Push Hiring Managers Beyond Their Comfort Zone

It’s a perennial recruiting challenge: telling managers their expectations aren’t realistic; that they’re asking for a candidate who doesn’t exist; and convincing them that there’s not really a “skills shortage” for the talent they want if they’re open to fantastic non-traditional candidates, work-from-home candidates, active candidates, and so on.

From ERE's annual State of Talent Acquisition survey: the grade that managers get on their hiring capabilities
From ERE’s annual State of Talent Acquisition survey: the grade that managers get on their hiring capabilities

The thing is, technology has enabled managers to take more of a role in hiring. But recruiters often don’t think managers are very good at that role.

As this graphic from ERE’s State of Talent Acquisition shows, recruiters just aren’t that thrilled with the hiring skills of managers.

LoriAnn Boyer, talent-acquisition leader at the dietary supplement company Pharmavite, has experience working with managers on a variety of hiring issues. She talks about pushing back against hiring managers in this video below.

You’ll hear:

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  • Two to three questions to ask hiring managers about job descriptions
  • How to be a recruiter who can influence managers vs. one who cannot
  • Upping employee referral amounts by putting it in a language that managers understand

It’s less than 13 minutes, below.

image from Shutterstock


8 Comments on “Push Hiring Managers Beyond Their Comfort Zone

  1. Agree very much with the higher referral bonus. Concerned about not offering an across-the-board remote offering to all of her employees though, that’s asking for a lawsuit by catering to employees because of family situations, thereby discriminating against those who don’t have kids. Recruiters don’t need to be in the office – they need to have schedules that are flexible with candidate and hiring manager needs, and have the communication skills to talk with hiring teams from wherever they are. Now that I’m an independent recruiter, I meet just once in person with the hiring team to get the job description, job posting and recruiting process established then we have all that documentation in a shareable Google doc for future tweaking if/as needed. I’ve never needed to see and touch my hiring team in order to be effective – I just need to be accessible.

    Unfortunately the brunt of this talk was on referral bonuses and working remote, and the part that I thought was most important – influencing / partnering with hiring managers, appeared to be more of an afterthought. Candidates complain constantly about crappy job postings and processes, recruiters complain constantly about hiring managers’ unrealistic expectations (not to mention in bigger companies often having 30-50-sometimes 100 reqs at any given time which shreds the possibility of good work), and hiring managers complain constantly about recruiters not finding them who they need. Very rarely are recruiters truly empowered by HR leadership as well as the rest of the business units to PARTNER with managers and be treated like subject matter experts. They are usually treated as admins, subservient to hiring managers and therefore often are just regurgitating whatever the hiring manager puts on a job description into a nearly-identical job posting (rather than creating a marketing piece that attracts candidates), instead of challenging them. For example, the first question I ask when they hand me a job description, on each requirement, is “can this person do the job without this experience?” and often the “mandatory” bullets move to the “nice to have”. Recruiters must be empowered AND must have enough confidence and street cred to be willing to ask the tough questions and themselves consider hiring a partnership. But if the culture is such that the recruiter is treated as an admin instead of a professional partner on the hiring team, the essential function of talent acquisition is set up to maintain the undesirable status quo / negative reputation to the outside world, and time-to-fill and candidate experience suffer.

    1. You can’t empower recruiters when so many of them are so desperate for the fee that they will cater to any whim of the manager. There are no standards of any kind in our industry, and it’s dominated by Sales! people who will say and do anything for a fee, and brow beat candidates to fit into the mold the hiring manager wants, regardless of how ridiculous it is. If you try to partner with them and educate them as to why they can’t have a 100K person at 36K, or why their Must Have qualifications aren’t really Must Haves, they’ll just go with the recruiter who says Yes to everything, and maybe that recruiter realizes it’s BS or maybe not, but in the end they get the fee and you don’t. Because, eventually the manager will either close the req without filling it, or lower their requirements to fill it at the level they can pay, raise the pay to get who they really want, or maybe they get really really lucky and get that perfect person. Either way, unless it’s left vacant then someone gets the fee, but it ain’t you, even though reality will bear you out as being correct.

      The mistake is assuming competence on the part of hiring managers with regard to the hiring process, or even management in general. Most aren’t competent, they mostly just fell into their positions by some fluke, or being the best at X in their company, so now they’re managing X, regardless of training, skill, or aptitude for management. In the worst case scenarios they become aspiring Napoleons, and watch out anyone who questions their authority. In most cases they just don’t have a clue what they’re doing, but they’re in charge, and no one in Sales! is gonna question them.

      1. First – I was referring to corporate recruiters (who are very rarely incentivized), not agency recruiters, who I agree are often a very different breed 🙂

        I consider agency recruiters like bicyclists – the bad ones give all of them a bad name!

        But I wouldn’t diss hiring managers to the point where you are literally just insulting them like you are here. That’s not fair either. There are good and bad managers, just like there are good and bad recruiters, and to start out hurling insults at them is completely against the whole concept of collaboration. Sure, some aren’t as competent as they could be, but if you are good at building relationships and working with hiring teams to create a strong process, many times that can be overcome.

        Attract with honey, not vinegar.

        1. They are different, but having worked both ends at multiple companies, in my experience hiring managers are the problem. At my last position it took me several years to break through their dysfunction, once I did we got the corporate recruiting budget down to the overhead for two people and 10-20K a year in job postings. Point being, internal/corporate recruiters with credibility and skill force the kind of accountability onto hiring managers I have historically seen them run like hell to avoid. Now, it’s perfectly possible the places I worked are far more ‘political’ than normal, this is all anecdotal. But to be honest dissing hiring managers is justified at least in part, in my view, because more often than not they were, and still are, the source of the disconnect or dysfunction in the process.

