6 tips for hiring managers in working with recruiters

Imagine this scenario: Chloe manages a great team in a gaming company. One day, Zeke, one of the team’s best performers, walks into Chloe’s office and says, ‘Um, Chloe, I got bad news for you. The guys over at ACME Gaming have offered me twice my salary and three times my PTO to go work for them. And, um, I’m gonna take it.”

So here Chloe is (screaming internally) without her star employee. The rest of the team members are pretty good – pretty awesome, actually – but Chloe needs to fill that hole, and quickly.

Two months later, Chloe has her replacement, and his name is Dimitri. He’s OK, but it’s hard work getting him up to speed, and it turns out – far too late in the process – that he doesn’t quite have the specific skills needed for those big projects in Q3 and Q4.

So, Chloe storms into HR and yells at Ellen. “What the hell?!” Ellen is great, but she really should have done a better job finding a good replacement for Zeke.

Ellen then says something that leaves Chloe feeling just a bit sheepish: “Chloe, listen,” she says. “If you had sat down with me right away as soon as you knew Zeke was leaving, this wouldn’t have happened. I found Dimitri based on my limited knowledge of the role, but I don’t know what you want. I don’t know sweet-all about your code. You never sat down with me first…”

And so on.

Do you see a bit of yourself in Chloe? Then listen up: Ellen was right. It wasn’t HR’s fault Dimitri wasn’t the right hire. As far as her team was concerned, Dimitri was a great fit. Chloe, the hiring manager interviewed him, pushed him through the process and ultimately made the call to offer him a role.

So what went wrong? Well, first off, to avoid Chloe’s predicament, you need to understand each other’s roles and responsibilities in the whole hiring process.

Recruiting involves special skills

Even the best process in the world doesn’t guarantee results every time. There’s only a finite number of people who can do the job well and would like to work with you when you want them to work with you. People can accept an offer, and then email a recruiter one day before suddenly saying, “Sorry, I took another job. Lolz.”

Let’s face it – it’s hard work being a recruiter. One thing is certain though; if you, as a hiring manager, believe your only responsibility in recruiting is to interview the candidates HR put in front of you, then let’s face the difficult fact: you’re a bad hiring manager. Simple as that.

Now, let’s dig in a little deeper. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you feel rushed with every hire you make?
  • Are you frustrated with HR sending you unsuitable candidates?
  • Does it feel like all the candidates you like drop out of the process or take other offers?

And have you ever:

  • Just emailed HR to say, “I need to hire a new coder; can you put the old ad back up?”
  • Cancelled an interview on the day because something more important came up… then forced HR to apologize to the candidate for you?
  • Taken a week to give interview feedback to your HR team because you’re too busy?

Do you see what’s happening here? If your answer is “Yes” to any or many of these questions, then you need to improve as a hiring manager, because you want a really good team stacked with star performers like Zeke. If you’re actively involved in the process from the get-go, you’ll get that really good team you need.

The good news? It’s not as painful as you might initially fear. Here are the six things you can do as a hiring manager in working with recruiters, and building (or even repairing) that trust you have with them:

Six tips for hiring managers to work with recruiters

1) Get involved from day one

Being prepared is the key to everything here. If you know you’ll need to hire someone in three months, don’t wait two months to tell HR. Let them know as soon as you do. Better still, have regular meetings with HR to keep everyone on the same page about what might be coming up.

Many of us have experienced that “oh no” moment when someone great in our team leaves or that painful realization halfway through a project that we don’t have the resources to complete it on time. It feels bad. But you know what, this has happened to almost every manager ever. It may not give you that ideal three-month window that’ll serve you and the company so well, but the advice still applies: get started early with regular interactions with HR.

In short: Talk to Ellen in HR, right away. Get that conversation started. And meet with her regularly.

2) Help the recruiter understand the role

It’s important to be as concrete as you can in expressing your needs to the recruitment team. “I need to hire a Software Engineer” is not good enough. Before you talk to your recruitment team, give the role some thought. You don’t need every detail nailed down but you should know the job title, key responsibilities of the role and, crucially, why you need to hire someone.

Spend time with the recruiter discussing your team. You should be able to address the following questions:

  • What work does each member of your team do?
  • Where will the new hire fit into that team?
  • What work will the new hire do?
  • What impact will this role have?
  • What will the first 6-12 months look like?
  • What projects will this person work on?
  • What will a good first year look like?
  • How will this person be judged or measured by colleagues and managers?
  • What would happen if you don’t hire for this role?

Getting all of this right will save you and your recruiter multiple headaches later.

