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Recruiter vs hiring manager: Who is really responsible for hiring?

The responsibility for hiring lies with both the hiring manager and the recruiter. The hiring manager makes the final decision on who gets hired, while the recruiter manages the process, laying the foundation for hiring the right people. Both roles are crucial, and their collaboration ensures the efficiency and effectiveness of the hiring process.

Christina Pavlou
Christina Pavlou

An experienced recruiter and HR professional who has transferred her expertise to insightful content to support others in HR.

recruiter vs hiring manager

When a new hire turns out to be a star employee, both the recruiter and the hiring manager can pat themselves on the back for their brilliant choice. Conversely, a bad hire raises questions: who was responsible for selecting that candidate? Put differently – because hiring shouldn’t become a blame game – who needs to improve their recruiting tactics next time?

The first answer that usually comes to mind is “the recruiter.” After all, it’s their job to recruit, so they must be responsible for hiring the right people. But there’s a fine line between being responsible for a process and being responsible for the outcome of that process.

So, what does it really mean to be “responsible for hiring”?

When talking about responsibility in hiring, we actually refer to the outcome (the person who gets hired), not the entire process (the journey up to the point when they get hired). And while the recruiter manages the process, it’s the hiring manager who actually closes the deal. So, hiring managers are the decision-makers; they have the final say as to who gets hired and who gets rejected. They own the outcome of the recruiting process. And when there’s a bad hire, the hiring manager is the one who should investigate what went wrong.

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The role of the hiring manager in recruiting

Hiring managers have several duties throughout every recruiting stage, and those duties can only be tackled by hiring managers. Even if the recruiter has provided a shortlist of very promising candidates, it’s still up to hiring managers to dig into candidates’ abilities and identify who fits the bill. Only the hiring manager is able to:

  • Evaluate candidates, uncover their potential and reject those who look good on paper but may lack the necessary job-related skills
  • Inform recruiters that they need to continue looking at new candidates because no suitable candidate has been identified yet (instead of settling for a substandard option)
  • Impact the winning candidate’s decision to accept the job offer

Related: How to fully engage hiring managers in the recruiting process?

The recruiter’s share of responsibility

While the hiring manager takes responsibility for the outcome, this by no means implies that the recruiter’s role is minor or simple. Recruiters lay the foundation for hiring the right people. That’s because they use their expertise to:

  • Build a strong pool of candidates where hiring managers will look for their next hire
  • Train hiring managers on interviewing techniques and keep them on track so that they get back to candidates in a timely manner
  • Recommend and implement effective assessment methods that help evaluate candidates objectively

Think of this analogy: in a magazine, writers write the articles and editors sign them off. Without the writer, there would be no articles to start with. But it’s the editor who reviews the copy and approves to have the article published when they’re absolutely confident about its quality. When writers fulfill their tasks carefully, that makes the job of the editor easier. Still, editors are the gatekeepers of what gets published and what needs to go back to the writer for additional work.

Likewise, good recruiters will play a vital role in hiring. They’re dedicated to finding the best of the best candidates. They build a strong employer brand to consistently attract good applicants. And they speak up when they notice dealbreakers. That’s how they make the hiring manager’s job easier and support the hiring manager all the way. But, ultimately, it’s the hiring manager who makes the final decision on who gets hired and who doesn’t.

Responsibility doesn’t mean blame

Assigning responsibility to hiring managers is not about pointing the finger at someone (or letting someone else off the hook) when things don’t go as anticipated. It’s about understanding the level of commitment and the contribution that hiring managers are expected to make. Hiring managers who know they’re responsible for hiring the right people are actively involved in every step of the process. And they raise their hand to say “I need help to interview candidates better” or “I’m not happy with these candidates; let’s sit together and review our hiring criteria.”

That’s when both parties can build a strong recruiter and hiring manager relationship and ultimately be more effective at their job. When hiring managers and recruiters understand their roles and work well together, the recruiting process will shine. After all, they have a common goal: to bring the most talented and qualified people onto the team.

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