Is HR harder to hire for than the Finance and Legal Professions?

There is no shortage of people in the HR profession.  But the difference between what we deem as ok vs great, is vast. Clearly we're not alone in this thinking - one of the biggest frustrations we hear daily from HR SVP's and business leaders, is their struggle to find high calibre hires for their HR teams.

Arguably, when you’re hiring for other corporate professions, you can reasonably rely on the quality of the CV as an indicator of the person’s ability and calibre.  Go to the right university, get the right degree, do the right internship with the right firms, progress a career at a handful of complex, matrix, reputable firms, and voila – you’ve got yourself a decent Director for Finance or Legal.  Absolutely, hires for C level require more than just a sexy CV, but at the mid-senior level the work history on paper is a reasonably accurate guide of candidate quality within these corporate functions.

Not so with HR.  And maybe, like our local doctor (whom we expect to have knowledge and experience of everything in the medical field), we just expect too much from HR professionals, given that their daily work often pushes them to be  a "jack of all trades and master of none”.

In our opinion, a great HR Director needs to have the financial knowledge of an Accountant.  They need to consider risk and compliance and legislation consequences with the mindset of a Legal Counsel.  They need to plan and motivate with commercial savvy like a Sales Leader.  They need to strategise and present with the suave of a Public Relations specialist.  They need to brand and research and explore like a Marketing Director.  They need to jockey and position like a….Politician.  And they need an element of Psychic, to pre empt the variables that always apply when real people are involved.

The reality though, is that many HR professionals are good at just one or two of these things.  Or very average at all of them.  In fact, too many of the HR professionals we meet with daily, just don’t understand how many elements they need to master to be great in their roles.  Too often a HR professional with a "perfect on paper" CV, is anything but high performance.

So here are some questions we would love to hear your answers to.  Are we just being unrealistic about the likelihood of securing all of these skills in one person?  Is the HR role too broad to ever allow for the CV to be factored as a measure of calibre?  Is it easier to hide mediocre performance within HR?  Do Finance and Legal have higher standards applied to progression?  Or to you think there are there other contributing factors?