters who are solely responsible for hiring.

Mission:  to enforce rules around HR policies and procedures


  • They know the organization/company


  • They may or may not know the true nature of the job
  • They usually serve as a filter, screening candidates that don’t fit the criteria


This term usually applies to people outside the organization who have been hired or engaged to find talent.  They could be working for a firm or have their own business.  They could be Retained or Contingent.

Retained means that they have a relationship with the company (either exclusive or not), to help them find the right talent.

Contingent means that if they provide a candidate who ends up getting hired, they will be paid a fee.  Otherwise, they are not compensated. They may even be competing with other recruiters to fill the position.

Mission:  To find the right candidate for the company and make money


  • They serve as a go-between and you can and should be more direct in how you answer their questions
  • They will love you if you meet the qualifications of the job they are trying to fill


  • Not all recruiters are created equal
  • If they don’t need you, you probably won’t hear from them again

jugglerHiring Managers

These folks have many responsibilities, one of which is to make the final hiring decision for new talent to their group or company.

Mission:  To run a successful operation


  • They know the organization/company and the requirements of the job


  • They have multiple hats to wear and filling a job is just one of them

Who should you be networking with?  Why is it so hard to get a call back?  Who should you call back?

The answer depends, doesn’t it!?

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Thea March 30, 2011, 7:10 am

    This is a great summary of the differences between HR, Recruiters and Hiring Managers. Another variation are external recruiters that satisfy the account management, sales and human resources generalist functions. This occurs frequently in IT where a large number of departments are contractual staff. Consultants are hired by recruiters on a W2 perm, W2 temp, 1099 or C2C basis and then placed in the department for a period of time (this can be a few months to many years). Consultants receive pay from the agency and remain in close contact with the recruiter throughout the duration of their assignment. Although all companies could be accused of being in business to make money, I think recruiters receive an unfair slight in this regard. Our mission is to find the right candidate, run a successful and highly recommended staffing operation, in addition to enforcing HR policies and procedures.

    • Hannah Morgan March 31, 2011, 5:09 am

      Thank you for the other variation. It has been my experience that these types of contractors assume the role they are assigned, so I lumped them in the HR capacity, even though they are not technically employees of the company, their mission/assignment is the same. (Hope I understood you description correctly). Yes, HR departments have recruiting staff and their mission is two-fold, to find the right talent while ensuring fair practices in the hiring practice.
      Thanks for you comment!

  • Wesw@hiredmyway.com March 30, 2011, 3:53 pm

    Great post, Hannah! To some extent, I believe job seekers are a little intimidated by all the various levels of human resources professionals who can be involved in a single hire. You and I have the benefit of being on the other side of the divide, but just put yourself in their shoes and imagine this unseen, all-knowing hierarchy of individuals, all looking at your resume and judging your capabilities. Pretty scary stuff. A blog post like this goes a long way to humanizing the people behind the titles. Nice work!

    • Hannah Morgan March 31, 2011, 5:14 am

      The unknown generally is scary. So is making assumptions. I hear so many job seekers make false assumptions about the roles and responsibilities of these folks, I felt it was important to try and clarify. I guess the other assumption I should debunk is that hiring is a fair process. There is absolutely nothing fair about it. It is based on emotions, preferences and oh, yea, assessment. All are subject to interpretation and bias. But, this is nothing new. Thanks for contributing and I appreciate your comment!

  • hr benefits December 13, 2012, 6:13 am

    I really like your description about HR, recruiter and hiring manager.. They all have there own responsibilities…