How Recruiters Can Create Successful Partnerships With Hiring Managers

Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 1.24.13 PMRecruiters and hiring managers’ shared goal is to fill positions with top talent. So why do they often end up frustrated with each other? Most often, it’s because hiring managers and recruiters have different perspectives and approaches when it comes to hiring.

The only person you can change is you. Take on the responsibility to be a guide, to provide value by serving to help the hiring manager succeed, and in doing so, create a spirit of partnership. Here is some guidance to help you forge a successful working relationship with hiring managers.

See through the hiring manager’s lens. Hiring managers want to hire the best person to join their team, who will help them achieve their business goals. Unlike you, talent acquisition is not the entire focus of their day. They are busy managing their existing team and projects and fit in hiring around their workload. Hiring managers see through the lens of what went wrong (if anything) with the last person in the role, and what the new person can do better (and they can always do better). They look at their team and evaluate how the new hire will improve workflow and propel them toward greater success. As such, hiring managers start with a “if you could have your ideal candidate, what would that person exemplify?” mindset when they consider who the “right” person should be.

Nothing’s really wrong with this. What happens, though, is that these ideals often get translated into the job description, and before you know it the requisition requires experience and competencies in a candidate that far outweigh the salary budget. It’s a recruiter’s nightmare. How do you recruit rock star talent (already earning top salary) and expect them to take a pay cut to work at your company? What do you have to sell them that would convince them to do so?

Do some compensation research and talk through what the hiring manager truly needs. If she believes she needs a rock star with top salary, then she has two choices: 1) reevaluate the position to see if it could be reworked to require less experience, or 2) offer to take your research with her to her boss and present a case for why the position is worth the extra salary. In either case, you are there to help her succeed and help her navigate the current realities of the talent market.

Educate hiring managers on the state of the talent acquisition process. Just because someone is nominated as the hiring manager doesn’t mean he has experience interviewing or making a selection decision. Hiring managers don’t keep tabs on external talent. Many hiring managers simply do not realize that, unlike in 2010 when people were counting their lucky stars just to get an interview, the market has changed so that companies are the ones counting their lucky stars just to be able to interview top talent. Few hiring managers truly understand that if they approach an interview with the attitude that the candidate is desperate for a job, they’ll lose that candidate to a more in-tune competitor.

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Meet with hiring managers to get to know their experience and comfort level with the hiring process. Build a relationship with them. Educate them as a peer on the state of the talent market, what the market competition is, and what they can do to shift their mindset to one where they sell the candidate on the great opportunity to work for the company and more specifically, for them. Help them think through questions like: Why should the candidate want them as a boss? Why would the candidate want to be part of their team? What does the company offer that is better than Company XYZ?

Set them up for hiring success. As I’ve said, hiring is not the only thing on the mind of hiring managers. They don’t always realize that time is of essence. Hiring managers who still believe that candidates are just lining up at the door, crossing their fingers that they’ll get to interview, see time as something to manage to their convenience. They also don’t always know how to refine interviewing to create a great first impression with candidates. Hiring managers tend to use the same interview script, which ensures each candidate provides responses to the same questions, so they can compare apples to apples. But while there are some standard questions you want answered, this approach takes on too much of the “you-need-us-to-give-you-a-job” mentality. Mindset and time management are two things that have a huge impact on hiring success.

As we mentioned earlier, educate hiring managers on how the market has changed. Give them some tools and if necessary, training, to help them feel confident in selling the company and their personal brand as a potential boss. Ditching the interview script and having a conversation may be far more effective and also help differentiate the interviewing experience at your company. Along with the change in mindset, help them realize that time matters. Reviewing resumes, scheduling interviews, conducting interviews (without rescheduling them!), providing feedback to recruiters — all of this needs to be done as fast and as streamlined as possible. Top talent doesn’t have time to wait. They are fielding competitive offers and interviewing multiple companies at once. As hiring managers realize this, they can adjust their priorities accordingly.

In addition to these three key areas, open communication, establishing a mutual understanding of expectations, regular check-ins, and above all, valuing hiring managers as human beings who are under a ton of stress and who appreciate support and respect go a long way to developing a positive and successful partnership.

