This is a question I think about a lot. See, I'm interested in being a recruiter as a long-term career thing. But there is an attitude beginning to take shape in many corners of the Recruiterverse that there pretty much shouldn't be a job called "Recruiter." Or at least, that a Recruiter should be someone who is well versed and experienced in a particular field, and is not qualified to hire anyone outside of that field.
And there is some merit to this idea. Check out this recent interview with Laszlo Bock, Google's Senior Vice President for People Operations (which sounds like the coolest HR department ever).
The first paragraph is the operative one: looking across all their recruitment operations, there was almost nobody who showed any kind of ability to hire well. The exception was one guy, who was really good at hiring people in a specific niche field, and it was apparently because he's the world's foremost expert on that niche field.
So where does that leave hiring? It seems like, if you have an expert in your midst (as ideally most companies do), you want them to maximize the amount of time they're spending doing the thing they're an expert in. I think the idea of having your best people be the front lines of hiring is kinda silly.
I understand being concerned about wasting a good candidate's time, because good candidates can be hard to come by, and they need to be wooed. However, there is a much more significant cost to wasting a really good employee's time, particularly if they don't happen to be super into the hiring process. What if your expert hates hiring and recruiting? Can you really rely on them to field good candidates if they really just want to get back to their real work?
Imagine the most productive, most intelligent, or most capable people on your teams being sent 200 applications to sift through every time there is an open position. There *must* be a place for the front-line recruiter. The one who sends the most promising applicants to that expert to pick the best ones. Maybe there is even value to having an initial phone screening done by front-line people.
I think this is especially important at the entry level. The kinds of jobs that really do have 50 fully qualified applicants. If you, as a candidate, can't use a one page cover letter to explain to a layman (me) how you are qualified for an entry-level (or slightly above) job, then you have failed the cover letter. That has nothing to do with bad recruiting.
The common fallback excuse that HR recruiters and screeners don't really understand the jobs they are recruiting for, and thus they reject qualified applicants, falls apart. If a hiring manager can't explain the various things they need in an entry level-ish position, then they have failed at the job description. Because, yes, the job description is supposed to be a guide to the various qualifications that should be sought in a candidate for the position. That's also not on the HR person. That's on the hiring manager.
I totally get that that could be a real problem in mid-to-high level jobs. It could be hard to understand the intricacies of a high level position if it is totally outside your realm of comfort, and that could making hiring slightly more difficult. I still think, at this level, you could reasonably have an HR person do your first level resume screening, assuming you have written a decent job description and perhaps an internal list of qualifications (again, not that hard).
But I really think that most of the jobs that people are complaining about, the ones where an ATS kicked them out because it didn't think they fit, or where they didn't make it past the first level of screening, are likely low level jobs with a LOT of candidates. Remember, it's not the recruiters job to identify every single person who could do a job; it's their job to identify the single best one in the applicant pool.
So, yeah. You could totally be 100% qualified, per the job description, and be rejected out of hand. For any number of large or small reasons. That's not a flaw in the hiring process.
There are deep flaws in the hiring process today, where there are many qualified applicants being passed over and many jobs going unfilled. Many of those problems have an easy solution: fix your ATS. If you don't want it to filter out people with 4 years experience just because you said you wanted 5, don't set it to do that. It's software; I promise you can win that war. This is not a systemic problem. This does not indicate a problem to the level of encouraging people to completely circumvent HR based on the idea that it is a useless pile of recruitment dirt.
Remember, if your hiring managers are so damn good, you're paying them to do a job, not sift through resumes all day.
Absolutely, high-level hiring demands more involvement from experts in the field being hired for, not in recruiting. But I refuse to believe that I couldn't personally hire a great entry-to-mid-level IT person just because I don't know PHP. If PHP and Python are so similar that knowing one is good enough, put that in your goddamn job description. Yes, it requires training your HR people a little better in the fields they are hiring for. Did you somehow suspect it wouldn't?
But it sure beats telling your high-level rockstar that they need to be the front-line reviewer for the 230 people that applied for this entry-level job in their department. Don't you pay them too well to mess with that?