Ten Signs You’ve Got the Wrong HR Professional


When you’re looking for an HR consultant or manager, you have to consider a lot of factors. This person isn’t just there to hire and fire people, they’re there to help guide the business in how it manages its most valuable asset—its people. They need to know about all the technical stuff—like payroll and employment law—but also about the inspiring stuff like leadership and culture. But when you’re doing your research, here are 10 big red flags to look for to make sure you don’t get the wrong HR professional.

  1. Inexperienced: 

    If this person has spent very little time working for more senior HR executives before hanging out their shingle, you’re likely to have problems. You don’t hire an architect a month after they graduate. A CPA has to train under an experienced CPA. Humans are the most complicated and variable aspect of your business so why would you show any less diligence in hiring a professional who has a big say in how your culture turns out? People have myriad motivations and the business of managing them has changed drastically over recent years, though the basic nature of humans hasn’t changed for millennia.

  2. Opinionated: 

    If they’re more interested in telling you their opinions than they are in gathering data from your actual employees about management, compensation, and organizational structure, they aren’t going to be able to deliver what you need. You don’t need their opinions on multi-generational workforces nearly as much as you need their ability to understand and address the concerns at your organization.

  3. Outdated: 

    Did they bring the employee handbook from their last company? Run. You need an HR person who can skate to where the puck is going to be, not who wants to bring in a bunch of practices that they’re comfortable with because they know how to do it that way. Everything changes constantly. HR needs to be current with the best practices and their approach needs to be customized to your organization and your employees. Which means that the professional needs to be constantly seeking education lest they wind up…

  4. Undereducated: 

    Organizational hierarchies, software, laws, compensation strategies are changing every day. If your HR person isn’t committed to continuing education in order to stay ahead of these changes, you could wind up the AOL of your industry. Or worse, you could wind up in real regulatory trouble.

  5. Tech Challenged:

    Along these same lines, there are so many great software tools to do all the rote tasks of HR, leaving the crucial job of building culture and compliance for intelligent, creative, outside-the-box humans. Did you know you could set up your whole retirement plan on an app? What about scheduling? Leave the number crunching and form filling for robots, and have an HR person who can help with leadership, building better management, and hiring for longevity.

  6. Misplaced Loyalties Part 1: 

    Who buys this person lunch? Is it their peers? Their boss? Their best friend? Or is it HR software vendors, recruiters, benefit brokers and the like? If it’s the latter, and you need to search for a vendor, get used to hearing “I just want to work with the people I like. They treat me well. I know them.” Vendors know that if they build a personal relationship with the HR person they’re going to be first on the list to call, even if they’re not the best choice. You need an HR person who understands the difference between professional connections and cronyism.

  7. Misplaced Loyalties Part 2: 

    Let’s say they do use software, but only Bob’s HR Software for Medium Sized Businesses. They use this because this is the software they know and have been using for 10 years—see Outdated, #3. Every business is different and the software has to work the way the people work—not the other way around. They should be focused on what employees need to get things done the way that works best for this company, this industry, this group of employees.

  8. Misplaced Loyalties Part 3: 

    There’s always a squeaky wheel bending the ear of the HR professional. They’ll tell you that, “Everybody at the company” feels that this manager is abusive, or that policy is ridiculous, or they’re all going to leave if they don’t get a raise. What Squeaky Wheel means is that they, and maybe the person they eat lunch with, feel that way vehemently. HR consultants and managers need to go beyond the Squeaky Wheel. Those who don’t can be rightly considered a…

  9. Reluctant Researcher:

    What do your employees want from a benefits package? What are the most important perks they’re looking for? How do they feel about management? How do they feel about their opportunities for advancement? What are the best practices for hiring in the industry? Who are your chief competitors when it comes to recruiting and what are they doing differently? What kind of salaries are reasonable for this series of jobs? All of these answers are different for every company and they’re different under different circumstances. You need to hire someone who knows they have to get all this information, and not just get it once, but constantly be updating so you’re relevant. It’s part of the job.

  10. Helicopter HR People:

    You have a manager who hates firing people so the HR professional says, “I’ll do it!” This seems nice. Except that their job isn’t to make themselves more and more indispensable because they do all the dirty work. The HR professional’s job is to teach the manager how to do their job better, so they can manage employees themselves, which they need to be able to do from time to time.

Whoever is in charge of HR is going to have a big say in who your company hires, thus who the company is going to become. There’s no position more important or more undervalued. You need a partner to help you fulfill your strategy. And if you need a senior HR consultant on retainer or help in assessing your next full-time HR professional, we’re really good at that!

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