3) Clearly define your ideal candidate

You also want to have a clear idea of the type of person you would want in this role – and why – and you want to make that idea clear to the recruiter. Perhaps you’ve worked with people in the past that you think of highly that you can show your recruiter via LinkedIn to help this discussion. You could also be thinking about a current colleague that you feel is very strong, telling the recruiter that you’d like another like them.

These “examples” don’t necessarily have to be the best fit for the role, but if you explain to the recruiter why you rate them highly, using real-life examples of qualities and skills you value, they’ll understand what you’re looking for. This will help the two of you get better aligned with each other.

4) Participate in the candidate sourcing process

You probably know more about where your candidates look for jobs than your recruiter does. Regardless of whether they’re spending time on job boards or online meetups, a social network, or a local professional group, you’re the senior version of these candidates. You’re looking for someone like you five years earlier, before you climbed up the ladder. So, you can help your recruiters with inside information on where people with your background and skills hang out.

You can also reach out to former colleagues – not necessarily for them to apply for the role, but perhaps they’ve also interviewed people or know people in their own respective networks. Any help you can give your recruiter to make sure they’re advertising in the right places and sourcing in the right talent pools will help you find good candidates faster.

When doing this, bear in mind the perils of unconscious bias – in a society that values diversity and inclusion, you want to be sure your employee base is well-balanced. It’s been determined that sourcing from one’s own network or from “traditional” candidate pools can lead to a less diverse team, so work with your recruiter to “widen the net”. You can pick up some tips and tricks from Workable’s SVP of Sales & Marketing, Rachel Bates, on how she balanced out her tech sales team in a male-dominated field.

5) Be on time, every time

This is one of the most important tips for hiring managers. Whether you’re screening resumes yourself or receiving screened resumes from a recruiter, provide feedback quickly and clearly. The faster you do this, the more likely you are to hire from your A-pool of resumes, because those candidates are looking in a multitude of places. Also, a quick turnaround with feedback on what you liked and what you didn’t like after the resume screening process will help your recruiter know which applications to move to the next step and which ones to disqualify.

You also want to get your feedback notes and scorecards filled in as soon after the interview as possible. This is crucial for two reasons: First, it’s surprisingly easy to forget the minute details of the interview you just had with the candidate, even later the same day. Giving fast feedback allows you to get down the concrete information that will help optimize the application process both for the candidate and for the recruiter.

Another reason is that, like in the resume screening process, a quick turnaround time on interview feedback means moving your ideal candidate to the next stage more quickly, making it more likely to get them on your team before another organization snaps them up.

This also applies for candidates who didn’t progress to the next stage. Not only does giving fast feedback improve the candidate experience by not making candidates feel “ghosted” or ignored, it helps the recruiter better understand what good and bad candidates look like in your eyes, so they can put more relevant candidates in front of you.

In short: don’t be the bottleneck in the recruitment pipeline. Make yourself available. Keep parts of your calendar clear for holding interviews with candidates and touching base with the recruiter and rest of the hiring team.

6) Don’t fall at the final hurdle

It’s best to let the experts deal with job offer management (that’s your recruitment team, by the way). But you should be willing to get involved, whether that’s delivering the offer itself or being on hand to answer questions for a candidate once they have received an offer. Show the candidate that you, the person they will report to and work with, are excited and engaged about offering them the job. This can have a real impact especially if that candidate is courting multiple offers from multiple firms. If anything, it’ll show that you care, as emphasized by Workable VP of Customer Advocacy Matt Buckland in a recent webinar about the candidate experience.

Follow these six simple steps with HR and recruitment, and you’ll be in a far better place than you were before. You’ll no longer be a bad hiring manager. Not only will you have the actual team you need, you’ll be more trusted and respected both by those in your team and your colleagues in recruitment and HR.

Let’s circle back to the start: You’re in Chloe’s position, and you’ve still lost Zeke. But instead of doing what she did, you simply go into Sally’s office right away and say, “Hey, can we talk? Zeke just gave his notice. We gotta work together to build a recruitment plan and find a new star for the team in time for that big project.”

Remember: It’s not just about “How can I help you in the process?”. Nor is it just about “How can you help me in the process?” Rather, it’s a combination of both: “How can we work together to build a dream team in our company?”

Looking for an all-in-one recruiting solution? Workable can improve candidate sourcing, interviewing and applicant tracking for a streamlined hiring process. Sign up for our 15-day free trial today.

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Rob Long

Rob Long is VP Partnerships at Workable. He's a former recruiter who writes mostly about hiring best practice. He tweets @_roblong.

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