Memo to My Hiring Manager

Dear Hiring Manager,

Now that summer is almost over and vacations are ending, the challenges you face at work are beginning again, and in earnest. Although you probably only hire a handful of people each year, it seems that it takes longer and longer to find the right person. And many of the people you see are not really who you wanted. You have to ask to see more resumes and, frankly, hiring people has become a bit of a pain!

You may be asking yourself what’s happened. Are the recruiters less capable? Is it our brand as a company that is keeping the best folks away? Is it that your interview skills aren’t very good?

The answer to those questions is getting more and more complex. It used to be simple to say it was the recruiter’s fault, or the brand, or the salary ranges. But it is far more complicated than that.

There is a “perfect storm” of events that have combined to create the situation you find yourself in. Demographics, the educational system, changing generational needs and motivators, as well as a strong economy have made it more challenging to hire good people.

Here are a few tips and ideas that might help you this year as you look for the best talent.

There Are Fewer Qualified People

In a recent survey of skills in the IT arena, found a significant shortage of both technical and management people. John Sumser of Electronic Recruiting News has been running a series of short articles on the global labor shortages.

The bottom line is simple: for jobs with a high technical or managerial component, the supply of talent is limited. This situation is exacerbated in areas with a high cost of living or in areas that are not particularly desirable geographically.

So if that is the kind of person you are looking for, the shortage may help explain the tough time your recruiter has in finding the best people.

Do You Know What You Really Want?

If I were to ask you a few questions about the people you are looking for, could you answer them with solid, quantitative information? For example, how do you define “decent” people? Do you have specific criteria that you use? How do you know you’re getting anywhere near the best resumes out there?

Do you have any benchmarks or standards to compare against? How much time do you spend in the upfront process of figuring out the job requirements and laying out the things the person you want to hire will have to do to make you happy?

In my many years as a recruiter and as a consultant, I find that this is the area most frequently overlooked or skimped on in the hiring process. Most of the hiring managers I work with are willing to spend time in interviewing and often demand that candidates go through numerous interviews, but they are less willing to give up time to talk to the recruiter about the position before any recruiting happens at all.

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My guess is you’re trusting your gut and telling yourself that you know the “best” when you see it. After all, you’ve been in your field for a while and can generally spot a loser. If you are lucky, you’ve had a recruiter at some time in the past who could always seem to get you the perfect candidate, but you’ve never asked yourself why they could do that or how.

We all unconsciously look for certain traits in people, and we are usually very adept at determining whether a candidate has those traits.

What is unfortunate is that we almost never can articulate them. Even though we may believe we are choosing candidates solely on the basis of experience and demonstrated skills, there is always our unconscious influencing the decision.

Do You Know Your Best Performers?

Spend some time thinking about your best performers. Who are the people in your department you would like to clone, if you could? Try to put why you think they are so good into words.

Here are a few questions you can use: What does this person do on a regular basis that pleases you? What positive behaviors do you see regularly that you believe makes them successful? Are there stories you can tell about a time an employee did something you found exceptional or notable? Take some time to talk to the recruiters about past or current employees who you view as exceptional.

Do You Know Your Recruiter?

If your recruiter is new or has not worked with you before, it will be impossible for her to know what you are really looking for. Even an experienced recruiter who knows your specialty thoroughly will have to get to understand those subtle traits that you find compelling.

Let the recruiter spend a day shadowing you and discuss how you manage. Invite them to attend a staff meeting or a briefing. The better the recruiter and you know each other, the more likely you are to see great candidates.

You can help your recruiting staff in a number of ways. By taking a few minutes to do these things, you will find the recruiting process faster and more satisfying because you will be getting candidates that meet ALL of your requirements.

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


2 Comments on “Memo to My Hiring Manager

  1. Kevin, thanks for another great article. Sometimes pointing out these things, that are so obvious to us, are the basis for opening a productive dialog with hiring managers. Hiring managers all too often think we can just pull another rabbit out of our hat. Taking the time to have a coherent conversation before we start recruiting will go a long way toward insuring a more positive outcome.

  2. This is a great article and our recruiting compnay is directly impacted since we are in the Silicon Valley area. The IT area is a nightmare for us to recruit for all the reasons stated (and more)in the article compounded by issues that our customer creates for us (which I won’t go into). Thanks for putting my thoughts into words as I assumed I was only one of a few that had this perspective.

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