Hiring Manager and Recruiter Relationship: Communication Is Key!

Let’s talk about starting off a search on the right foot!

When I get word that a new job opening is coming down the pike (for example, a senior engineer), the first thing I start to do is some personal research. I’ve used Career Builder’s supply and demand portal, looked at different types of titles and locations, and also popped some key words into my search to see what the candidate pool is going to look like. I start thinking about the current company/department. The majority of the team is senior engineers. Just because a senior engineer left, why is the need typically an identical backfill? I start thinking more… all of the skills the incumbent had, they learned from being with the company over the years. Finding someone who is going to come right in and “hit the ground running” with those exact skills is going to be difficult to find. Is relocation an option? Can experience substitute for education? What about a more junior person that can be molded and has a higher willingness to learn and change? A lot of the senior engineers have mentioned to me that they want an opportunity for mentoring.

After I think about the role more, with the details that I do have, I start preparing for my kick off meeting with the hiring manager. (I know a lot of people call these intake meetings, but I like the word kick off. It’s exciting that we are kicking off the recruiting process for this new role!) I get my notes together – I jot down some research I found on what senior engineers are making, where they are likely located, and look at my network/pipeline to see if I can bring any profiles with me to the meeting.

Here’s what I like to ask the hiring manager in our kick off meeting:

  • How much do you have budgeted for the base salary?
  • Is relocation or sign on bonus an option?
  • How much travel is involved?
  • Does this person directly manage anyone?
  • What are the team dynamics like? How would you describe your team culture?
  • What are your must haves, what are your nice to haves?
  • What will be the new hire’s biggest challenge as they assimilate into the org?
  • Describe your management style
  • What are some current team priorities or projects? (if they aren’t proprietary)

The answers to these questions give me a lot to talk about on my phone interviews or in person meetings with candidates. When hiring managers just provide you with a job description, or a list of traits/skills they think they HAVE to have, this is where the process can go wrong. Do not just accept this little information and start working. You may go down the wrong path and need to have an additional meeting to reconvene and figure out the true need. Be prepared to educate the hiring manager on why just providing you with the job description isn’t enough to make the process successful.

When I work with hiring managers for the first time, I like to explain that the partnership between the two of us is what will contribute the most to the success of the process. Let’s keep the communication open, and let’s give each other suggestions and recommendations on the areas that we are experts in! We will also discuss how if filling the role is important to them, then they need to make time in their schedules to interview over the next few weeks and make time to provide feedback. A lot of them don’t think about the work involved in hiring. I’ve literally had hiring managers say, “Wow, let’s put this off for a few more weeks then. I’m going to be traveling and focusing on some project deadlines.” And that’s FINE! I want the role to be a priority for both of us, so that we are both putting in the effort to work on it.

During my kick off meetings I empower my hiring managers that this process is only going to work if they are involved just as much as I am – sometimes they don’t realize that they are such an important part! I like to make them feel really important and talk up their expertise. This gets them really excited and bought in to helping with recruitment. I discuss with them that they should post the job on their LinkedIn. I used to love when my hiring managers would reach out to me and ask me to help them update their LinkedIn profiles and show them how to post. They would also ask me to write an engaging snippet for them to post with the link to apply – NO PROBLEM! This is what I’m here for! (It’s amazing how I’ve had hiring managers that will “judge” candidates for having a sparse LinkedIn profile, yet theirs isn’t updated or much better…) Then I remind them to ask their network for referrals, and talk about it during their professional affiliation group meetings. I’ve met a lot of hiring managers who think just the recruiter is responsible for the hiring process.

I also set expectations with my hiring managers – I am easiest to reach by email and will have a response to you within 24 hours. I let them know that from the time of the kick off meeting, it can take me up to two weeks to have quality candidates ready for them to review. If two weeks is approaching and they haven’t received any candidates, they can expect an update from me on how the search is going, what I’ve been doing, and what methods I’ll be trying next. Once I do the initial interview with the candidate and send along the feedback, I expect a response within 48 hours. I have them think about it as if they were a candidate. They would want to feel important and special during the process so we need to keep the feedback turnaround fairly quick and keep it a personalized process. We talk about the company’s brand in the marketplace. Do we want to be known as a company that leaves candidates hanging? They start to get the idea.

Some personal thoughts: I can’t make someone show up to an interview, accept a job, show up on day one. BUT what makes these odds more likely… the hiring manager and team is prepared for the interview, they are welcoming, they don’t all ask the same questions, they offer a quick walking tour, they go over the basics like where to get water and take a bathroom break. It’s also so important for each member of the interview team to be on time! Nothing looks worse to the candidate than the fact that you don’t mike hiring for your team a priority and that their time isn’t important to you. Some hiring teams need reminders on these common sense items. I make sure to always offer tips in a positive light and explain the benefits. You never want to come down on your hiring managers with “you should do this” – it’ll be harder to create that partnership and build trust.

My point is – without a kick off meeting, understanding where the hiring manager can give and take on years of experience, skills, etc. and a strong commitment to communicate during the process, finding a great hire will take longer and there will be more frustration. Without initial communication, and follow up communication once candidates are submitted, the recruiter may be starting their search over multiple times as they learn new information about what the hiring manager wants. To avoid that aggravation for yourself and your candidates: chose to align with your hiring team in the beginning, let them know you are there to help them, and that you have the same goal they do – to find a great hire to bring on to the team! I would rather my hiring manager shoot me a short email saying “hey, I want to add XYZ skill to my list of must haves” and coach them on why that may or not be realistic, then have them say nothing and find out later that’s what they wanted. I frequently tell my hiring managers that I’m not a mind reader, which is why they need to participate in the process with me!

Once of my proudest moments was getting my annual review Spring 2016 as a TA Specialist and seeing 360 feedback from Engineering and R&D leaders saying that I was a true partner, listened to their needs well, came up with creative solutions, and brought them great candidates so they could fill the need quickly. One of my goals was to get this type of feedback on my review. Be a TA business partner. Not just a recruiter. Don’t default to making excuses to why a search is hard. Whether you are in house, or agency: build those relationships. Get to know your businesses. The outcome will be so much more rewarding.

Stay tuned for a future post on hiring manager biases and my take on one of their favorite terms – “culture fit.”

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