How the Human Resources Field Works in 2019: A Talk with HR Practitioner Jannie Pilgrim

Jannie Pilgrim

Although some aspects of the human resources space have changed over the past year, some trends remain the same, reports HR Dive.

“Increased attention on topics traditionally considered the realm of HR — discrimination, harassment, diversity, workplace culture — made workplaces the convergence point for some of the biggest story lines in 2018. Calls for equal pay, worker protections and better solutions for harassment and discrimination swirled through the boardrooms and shop floors of Google, Tesla, Amazon and CBS, among others,” an article on its website states.

But, ”We’re still the stewards of information and our people,” Jewell Parkinson, senior vice president and head of human resources at SAP, told HR Dive in an interview. “That is going to be our role.”

According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median national annual salary for a human resources manager is $106,910, although that number will vary based on specialization. Further, the BLS predicts that job growth projections over the next decade will be 9 percent for HR managers; 7 percent for HR specialists; and 10 percent for training and development managers.   

Jannie Pilgrim, whose current role primarily focuses on diversity, and helping people labeled with disabilities to get opportunities, is a talent acquisition and diversity & inclusion leader who entered the field by “process of elimination,” she told in a recent interview. CEO of blog talk radio show The Deal, Pilgrim planned on studying marketing in undergrad, but found herself in HR after taking and enjoying a few HR courses.

Here, she shares valuable information on job seeking as well as the roles of recruiters and hiring managers. (And head back to in September when we’ll have part two of our conversation with Pilgrim.)  What, if any, challenges do hiring managers and recruiters face in 2019?

Jannie Pilgrim: Time to fill a position can be problematic. Unfilled positions can cost companies time and money.  Many times, there are many candidates in a requisition, but they may not have the right qualifications.  This is especially true when seeking more qualified candidates. Another concern is long applications. A long application process can turn off potential candidates.  Some companies are looking to shorten this process. From the candidates’ perspective, spending an hour-plus can be daunting and frustrating when you don’t know if your application will be reviewed or considered. Many applicants end up abandoning the process.

This can end up being a branding issue.  Think about it. If it’s going to take an applicant over an hour to apply to a position, that company will need to be desirable. The job description will have to excite the applicant – otherwise, the person won’t feel it’s the best use of their time.  I was speaking to a leader from a company that has a great product and asked, “What were they doing to attract people?” I wanted to know were they on the radar of entry-level talent? The company did not have a good a social media presence, and it was not clear to me how they were getting the word out about their opportunities.

Posting jobs is one way to attract talent; letting your ERGs (Employee Resource Groups) be strategic ambassadors is another.  Good employees are always a good resource. They can speak about the culture, reputation, and the many opportunities the company has to offer.  Make employees part of the plan in attracting the right talent.

In 2000, there was a lot of conversation around “the war for talent,” which was companies’ fight for top talent. There is still talk today about the war for talent.  As markets and demands change, so does the need for new skills. There is talent in the market, but the challenge is getting the right talent. Honestly, this responsibility falls both on the applicant and the potential employer and can be addressed in a number of ways:

#1 Job seekers must re-train themselves and always be in a learning mindset.  They should always be picking up new skills to stay ahead of the curve. #2 Hiring managers should be open to hiring really, smart people they can train, as opposed to finding someone with the exact match of qualifications listed on the job description – this can also help retain talent. CEOs get this, unfortunately, sometimes middle managers often miss the mark on this. How has technology changed the landscape, if at all?

Jannie Pilgrim: When I started out, there was a big shift. The HR department was called Personnel. It dealt with the process of paper as opposed to human capital. In those days you would knock on an employer’s personnel office, complete an application, and get to know people.   Now, Tech plays a large role in how HR has changed. Today, applicants go online, apply, put their resume into an applicant tracking system and hopefully, they will hear from employers.