          Which is understandable. They hire the wrong person, they catch hell for it. They hire the right person, not much happens. Their life gets a little easier and they avoid some turnover, but that’s largely unseen savings; something likely avoided but hard to count. If they dawdle or leave the position vacant by demanding way more than they know they can get, they’re lauded for being demanding and picky, and unless any resulting turnover is linked directly to under-staffing, there’s no consequences. The safe bet for any hiring manager, especially one not experienced, not trained, not confident, and lacking support from their higher-ups (real or imagined), is to not hire and to meander around and put off the decision as long as possible by any means possible.

          You call it insulting, I call it reality. It’s a reality that training budgets have tanked over the last few decades, very little is dedicated these days to any employees. The dominant model is sink or swim for all people. I feel more sympathy for managers than anything else, because often they get to where they are by being good at their jobs, and then someone taps them on the shoulder one day and says, “Congrats, you’re running the place now!” The majority of businesses in the US are small to medium sized firms with the barest of structures, they don’t see that management is a totally different discipline than doing the actual job being managed. That’s why the internet is rife with stories of great sales people bombing as sales managers. I’ve seen plenty of IT people fail in this regard too, because the people who promote them don’t spare a second to determine if they truly have the ability, aptitude, or desire to be a manager. Many don’t. Hell, I don’t. I can do it if I have to, but managing other people is one of the most horrendous jobs I can think of for myself.

          And in any event, my point was enabling that behavior is the overall goal of most recruiting agencies. As Keith, another commentator here has mentioned, there’s money in refilling a sieve, none in filling a bottle and capping it. The overall problem is that our industry is dominated by Sales! types who see all reqs equally, whether they’re the result of healthy growth and/or turnover, or if they’re the result of a horrendously managed company bleeding employees; the position is the same, the fee is the same. As such there’s no incentive, at least in the immediate term which is where most sales people are focused, to differentiate. And partnering with the hiring managers who work at the bleeding company is impossible, usually for both corporate and agency, because rarely are they in a position to appreciably change things for the better. However, they are in a position to deliver a lot of reqs to anyone who is willing to fill them for a fee, and the continuation of their problems guarantees that flow of work. Solving them chokes it off. That’s a problem, and why agencies will, more often than not just facilitate bad practices.

        2. I agree with Aimee, there are good and bad hiring managers and I would be careful not to dis them. I look at the difficult hiring manager as an opportunity to build a relationship with them and/or to gently education them on the hiring process, etc. I also take the time, and ask my recruiter to take the time to learn about their respective roles, organizational structure of their department, go to a status meeting or two with their teams and speak their language. Once they see our commitment and authenticity they are more inclined to trust us and partner together. It’s like any other relationship, they take time to mature, they’re built on trust and you have to communicate with each other to make them work.

          1. Were I not bound by non disclosure agreements, I’d recommend some clients for you to see how well they partner with people. Trust me, they have continuous openings in need of being filled. I don’t dis anyone until I’ve worked with them and seen their performance. Like I said, maybe my experiences are not similar to yours. But the majority of recruiters I communicate with, when they’ve had a few drinks and/or are sure of their anonymity, seem to confirm my view more than the rosy picture painted at most recruiting sites. I find that more than telling.

    2. Hi Aimee – with regards to your point on offering remote opportunities across the board, we do offer this regardless of family/personal situations. I was providing an example about one of my team members and it was mainly due to his 90 minute to two hour commute (each way) vs. his personal situation at home. I have other team members who do not have families and live closer to the office and they have telecommute options as well.
      With regards to being business partners with hiring managers, you bring up a good point that your HR Leadership needs to support these efforts by empowering the recruiters to be just that vs. order takers. We are fortunate to have such support at Pharmavite; however, this did not come over night. It was garnered over time through Recruitment building credibility and a strong track record of delivering results. Additionally, we are adamant that our recruiters carry no more than 20-25 reqs at one time. This promotes stronger customer service between with their hiring managers and candidates. Recruiters with req loads beyond what is reasonable for them to fill is setting them up for failure and puts the company at risk as well.

      1. “We are fortunate to have such support at Pharmavite; however, this did not come over night. It was garnered over time through Recruitment building credibility and a strong track record of delivering results.”

        An experience I can sympathize with myself. You seem to have a well reasoned approach there and good for it. In the companies I’ve worked at, and seen others work within, you have scrape and claw and fight for every scrap of credibility, and things are usually so highly political that said credibility goes in the trash at the first bump in the road and you start from scratch. Not too long ago someone from my old company contacted me asking if I remember the source of a past hire because they wanted to go to that agency again. The source was me, I found the person, I recruited them, I got them on board, I fought to have their salary where the market said it should be, and they have been in a position for several years that the company and the agencies they engaged hadn’t been able to keep filled for more than a year prior to my arrival.

        However, the owner of the company decided that I couldn’t possibly be the person who did this – he never liked me, apparently because I wore ‘colored sport shirts’ rather than just blue and white button ups – and so therefore sent the entire accounting department into a frenzy searching for an invoice that doesn’t exist from a recruiting agency that doesn’t exist. Meanwhile the candidate was hired at a time when there was an internal incentive program, they could easily look at my pay record and see the incentive came to me. They could easily look in their ATS, assuming it’s still functioning since I’ve been gone, and see the source and the person’s whole history through the hiring process. And, incidentally, since I left two years ago roughly the same group of jobs has been listed on their website, with nary a change.

        What a lot of people miss in these articles, I feel, is that my experience is more emblematic of reality for most people. The majority of businesses in this country, in this world really, are small to medium sized businesses. They don’t necessarily have a clue what they’re doing, and are often unaware of that, or refuse to accept it despite mounting evidence that it’s the case. Credibility only goes so far in those situations even when it’s obtained.

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