If you’re reading this, you’re probably aware of the great importance of the human resources department. HR plays a guiding role in moving a company forward, handling tasks that range from pivotal and strategic to mundane yet important. Perhaps none of these duties are more essential than the seeking, vetting and hiring of new employees. But what happens when it’s the HR department itself that is in need of a new hire? Finding the right person becomes all the more important.
Knowing When to Hire for the HR Department
There are a number of circumstances that necessitate the hiring of an HR employee.
Replacing a departing staff member: The most obvious reason to hire a new member of the HR team is the departure of another team member. Turnover happens; finding and onboarding a qualified candidate in a timely manner is essential to avoid disruptions to daily operations or burnout amongst remaining staff members.
Formalizing the HR role: For small companies who lack a formalized HR department, there comes a time when creating the position becomes necessary.
“As your business grows and employs more people, the volume of human resource activity increases and personnel problems become more complex,” writes Lynne MacDonald for the Houston Chronicle. “By bringing a human resource specialist into the business, you can mitigate the risks associated with employing staff.” 
Going too long without a dedicated HR specialist puts a growing company at risk of neglecting legal obligations, setting bad or murky precedents with regards to policy, or failing to develop a staffing strategy that works in lockstep with the company’s overall goals.
Growth or Correction: If your company is experiencing high turnover, is falling out of compliance with HR legal obligations, or hears complaints from employees about confusion or poor morale, there is cause for concern. Of course there are many possible reasons for the problems, but it could be a sign that your HR department is understaffed (or staffed with the wrong people.)
Assessing Your Situation and Informing Your Search
Finding the right candidate starts with defining the role. Companies looking to build or significantly increase the size of their staff will need a hiring manager that understands the company’s objectives, as well as the labour market. If compliance and data are a more pressing concern, then someone with substantial legal knowledge may be more fitting. For start-ups, outsourcing the task to a consultant may be an option. In any case, the job description should be specific and be written after a careful assessment of needs.
“If you’re a business looking to grow aggressively, hire someone senior and strategic and give them authority to build their team as needed,” advises HR writer Nikoletta Bika. “If you’re working on a tight recruiting budget, hire a less senior but promising HR professional to handle your daily procedures with a plan to promote them to a strategic role.” 
Traits of a Good HR Specialist
Although specific needs change based upon situation, there are certain traits that are generally important in any HR role. An ideal HR candidate should be organized, an effective and confidential communicator, and adept at multitasking and decision making, all while displaying an understanding of budget and strategy.
In the increasingly automated world of HR, it’s also important to understand technology and be willing to harness it. AI is heavily utilized in candidate screening, chatbots are a part of internal communications, and virtual and augmented reality are common training tools. Despite these advances, humans are still invaluable in the HR function.
“AI isn’t a silver bullet solution,” writes HR writer Alainia Conrad. “Humans are still superior when it comes (to) handling complex, nuanced situations.” 
Finding and Interviewing the Candidate
When it comes to finding quality candidates, there is no shortage of places to look. Job ad boards, networking (both online and in person) and asking for referrals from staff are good places to start. Outsourcing your search to external recruiters is another good option. Consulting our post on the benefits of internal vs. external recruiting may help you decide which option is right for you.
As previously mentioned, it’s important to be specific, yet realistic, in the job description.
“Why are we always looking for superhero qualities which no one possesses, or writing turgid job descriptions which do not emphasise opportunity?” wonders Leatham Green, executive director of the Public Services People Managers Association. 
The HR department can be effective as a true living embodiment of the company’s desired values, demonstrating teamwork, diversity and work ethic, so hiring with this in mind is a good idea as well.
Finally, when interviewing candidates, it pays to remember that those with HR experience will likely be savvy to the process and can, therefore, be expected to interview well. For this reason, personality traits, experience and recommendations may be a better indicator than simply being a good interviewee.