6 Things Hiring Managers Don’t Get About Recruiting

Having worked in executive search for more than 10 years, I have had great success in finding candidates but have encountered many obstacles in trying to place those candidates because often many hiring managers mismanage the hiring process. Below are five issues hiring managers must consider when trying to fill their open positions with superstar candidates.

  1. There’s no silver bullet — Some hiring managers will consider only the most perfect candidate. The candidate must have the correct degree, must live within a commutable distance, must have the right niche of skills, must have international experience, must be willing to work for “x” amount of dollars, must love ping pong, and must be able to juggle three cats while riding up a ramp backwards on a unicycle. Those last two I made up but they emphasize how particular some managers can be. Your dream engineering candidate who knows how to work with polymers for medical devices containing lasers believe it or not might not live within 20 miles from your headquarters. Train and be flexible on relocation if you want your silver bullet. Additionally, if the candidate doesn’t have the degree you want but beaucoup experience in the field then defer to the experience and take advantage of their real-world skills.
  2. Hiring managers want all-star candidates at second-string salaries — Of course hiring managers want to hire the best of the best for as little as possible, especially if the candidate currently works for their bigger more successful competitor.  But if they want that quota-busting salesperson with 15 years experience who sells their specific type of software into multi-million dollar companies that specialize in bio-medical supplies, then they’d better not be cheap. To put it in understandable terms, why would Tom Brady leave the New England Patriots and play for the perennially bad Cleveland Browns for half the money? If you want an all-star, don’t waste time offering a minor league salary.
  3. Don’t procrastinate — Hiring managers are hot to fill their open positions, yet they may take four days to review the resumes passed their way, another week to schedule the interview, and another two weeks after meeting with the candidate to decide if they want to bring the candidate in for another interview. What hiring managers don’t realize is that the superstar candidate is also entertaining offers from other companies and their procrastination might lose them their top draft pick.
  4. Free your mind — Less than 20% of recruiters and executive search people use behavioral assessments, and we’re still in the early adopter phase of video interviewing tools, both designed to save the hiring manager’s time and to help them make the best hire. Hiring managers who aren’t onboard should consider using these proven tools designed to help them attract and retain top performers.
  5. Why the candidate should work for you — Hiring managers often approach recruiting as though they are speaking to a candidate with seven children in college all of whom need braces and brain surgery. In other words they think most candidates certainly want, if not need, to work for them and thus approach the candidate with a “what can you do for me” attitude rather than “here’s-why-you-should-want-to-work-for-us” attitude. (Maybe this explains why they are so carefree with the candidate’s time as mentioned in point number three.) Hiring managers often provide a job description with a laundry list of mundane requirements and qualifications that is only going to attract the desperate candidates who need a job, not the ones who want and can do the job passionately. Tell the candidate why they should want to work for your company, and most importantly why they should want to work for you. Don’t assume your job is the Holy Grail for which candidates have long been searching.
  6. And the sign says ‘long haired freaky people need not apply — Similar to these songs lyrics and point one, hiring managers, much to the frustration of recruiters and executive search people, don’t give people a chance no matter how much experience they have. “If you don’t walk like me or talk like me then odds are you won’t be successful in this organization.”  This often-misguided attitude delays the hiring process and the hiring manager’s odds of finding that superstar candidate. The engineer who designed the Mars Rover landing wears two earrings. I worked with a software company that behaviorally tested their incoming candidates because they wanted candidates who matched the behavioral profiles of the CEO and VP of sales, both of which were similar. The theory was if the CEO and Sales VP were successful, then employees with the same behavioral attributes should be as well. Unfortunately the CEO managed his subordinates in a manner he himself would not want to be managed even though he shared similar behavioral attributes. As a result he experienced high employee turnover.

Politely respect the candidate’s time and talent. If you left Tom Brady hanging for three weeks do you think he’d want to play for your organization?

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Ryder Cullison has more than 10 years of experience working with retained search clients as a search professional. As a pioneer of Interview4, he has great knowledge of video interviewing. He writes about all things hiring and looks forward to engaging with his audience on topics of leadership, recruiting, candidate screening, and employee satisfaction. Follow him on Twitter @hireintelligent and @cullison1


27 Comments on “6 Things Hiring Managers Don’t Get About Recruiting

  1. I think that there is valididty to this list and anyone who has been in the industry for any length of time knows these fairly well. However, respectfully, without any solutions offered this just seems to be a list of complaints.

  2. Chris thank you for your feedback. In response to your comment on the lack of solutions offer I will counter by re-listing a few of the suggestions presented in the article above:

    “Train and be flexible on relocation if you want your silver bullet.”

    “…defer to the experience and take advantage of their(the candidate’s) real world skills.”

    “Don’t procrastinate.”

