While the idea of recruiting HR professionals who also have expertise in the industry they're being sought to serve may sound great to hiring managers, it's not too easy to pull off. Sure, an engineering company can find good engineers, but it's much harder to find candidates for HR jobs who have majored in engineering or have experience working in the field.
That's because of the many barriers to recruiting non-HR students to HR jobs:
* Business students tend to flock to more popular jobs, such as marketing and finance.
* HR is just an elective course in many undergraduate business schools, not a requirement.
* HR often gets a reputation as tangential to the mission of the organization, not essential.
* Many students don't know what HR executives do on a day-to-day basis.
* Companies don't weigh their people decisions as highly as other decisions, making students think HR isn't as important as other functions.
John Boudreau, professor and research director at the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California, says past experiences with HR can also cause people to view HR in a negative light.
"I think they often come in with experiences of HR that were very administrative," he says, "so it's not that they don't value what HR does, but their impression of HR is often, 'They're there when you come in; they're there when you leave; I'm not sure what they do in the middle.' "
Still, HR leaders like Mirian Graddick-Weir, executive vice president of human resources at Merck, sing the praises of hiring non HR-students. She says she especially likes recruiting MBA students.
"They're getting a much broader education -- they're learning marketing, they're learning sales [and] operations, and then they're learning organizational behavior," says Graddick-Weir. "So they're ideal candidates to bring in because ... they're grounded in the business and we can rotate them into various functional areas in HR."