Ann’s Problem, Part 2: Your Thoughts

Last week I wrote a column that portrayed Ann, a recruiter who was discouraged because the hiring managers she dealt with consistently reported that the candidates they were seeing weren’t qualified. She was struggling to figure out what traits and skills the manager wanted in candidates and felt very frustrated because she was not successful in doing this. While I offered a number of suggestions, I encouraged you to help out as well. Many of you responded, and I thank you all for your contributions. Many of you felt that Ann lacked the technical background to do a good job mining candidates. That may be true, but I am assuming that she has the basic technical understanding of the positions she is recruiting for. Ann’s problem is finding people who have the right chemistry and who the manager is interested in. Most of you put her problems into one of two categories, which I have discussed below. I agree with the majority of you who felt that Ann’s problems are not only solvable, but that with a little coaching she could be a great recruiter. She obviously has the intelligence and the commitment to succeed; what she needs is an approach that will make her successful. Here are your thoughts. Defining Criteria It was clear that you felt Ann was poor at defining and determining the job requirements for the positions she was working on. Ann apparently does not have a good sense of what the manager wants from a candidate. This could be because of Ann’s incompetence or it could be a result of the poor relationship Ann has with the manager. Here are some of your suggestions for Ann. One writer suggested: “[Ann should] ask to put together a review team, comprised of a lead person in the department as well as a couple of others in departments that interact with the hiring manager’s department. [She should] send the resumes of the qualified people to the review team and ask for their input, and have them forward it on to the hiring manager.” This is a good technique, especially since it makes the technical employees a part of the recruiting process, which they should be. Some of you took exception to my comments that recruiters do not have sole responsibility for finding good candidates. I believe that a recruiter should help the manager think through what she wants, help to narrow the search pool, and do a good job in screening candidates against the criteria that the manager has defined. But it is a partnership, and the more people who can play a part in the decision, the better the eventual hire will fit the culture and the more likely the candidate will turn out to be a successful employee. Another reader wrote: “Poor Ann! I think it would be helpful for her to have a model of the ideal candidate in front of her, something to calibrate by. Maybe she could develop this herself by interviewing the top people doing the job now. Maybe ask about a ‘day in the life’ ó what employees actually do and how they do it. By asking who didn’t work out (the terms), who did (the stars) and why, she might get a better idea of what it takes to succeed in this position. Also, she could get a feel for the environmental issues such as how the team works together, the manager’s style, the culture, and the work expectations.” But there may be other issues, as one perceptive reader pointed out: “When a manager is unclear, they may be fearful of making a mistake in hiring as has been suggested, feeling competitive or defensive toward a superior candidate, or there may be a number of other issues that are not being revealed. One way to get this relationship and your function on track is to discuss your being a partner with this manager in this complex, often difficult process. This can lead to a shared and more open (though confidential) discussion with you, and you both can then recommit to the task.” A final comment from a reader that really sums up this whole section: “One of the biggest problems we see today in recruiting is the disconnect between the recruiter and the hiring manager. Technology is a great thing, but without the client having an appreciation for all the work it takes to do recruiting it is worthless. Ann needs to make the client a partner, rather than just an assignment. She may also ask to meet with some of the hiring manager’s subordinates to get a better feel for what they view as the ‘perfect’ candidate. If the company has an applicant tracking system she should search for resumes with the hiring manager sitting next to her. The manager will select candidates she would never have thought of. It is amazing what happens when you make the client your partner rather then just a hiring manager.” Setting Expectations Many others pointed out how important it is to set the manager’s expectations clearly up front. If you let the manager expect that you will do it all and provide them the perfect candidate, you may be setting yourself up for failure. One of you wrote: “In my opinion and experience, we as recruiters can sometimes be so eager to please the client that we forget the reality of what we face. The client will undoubtedly expect that that the candidates we are able to source and recruit are the exact fit to their expectations and needs. We sit there and agree that this person needs all of these skills, experience, and features, and create the expectation that we can ‘build’ this person for them. “I have come to realize that part of delivering a successful outcome lies in preparing the client for compromise in their expectation. That is not to say we take shortcuts and settle for sub standard-candidates. However, we are establishing just how important each criteria is, sowing the seed that the perfect candidate may not exist and that the job can be done effectively by a 90% fit ó together with planned training, development, and management support.” As with so many things in life, knowing what we are doing and setting the right expectations are two core success factors. If Ann can learn to do these better, she will eventually succeed.

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Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at


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