    “Free your mind”

    “…consider using these proven tools designed to help them attract and retain top performers.”

    “Tell the candidate why they should want to work for your company, and most importantly why they should want to work for you.”

    “Politely respect the candidate’s time and talent.”

  3. Ryder, As a recently hired marketing manager, I hear what you are saying loud and clear. I was long term unemployed and frustrated with many of the issues you talk about here, mostly #1. I have been very lucky finding the company I have and couldn’t be happier. There were companies that I stopped searching for positions at because they were disrespectful of my time. I took the advise of one of the many career coaches out there and picked 10 companies that I really wanted to work with. From there I networked with them, applied for every position I qualified for and ultimately, landed a job with one of them. I also found that recruiters don’t respect your time and tell you that there are open positions, and come to find out they were just updating records. The search for the right position is difficult and at times frustrating. I hope that hiring manager read what you have to say and re-evaluate their own processes for hiring.

  4. Everyone involved in recruiting’s experienced some, if not all, of these items on a regular basis. The key to the disconnects is that hiring and recruiting are not the same thing. Most companies actually just do process-driven hiring as a practice. The focus is on steps of the hiring process – not recruiting.

    Recruiting someone actually is engaging a talented individitual and then taking the necessary actions to bring them into the organization – creating the connection that would make top talent want to be a part of your organization.

    To be clear, Tom Brady wasn’t initially recruited. He was picked (by a coin flip no less) from a talent pool in a draft. The only recruitment he’s experienced has been within the NE organization to keep him there. Yes, that’s recruitment.

    Companies rarely recruit – they hire. If companies recruited, what you’d likely see once a talented person has been identified is a manager pushing for the person’s hire and using her/his own internal influence to get the hire and start the individual on the path to success in the organization.

    I’ve seen companies recruit, but it’s most often because an individual knows how to do it and has the organizational weight to see things through. I’ve seen it at execuitive and managerial levels. Guess what those individuals and organizations don’t do? They don’t do most of the things on this list because they know it won’t reflect well on the organization or the manager.

    Most people simply won’t get it so try not to lose sleep over it and just muscle your way through the inconveniences.

    Top candidates have choices. They won’t put up with the mistakes on this list. They avoid hiring managers and companies that do these things unless there’s no other option available.

  5. Well put Darryl! I believe you are correct. A distinction between hiring and recruiting truly does exist. Thank you for your comments.

    Lucinda, I appreciate your positive feedback and wish you continued success in your new role!

  6. Love it! I preach this all to hiring managers and recruiters all the time. People aren’t sitting around waiting for our company to call them, and sometimes the less than perfect candidate may turn out to be the perfect fit. Of course, HR does the same thing. I always laugh at HR Director or VP postings that state “PHR certification is a requirement to apply.” Like really? Someone’s 15 years in the trenches doesn’t matter? Good stuff.

  7. I just reminded myself of a situation when I was and in-house recruiter for Digital Island. I was searching for sales, product management, and business development folks. Well, in the process, I was uncovering a lot of sales leads for the company. I went to the sales leadership and proposed that I should be able to participate in the lead generation system so I can be rewarded for successful sales leads I find while talking to candidates. Their response was a bewildered look, followed by the statement: “but you’re just a recruiter”.
    It was clear that these hiring managers had no clue what I did as a recruiter. They didn’t realize I was on the front lines, talking with people at their competitors, potential partners, and potential client companies; pitching our company, our products, our culture, our success story, our value prop., etc. I was better at selling the company and identifying opportunities that most of their reps. I think that is the case for many great recruiters. Unfortunately, since most hiring managers have no idea what we do as recruiters, they have no way to tap into the potential for winning new business, gaining competitive intelligence, and enforcing the company’s brand in the marketplace. A smart company will have recruiting in a partnership with sales and marketing. Something I’m lucky to have found at my current company.

  8. Great piece.

    I think half of the battle is convincing hiring managers of the importance of a solid recruitment process and its return on revenue and profit

    In a recent BCG and WFPMA report that included analysis of company results and a survey of more than 4,000 senior leaders, the results highlights that those companies that achieve excellence in recruitment, onboarding and managing talent have substantially higher revenue growth and profit margins. Ensuring hiring managers understand this will help in raising its importance. More at http://bit.ly/O7XsJK

  9. Very good point John. Makes perfect sense. I think organizations understand the need to have a good hiring process but what I’m seeing is how little hiring managers know of how the process works and it is this disconnect that contributes to a sub-standard process.

  10. This is a very interesting discussion and in line with a recent experience I had.

    I am looking for my next career opportunity right now, therefore I have been interviewing with a few companies lately. The process seems to be a little bit too long, I agree, but for the most part it has been a very pleasant experience – with one exception. A few days ago I had an interview scheduled (the second one with this company) and I had to wait in the lobby for one hour. No person around, no magazines, nothing. I had no idea if they even remember I was there or for how much longer I had to still wait. Is this kind of behavior normal or acceptable? What would you do in this type of situations?

