8 Secrets to Dealing with Non-Responsive Hiring Managers

As a recruiter, it is your responsibility to identify, attract, and support the hiring of top talent. That’s how great organizations are built. But even the best recruiters cannot do this alone. They need the hiring managers they support to be reactive, cooperative, and understanding of how the process works. Sadly, this is not always the case. The problem lies with the fact that recruiting is a full-time job for you but only a side task for your hiring manager. Their recruiting responsibilities end when they have no more openings to fill. Yours don’t. But that’s why, as a recruiter, one of your primary responsibilities is to educate the hiring managers you support so that they can in turn better support your efforts to fill their positions. Keep in mind that this bit of education must be presented in a way that reflects why it is in their best interest as opposed to yours. Assuming you have a good working relationship with the hiring managers you support, this is very often all you need to create a good, closed-loop system that works well most of the time. Now for a bit of reality: not all hiring managers with whom we work are that easy to support. Actually, some of them can drive you crazy. Of all the problems that can slow the hiring process down, the non-responsive hiring manager can be the most maddening. They usually aren’t doing anything wrong in a concrete way: they are simply not doing anything. The ball is in their court and you are waiting for their response to make things happen. You can’t do anything because you have no direction, and the process grinds to a halt. Let’s identify two classic problems that existed in every organization I have been associated with and see what can be done to make things a bit smoother. These problems might seem elemental, but I am amazed at how many recruiters simply accept them when there is no reason to live that way. The eight suggestions I have listed below the problems will help ensure that you don’t have to. The Hiring Manager Does Not Respond To Resumes You Have Presented I started here because this one is my personal favorite. The hiring manager tells you how desperate he or she is to fill a position, but after you submit several resumes, you get no response. It’s hard to say why this happens, but the reasons range from the hiring manager’s lack of understanding about the importance of speed in securing top candidates to them being the dysfunctional, passive/aggressive type to everything in between. Armed with this insight, it is important to recognize that is not your responsibility to fix the hiring manager’s problems. It is only your responsibility to get a response to the resumes presented as quickly as possible. This is no easy task, but if you consider the following tactics as tools to achieve this end, you will be well on your way to making progress:

  1. Get an on-the-spot reading. When approaching the hiring manager with a set of resumes, try to get her to read them on the spot. I have had great success with this tactic; you can often get your response in five minutes as opposed to five days. I suggest that you bring no more than four resumes, with the pertinent information in yellow highlights. This frequently is best for the hiring manager as well, because the task is off their plate before it ever gets on it and they don’t have to have the resumes staring up at them for a week while they try to avoid you in the hallway.
  2. Get a commitment on response time. If you can’t get an instant response, try to get a commitment for a specific time to get a response and write it down right in the manager’s office. When you get back to your office, send an email confirming your agreement and be sure to go looking for the manager at the specified time.
  3. Use your people skills. Timing is everything. When we work with people, we get to know their habits. Based upon this knowledge, present the resumes when the hiring manager is at their best. For example, if the hiring manager is not a morning person but is in great shape after lunch, present the resumes in the afternoon.
  4. Get creative. I once had no luck with a hiring manager and nothing I tried seemed to work. I found out that he took the commuter rail to and from work. I gave him a folder of resumes twice a week and he read them on the train.

The Hiring Manager Doesn’t Give You Prompt Feedback Hiring managers are frequently slow to provide feedback on candidates they have interviewed. This is a very common, very serious problem. No candidate ó and certainly not a top candidate ó wants to wait for more than a day or two to get at least some feedback on what the hiring manager is thinking. Consider the following as ways to decrease response time after interviews:

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  1. Set up a post-interview feedback meeting before the interview even takes place. This meeting should be scheduled for within 24 hours after the interview. If necessary, remind the hiring manager that moving quickly will help them to find the right candidate and fill the position in months as opposed to years.
  2. Get group interviewing feedback ASAP! Many hiring managers will tell you they must talk with the other members of the interviewing team before they can give you any feedback. This is an ideal way to slow things down to a crawl. If this happens, the best approach is to quickly poll the others who were in on the interview and jot down some notes to reflect their opinions. Arriving at the hiring manager’s office armed with this information is a powerful tool that will demonstrate your proactive work ethic and commitment to establishing organizational excellence.
  3. Have the candidate call the hiring manager. I love this one! If things are still dragging along, tell the candidate to feel free to call the hiring manager to see where things stand. Is this a bit aggressive? I hope so ó because I have always been more interested in results than in methodology. This action not only empowers the candidate to become an active part of the process but makes use of a force from outside of the organization that will help to move the process to the next step.
  4. Ask for help. If you still are not able to whiz the process along, enlist the help of the person to whom you report. The purpose of this move is not to cause problems or to complain. Very often, a well-placed word or two can unleash the power of teamwork and help to get the process unstuck.

