The Guide to Picking Your Battles When Working in HR

I have learned a lot of valuable lessons over the years. I have had a number of accomplishments, successes, and failures. I have learned that at times, I can be quick to react. At times, that can be a positive thing. Other times, it can be seen as a negative. I realize this and work on it daily. Because I can be impulsive, I really have to work at making logical well thought out decisions.

Picking Your Battles When Working in HR

I have been a part of HR now for 15 years. I have had the opportunity to work for some terrific organizations. I have placed some people in roles that are very difficult to fill. I have worked with owners of organizations, CIO’s, CEO’s, VP’s, Directors, and even staff managerial roles. Even though I can be impulsive, I am a rule player. I am very methodical in the way I do things. I understand processes, and believe me, there are a ton of processes in HR.

Let’s take an example. A manager asks me to fill a role. I immediately go into the “is it approved” or “is it in your budget” mode. I understand that without these two things, I really can’t help the manager until I have them. Once I find out the approvals are there, I do an exploratory intake session learning more about the position and follow the necessary processes to begin and finish recruitment. Every organization is different, and not one of the companies I have worked for have the exact same processes. They are similar though.

Every manager is different. Some are very hands on, while others are very hands off. Some like to interview 20 candidates, while others will gladly choose between 2 or 3. As a recruiter you have to be a chameleon and work with each manager differently. You can guide them and direct them and be their advisor, but ultimately, they will make the hire.

Along the way, there are undoubtedly going to be some hiccups. A manager may escalate you for not having enough candidates in a certain time frame. A candidate may not accept an offer. A manager may want to hire someone quicker than the process allows. There may be issues with the references of the candidates. There may be issues with re-hire eligibility. You get the point though. The list goes on and on.

Let’s get back to the original topic. I am impulsive. I am a process follower. How does this relate to me in HR? I have learned that I need to pick my battles. An example would be my 6 year old daughter and if she is going to wear an ugly shirt to Kindergarten or not. Probably something I shouldn’t go crazy over. There are other valuable life lessons that I can teach rather than a shirt.

I have learned to go with the flow. My clients and customers are my hiring managers. Every one of them is different. Every one of them is going to expect a different result. I have learned there is a time and a place for everything. I know I am right 80% of the time, but I am not going to get into a heated battle at the end of the day unless it is for a really good reason. I like my job. I like what I do. I know when to pick my battles. So if my process- oriented mind gets in the way or if my impulsive habits get in the way, I stop. I stop and take a big breath. I listen. I evaluate the situation and then proceed.

What battles in HR have you chosen not to take recently? I can guarantee there are more than you can or want to list, but I would love to hear.

What is worth fighting for and what is not?


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Will Thomson

Will Thomson lives in Austin, Texas, and works for Rosetta Stone as the global sales and marketing recruiter. He has been in recruitment and sales for 20 years. He has recruited some of the most sought-after talent around the globe, and is a regular blogger for the recruitment industry. Connect with Will.

Reader Interactions


  1. Rayanne Thorn says

    Great post, Will and yes, there are battles at every corner. I choose the ones I know I can win.

    Know when to fold em, know when to walk away, know when to run.

    It is a dog eat dog world out there and any recruiter who doesn’t get that – doesn’t understand the ol’ standard, “the customer (your HM – hiring manager) is always right” will lose out and lose respect.

    Keep on recruitin’


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