Managing Hiring Managers

If it wasn’t for hiring managers, recruiting would be so easy. This is one of the conclusions drawn from my annual Recruiting and Hiring Challenges Survey 2005. There’s still time to participate in the survey. A few more respondents will further validate the results. In the meantime, here are some other preliminary conclusions from the survey results:

  • 70% of respondents believe they have a good or excellent hiring strategy in place.
  • 77% believe they have a good or excellent recruiting team in place.
  • 79% don’t have a sophisticated workforce planning process in place.
  • 57% don’t believe their hiring managers can assess candidate competency very well.
  • 69% don’t believe their hiring managers can attract top talent.
  • 75% believe their recruiters work well with their hiring manager clients.
  • 88% believe their recruiters clearly understand job needs.
  • 78% were dissatisfied with their ability to cold call and source passive candidates.
  • 82% indicated that their biggest challenge was finding enough top candidates.

How do these results compare to your own experiences? Feel free to send me your comments and thoughts. There’s a lot of internal inconsistency here. For one thing, you can’t be strategic unless you can convert your business strategy into a series of tactics and programs. In hiring, the workforce plan is the primary means to develop the best set of tactics and programs. Another part of the internal inconsistency problems relates to recruiters’ inability to find enough top candidates. From the recruiting department perspective, this was attributed largely to lack of resources and problems with hiring managers. There’s definitely some truth in this regarding lack of resources. I believe most corporate recruiting departments are understaffed. I also think there’s some truth to the hiring manager problem, but I believe this is overstated. I think corporate recruiting departments need to take some blame here, but more on this in a moment. The fact that 88% of corporate recruiting departments indicated they didn’t cold call or source passive candidates seems to indicate a real void in the skill set of corporate recruiters as a group. This lack seems to correlate very closely to what we hear from hiring managers. In fact, you might want to send this super quick survey (Hiring Manager Survey 2005) to some of your hiring manager clients to validate this. Earlier surveys of hiring managers echo that their number one problem is also the lack of enough top candidates in timely fashion. However, they attribute the problem to different causes:

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  1. The recruiter’s inability to assess candidate quality
  2. Recruiters who don’t understand real job needs
  3. The recruiter’s inability to find and attract more passive candidates

The new survey will validate the hiring manager perspective on the problem. Regardless, the real truth about the problems involved in not hiring enough top candidates is somewhere in between the recruiter and hiring manager views. Overall, I think the bigger problem is that we haven’t yet figured out the big problem. As a result, everyone is working really hard doing the wrong stuff. That’s the real problem. In this article, I’d like to address the little problem of how to get recruiters and hiring managers onto the same page. Here are four things you can do now to minimize this problem. 1. Make sure that everyone who will be assessing the candidate knows the job. Put the traditional job description in the parking lot. It doesn’t define the job; it defines a person. Instead, ask the hiring manager to describe what the candidate will be doing every day, or some of the projects he or she will be working on. Then ask what the best people do differently from average people. Then ask what the worst people do. Put the top five to six things the best people do in a prioritized list. Then get everyone on the interviewing team to agree to them. You’ll get tasks like this that begin with action verbs:

  • Make 20 calls a day and set up three meetings
  • Assess and rebuild the team
  • Evaluate and implement a process improvement program
  • Show up 100% of the time
  • Work with the team, completing all orders with 100% accuracy
  • Develop, design and test a product that meets specifications in 120 days

From what I’ve seen, the primary reason hiring managers and recruiters don’t see eye-to-eye is a lack of clarity regarding real job needs. This is also the cause of the number one hiring mistake: hiring people who are competent, but not motivated to do the work required. If you don’t know what work is required, how can you find people motivated to do it? On the flip side, this also correlates directly with the reason candidates who voluntarily leave within the first year say about why they’re leaving: the work they’re required to do is not what they were told they would be doing. Bottom line: More time must be spent by recruiters and hiring managers clarifying job expectations in much more detail. Most managers and recruiters believe they have a great understanding of real job needs, but in practice it turns out this understanding isn’t detailed enough. 2. Submit a formal presentation. There are a few big differences between good external recruiters and good corporate recruiters. Two are worthy of note for this article: 1) external recruiters source and cold call passive candidates; and 2) external recruiters submit a formal presentation of their candidates. Submitting a formal presentation increases the perceived value of the candidate, so this is something a corporate recruiter should find worth doing. As a minimum, submit your evaluation notes in a formal write-up with some type of evaluation form (here’s a sample 10-factor candidate evaluation form you can use for this). You also might want the candidate to prepare a one-page write-up describing one or two major accomplishments in some depth. These can then be used to justify why you believe the candidate is worth meeting. Ask the hiring manager to review these with the candidate at the beginning of the interview. This will insure that the right information will be covered early in the interview and prevent mistakes due to first-impression biases. By submitting a formal write-up, you’ll also eliminate the need for a hiring manager to “approve” your candidate for an interview. This way, you can just slot the candidate into a pre-arranged interview schedule and tell the manager when the person is arriving. This will save more than the time needed to do the write-up. 3. Lead a panel interview using the one-question interview. As you know, I advocate a one-question performance-based selection interview. This interview is about 40% more accurate than the traditional behavioral interview, and managers become instant advocates due to its ease of use. Candidates also find it more professional and less mechanical. More importantly, the recruiter can quickly learn the process and comfortably lead a panel interview with the hiring team. This ensures that everyone is on the same page regarding job needs and that everyone has assessed the candidate properly. It also establishes the recruiter as a clear expert in this phase of the hiring process. The key to this interviewing process is to conduct a detailed work history review in combination with in-depth questioning regarding three or four of the candidate’s major accomplishments. These accomplishments are then compared to the actual performance requirements of the job. This ensures a great job fit by assessing competency and motivation against real job needs. 4. Lead a collective debriefing session evaluating all job factors. Don’t stop with the group interview. Why not lead a group debriefing session after everyone has finished interviewing the candidates? To facilitate this, use a matrix with each candidate’s name across the top and each trait in one of the rows. As a starter, use the ten traits from the 10-factor candidate evaluation form mentioned earlier and then add your own competencies or job-specific requirements to the list. This group debriefing is important in a number of ways. For one, it increases the role and influence of the recruiter. For another, it prevents good candidates from getting excluded for silly reasons. Too many interviewers globalize strengths and weaknesses, overvaluing presentation rather than true performance. By evaluating the candidate across a number of important job traits, the globalization problem is eliminated. This insures objectivity and balance. The group setting also minimizes the impact of emotional decisions, especially if interviewers are required to justify their rankings with the detailed facts obtained during the one-question interviewing process. I believe recruiters need to take on more responsibility for the hiring and recruiting process. This establishes process control and eliminates many potential problems before they arise. While obtaining more resources and implementing a workforce plan are long-term solutions, getting recruiters and hiring managers onto the same page is something that you can do today. As you’ll discover, that’s really all there is to managing hiring managers.

Lou Adler is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group – a training and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring℠. Adler is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007). His most recent book has just been published, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013). He is also the author of the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Build Great Teams (2007).


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