In closing, let me say that it is important that recruiters always keep, at a minimum, an accurate record of the following:

  • When a requisition was presented to you
  • When candidates were presented
  • The response time on these presentations
  • When candidates were interviewed
  • The response time on these interviews
  • Anything else that supports an aggressive and documentable timeline (the Journal tool in Microsoft Outlook is a good tool for this)

If this appears to be a CYA mentality, that’s because it is. All of us need to be able to document what we have been doing, particularly if the day ever comes where the recruiting function comes under fire, as I have seen happen. If you think your hiring managers will come to your rescue and assume blame because they were unresponsive, I suggest you rethink that position. Now, if we can only get candidates to be a bit more responsive!

Howard Adamsky has been recruiting since 1985 and is still alive to talk about it. A consultant, writer, public speaker, and educator, he works with organizations to support their efforts to build great companies and coaches others on how to do the same. He has over 20 years' experience in identifying, developing, and implementing effective solutions for organizations struggling to recruit and retain top talent. An internationally published author, he is a regular contributor to ERE Media, a member of the Human Capital Institute's Small and Mid-Sized business panel, a Certified Internet Recruiter, and rides one of the largest production motorcycles ever built. His book, Hiring and Retaining Top IT Professionals/The Guide for Savvy Hiring Managers and Job Hunters Alike (Osborne McGraw-Hill) is in local bookstores and available online. He is also working on his second book, The 25 New Rules for Today's Recruiting Professional. See twitter.com/howardadamsky if you are so inclined for the occasional tweet. Email him at H.adamsky@comcast.net


6 Comments on “8 Secrets to Dealing with Non-Responsive Hiring Managers

  1. Howard

    Thank you for your article and your insights to issues regarding hiring managers and there lack of response, especially when they seem to be so desparate.

    I think one of the main problems is the belief that finding good qualified candidates who can be transformed into a great employee is easy.

    Corporate Staffing / Recruiting professionals are still not put on the same level as Talent Scouts. Sports and the Arts are still considered areas where ‘talent’ is absolutely necessary to succeed. On the other hand, the ability to close the sale, manage and develop people, or develop great marketing programs is considered something ‘anyone’ can be taught to do.

    I have found my preliminary meeting with the hiring manager is the best time to educate and try to explain the difference between talent and skill set. I try to emphasize talent is scarce and needs to be given a high priority.

    Do I still need to nudge? Absolutely!

    I take this part of my job as project management. Most hiring managers seem to understand that the hiring process is a project and they seem to appreciate my role in making sure the ‘project’ moves along so that we do not lose good candidates and have the ability to hire the best match for the position.

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  2. ‘# 7. Have the candidate call the hiring manager.’


    That is if you are totally desperate and need a ‘method of Titanic Size last resort’ akin to lighting a big huge ?Road Runner Size? stick of Acme Dynamite under the Hiring Manager’s Chair that will shoot them to the moon?


    This is definitely one of those ?Break Glass in Case of Super Big Time Emergency? type ideas.

    Our intrepid ?Friendly Neighborhood Recruitment Hero? can literally hear the howling cries of *YOU CAN?T DO THAT !!!* from the ‘Archetypical Corporate HR Generalist’ reverberating to all four corners of the Recruitment Universe…

    We need an entire follow-up article with how to deal with the furious HR Generalist who screams bloody-murder when you use Tactic # 7 – Not to mention what one should do about the multitude of OSHA Hazard Conditions which would ensue as every single piece of glassware in the entire building simultaneously shatters about .03 seconds after the ?HR Super-Sonic Scream of Fright? happens…

    My impression is that the Ranking HR Director Generalist type (unless they are really super Uber ? Hip and they endorse things like having Dr. John ride around parking lots with video cameras getting license plate numbers) would probably come up and say: ?Ya know Howard?We?ve been thinking?.?

    Great Idea ? But it?s definitely a ?Use at Your Own Risk? kind of plan?

    But hey sometimes drastic times do indeed call for drastic measures?



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