I hear from a lot of people that their resumes are going into a black hole. It’s because they have not been taught how to optimize their resume with keywords. Resumes need to be strategically written so that it looks professional, and not contrived. It should Include keywords that help your resume come up higher in the search. Even then, there are is no guarantee you will get selected; there can be 300 to 400 people applying to one job.  It’s important that candidates network, network, and do more networking. Be clear of what opportunities you are seeking and be able to share your work desires in 30 seconds, also known as an elevator pitch. (This makes it easier for managers and HR to think of where you would be a good fit.)

Get out there and go to functions. If you know where you are interested in working, one of the best things you can do is go on LinkedIn and find someone who works there. Connect with them, send them your resume, and let them know you’ve applied to a position. This works especially well if you have a mutual connection, for example, if you graduated from the same school or club.  So in short, use the technology as a tool, while making personal connections. Lastly, information is power, and companies are making a strong effort to better manage their workforce through data. Technology is the tool in helping to manage and analyze this data.  Do recruiters typically reach out to people on LinkedIn, for example, who appear to be a good fit for a vacant position they are helping a company fill?     

Jannie Pilgrim: Let’s say there’s a junior-level position I’m looking to fill, and there seems to be a lot of interest in the position.  Recruiters will go online and post a requisition on job boards through the applicant tracking system, and we can get a lot of qualified candidates that way.

However, for the more highly-skilled positions, it’s more of a challenge.  Many times, posting on regular job boards won’t work. It’s not easy to find the right applicants through that method, especially when seeking diverse talent that includes women and people of color.  If underrepresented groups feel they don’t have 50 to 60 percent of the qualifications for a position, they won’t apply. Just the other day, I advised someone to apply to a position, even if they have only 50 percent of the requirements. The reality is, their counterparts will apply because many feel they can learn the other skills on the job. In a case where an applicant does not have all of the requirements for the job, a strong cover letter can be a key differentiator in standing out in the crowd.

For middle and more senior level positions, the recruiter has to do a deeper dive to find the right candidates.  They may have to engage in a more active search, that would include sourcing talent on LinkedIn (and other sources) … Checking out their profile, work history, and skills, and reach out to gauge a potential candidates’ interest.

A best-in-class practice is to seek out and obtain talent that may not be seeking a new role or looking to leave their current company. The objective is to engage them, bring them in to meet management in advance of having a position. They may be right for a future position or have the skills and talent that meet a current business need. A good practice is for recruiters and managers to create a recruiting culture; Linkedin is a good tool for this strategic approach.  I’ve done this and it’s been very effective. I worked with a Chief Diversity Officer that said, “People hire people they know.”  This is true and can add to a lack of diversity in the workplace. Building a pipeline of talent in advance of turnover allows managers and HR access to people with the right skill set in advance of turnover. This is a good way to hire talent while being intentional in sourcing a diverse candidate pool. When it comes to women and people of color, this strategy is really important to be able to get them in the door. What skill set is essential for someone making a career change or a recent college grad who wants to be in the HR space?

Jannie Pilgrim: If you’re a college student or recent college grad, try to get an internship in HR; you’ll have a leg up on most people. If you can’t get an internship in a large company with a good brand, try to volunteer at your school or a non-profit in an HR capacity. That would look great on your resume and open doors.

For any career change, you should always level-up your skill set, and be very familiar with technology. If you’re going to go back to school, I would say to learn human resource information systems, so you can bring some IT and data management aspects to the table.  Understanding the business that you are interested in is important. Learn the jargon, the players, and clearly state your transferable skills. Take some classes or get a certificate in HR.

Even without experience in HR, networking goes a long way. There are certain organizations such as the 5 O’Clock Club that can help you navigate the landscape, so you can strategically get in the door of certain companies. You’ll learn how to work your resume in a way that will help you highlight your transferable skills, and reach managers and influencers so that they will think of you when opportunities become available.

Also, with networking, remember that it’s key to reach out to people before you need something. That way, you’ve already built that bridge.