  11. #7- Hiring Managers forget that they were once a candidate. When they become candidates they want the process to run quickly. Treat others the way you want to be treated.

  12. Thanks Ryder. An additional thing hiring managers should know:
    Don’t believe your own marketing hype- you, your job, and your company, really aren’t that special.

    Something we as candidates should know:
    How we wish to be treated and how we wish to treat others is irrelevant in this job market. For most companies/positions, if you don’t have a highly-in-demand skill or are a member of “the Fabulous 5%”, or for employers of excellence, if you don’t have a highly-in-demand skill or are an internally well-connected member of “the Fabulous 5%,” you don’t matter.

    Keith “Wish It Weren’t True” Halperin

  13. @Keith – Your point about the company believing they are so special relates to point #5 about “Why the candidate should work for you.” You are correct! Companies also need to realize that despite the high unemployment, most candidates already have jobs and though they may be dissatisfied with their job, moving from one company to the next is a big deal for some. People fear change. Hiring managers need to do a better job of selling their positions.

    @Donita: Sorry to hear about your troubles. Employers often overlook the candidate experience and how a good experience reflects positively on the company.

    @Sharon: You hit the nail on the head!

  14. Totally awesome, Ryder. Although I’d update this to “hiring teams” rather than just managers, as everyone involved can make or break the process.

    My three favorites are in here, relating to the lack of managers selling the company and the job (the “you should be lucky to come work here so we can disrespect you all we want” attitude that I’ve seen way too many tech companies display (i.e., a giant online retailer whose name is that of a South American river); the disrespect shown to candidates by some managers in how they deprioritize turnaround time in the hiring process (dude, I can fill a job in 3 weeks if teams make hiring a priority!); and DIVERSITY! In tech, so many want to just hire people who look/act/talk like them – anyone different is considered lesser or (I love this term) “disruptive” rather than challenging them to be more, think more, do more. Older candidates lose consideration for being overqualified yet younger candidates, if they have a hipster geek persona, will often be seen as “trainable”.

    Again, thank you and keep bringin’ in the good words!

  15. @ Ryder: Thank you.
    @ Aimee: Very well-said. Re Diversity: ageism- I wonder if this might be reduced if class action lawsuits were filed against the VCs and angel investors of portfolio startups which seem to have very few people over 30…. Speaking of which, what’s the latest with the age-discrimination case of some BA company whose names rhymes with “frugal”?



  16. #6: “The engineer who designed the Mars Rover landing wears two earrings.” Does this mean that the engineer is a woman? I presume that in this example you are referring to a male engineer who wears two earrings. I don’t know how many readers, especially of the Millenial generation, automatically imagine a male engineer instead of a woman, in which case your example would not be as effective in relaying your point. Perhaps I notice this more than others because I work in an industry with many women engineers. A similar point can be made for your CEO (male), top sales candidate (professional male athlete, Tom Brady) and lyrics from Signs (by Five Man Electrical Band). Just something to think about!

  17. Hi Nicole.
    Thank you for your perspective. I have recruited for engineers with various companys in the past and I would say that across the various engineering job boards which I have scoured, that 90-95% of the candidates are male. I would say that when we think of someone developing a robot or some other type of “geektacular” technology device we often think about “Revenge of the Nerds” type men or even a Tony Stark. We don’t often think about women as engineers but to your point that is not to say there aren’t plenty of good female engineers out there.

    Of course when I say the word “Nurse” the first image that most likely comes to most people’s mind is that of a woman because nursing is generally a female dominated field although there are plenty of male nurses. Our Mars Rover example above was used because the engineering field is greatly made up of men as is the rank of CEO. I’m sure this will be changing in the future as more walls come down or as more and more women find more interest in the engineering field.

    Have you seen this article about Bill Gates’ challenge to the world for people to come up with a better toilet? Here are the 7 toilets and pictures of a few of the teams that created these remarkable new “green devices”. Twenty of them are men and only four are women. http://www.businessinsider.com/7-toilets-that-could-change-the-world-2012-8#heres-the-stanford-team-with-their-prototype-5

    Maybe the numbers in the engineering field are more even than that but that is not what people generally see.

  18. Excellent article. As a career professional in the hospitality industry I know for a fact I have been overlooked for many positions due to several of these factors. Inability of HR managers to understand what candidates can bring to the position. Failure to probe the skills, experience and qualities a candidate brings to the table. Let’s face it we can’t put down absolutely every skill we have, for fear of turning our cover letters and resumes in to novels.

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