Emily Gordon is the Vice President, Global Transformation Services at Seven Step RPO. She has more than 15 years experience in talent acquisition, and currently oversees sourcing, continual process improvement, and client implementations. Her expertise is in transitions, process improvement, team building, client relationship development, and operational delivery. Previously, she built and implemented multiple national delivery centers while working with one of the largest global staffing and sourcing providers. She holds a Six Sigma Green Belt certification. Emily is a graduate of the University of Michigan and lives in North Carolina.


5 Comments on “How Recruiters Can Create Successful Partnerships With Hiring Managers

  1. “If she believes she needs a rock star with top salary, then she has two choices:”

    Actually, she has three choices. Choice #3 is to shop for recruiters/agencies until one is willing to accommodate/not challenge her, and then go with them, and then blame them or a ‘talent shortage’ when the gap between what she wants and what she’s willing to pay for leads to a prolonged vacancy. This is the preferred option for most. And if the need is real, then a hire will be made eventually, and the recruiter/agency that tried to challenge the salary/expectations gap at the beginning will likely not be the one who gets the fee when reality intrudes and business needs force a hire, and either force the salary up or the expectations down.

    So the recruiter/agency is in a pickle. Challenging the hiring manager could and usually does mean losing the business, whereas going along with the delusion that you’re going to find them a 100K person for 50K for a while might eventually net you a fee. You can try and keep the resources invested to a minimum, and what’s going to happen is you will end up sourcing people at all salary levels anyway, and so as long as you stay current and keep those candidates warm, when the expectations are lowered or the salary raised, you’re now well placed to make a hire and to get a fee. But, if you challenge the delusion to begin with, you likely lose all possibility of generating any revenue.

    If there were more of a demand for partnering types of relationships in recruiting you’d see a lot more advising on the level you mention. But there isn’t; the demand is for resumes now! And, for perpetual interviews against an unrealistic job spec/salary level, for which the HM gets praised for being ‘demanding’ or ‘picky’ and ‘not settling,’ even as the vacancy drains revenue and burns out the existing staff, and for which the agency gets praised so long as they can keep candidates flowing regardless of quality or actually filling the position.

    What would help is a certification/standards type body for our industry that can start to explain to people that your resumes submitted to interviews had to hires made ratio should be as close to 1 to 1 to 1 as possible, and that is quality work, not endless resumes and interviews and no hires for months on end. So, in the rare instance when people question the quality of what they are doing, they can turn to an authoritative source that will tell them things such as the above article tries to. It would tell them a hire at level X or for position Y should take Z amount of time. It would tell people what the accepted standards are for recruiters – in house vs agency – and for employers. Until that’s in place, the driving force with a lack of much if any push back will always be to get that fee, and getting that fee usually means indulging unrealistic expectations for a while.

  2. Thanks, Emily. I find it best to early on set up a SLA (Service Level Agreement) or SoW (Statement of Work) with my hiring managers. That way, I can more effectively manage their expectations. Realistically, you can’t work with a manager with unrealistic expectations.
    @Medieval Recruiter: Got it one, again.

  3. Great article Emily and thanks for sharing. Good reminder on how understanding mutual perspectives can go a long way in creating a partnership where good, pragmatic and commercial talent discussions can take place. Do not necessarily agree with everything that @medievalrecruiter:disqus espouses regarding a clients receptiveness to challenge their thought process and that the sole demand is for ‘resumes now’…if there is strong pushback and potential revenue loss vs good initial qualification on the clients you do want to work for and appreciate the counsel you offer I’d take the latter each and every time.

    1. Everybody would prefer the latter. The question is whether or not it’s realistic, and for most agencies it doesn’t seem to be. This would be a much more viable strategy for a corporate recruiter so long as they had some management support, and even then they’d have to tread carefully so as not to advise someone who doesn’t think they need advice, and who also has the ear of the higher ups.

      For agencies though, while you’re advising the hiring manager there’s a host of issues that get in the way of being a true advisor. One, agencies are usually called in after the company has tried and failed to fill the position itself. This could be for several reasons, but in my experience it’s usually because of a dysfunctional hiring process, into which you will be thrown and have little to no pull in changing. Two, sometimes the company always uses agencies, and usually this is because no priority is put on hiring or retaining people internally, which is obviously a problem. Three, exclusivity is usually not granted, in which case other agencies are likely also working on the req, often touching an overlapping candidate pool. If they are less advisory oriented, they will have resumes over sooner and claim ownership of candidates you would have otherwise gotten had you moved faster and advised less.

      Advising is always the preferred option. It’s just not very often the realistic option.

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