The Human Resources Department

Some years ago, the term Department of Employment used in the public sector was replaced in most states by the term Department of Human Resources, or some variation thereof. There is some speculation that the reason for this change was the widespread misnomer “Department of Unemployment,” spawned by the simple fact that said department was the source of unemployment checks. At any rate, this article is less about the employment resources provided by the public sector than about the many and varied services found in the human resources department within a private business.

Human resource departments were, at one time, simply the funnel for hiring and firing. Job requests from department heads were turned into job postings internally and through public media. Terminations were handled with exit interviews and the presentation of severance packages. Today, human resource departments cover a good deal more territory than simply hiring and firing.

Regulatory compliance is a matter of substantial import in the hiring and firing practices of any modern business. Equal opportunity statutes require firms to ensure that discrimination of any sort is minimized in the hiring process. Compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act deals not only with physical access issues, but with hiring practices. Laws regarding immigration change with regularity and impact hiring regulations.

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Some human resource departments oversee employee benefits. In the age of managed health care, dealing with health insurance companies can be a burdensome process – usually for the health care provider, but sometimes for the employer as well. Negotiation and renegotiation of contracts with benefit providers fall to the human resources department; today those benefits are a critical line item in the company’s expense column.

Companies experiencing growth and particularly companies that need technical or business students as potential new hires will develop a recruiting team that travels from campus to campus in search of engineering, information technology and finance majors who will be graduating soon. Other forms of outreach such as advertising in local media and through media outlets (such as websites) where talented job seekers might be looking falls within the purview of the human resources department.

Because of the web and Monster.com and the convenience of email, human resources departments will often find themselves deluged with resumes for a handful of open positions. Vetting those resumes has itself become an automated process for some larger firms. Those resumes that are submitted electronically – which some firms insist upon – will be scanned for keywords and sorted accordingly. It would be interesting to explore just how keywords are chosen that which keywords trigger acceptance for review or rejection out of hand.

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The human resources field has been made more interesting by the rise of executive recruiting firms. Professionals who match jobs with individuals provide a professional link that can be of great value to a human resources department because so many of the resume databases are shared. However, the value of human contact remains the most important factor in hiring today, as it always has. The vast majority of job placements occur through personal acquaintance or a personal recommendation.