I’m a much happier recruiter when my hiring managers don’t suck

“I’m a happier recruiter when my hiring managers don’t suck” – John Vlastelica The shortlist

When I heard John, that got me thinking; in my 10 years (next month) in recruitment, with 2 notable exceptions, I’ve only had really good relationships with my hiring managers.

And when I say good, I mean really good. Who as an agency recruiter can claim to have been invited to the team’s nights out by their hiring manager? I can. 

But while being told “you’re part of the team” is great and certainly, something that I strive for as an in-house recruiter, this is not the be-all and end-all.

Quite often as a recruiter, you’re going to deliver hard messages to your hiring managers:

  • I can find you the candidates with these skill-set and experience, but not with the salary you’re prepared to pay them.
  • This is the equivalent of 3 jobs that you’ve written in this job spec, pick one.
  • No I will not stop putting forward candidates who are “flamboyant”, I will continue to put forward the candidates that I judge to be the best match for the job, regardless of their origin, skin colour or sexual orientation.
  • You’re not seeing any more candidates because you don’t review the ones that I sent you and/or it takes you forever and a kick in the butt to give me feedback on the candidates that you’ve interviewed, so you’re not my priority.
  • You open your headcount later than all of my other hiring manager, I can’t drop all the recruitment processes I have open to focus 100% on yours.
  • No, you won’t be getting any new candidates while I’m on annual leave, you will have to survive 6.5 working days with the candidates who have onsite interviews set up with you during that time.

Will you get in trouble for telling these truths to your hiring managers? Hell yes! But that shouldn’t stop you from saying it. Maybe go for a more diplomatic approach than the above, but start a conversation.

At the end of the day, you’re brokering a deal with your hiring manager, this is not a one-way relationship; they need you to build their team at least as much as you need them for hiring.

A lot of hiring managers don’t consider recruitment/hiring as a core part of their function, which sucks deeply because reviewing candidates, interviewing, or even meeting with me to agree on the requirements, the recruitment process, etc. is seen as extra work, if not a chore.

But… but… but…

I know right? How can they be a manager with no team, how can their job not involve hiring as a core function?

It’s especially true when it comes to sales recruitment. The VP of sales came to me one day, and told me “I can’t hit my quota if you don’t hire 5 more people”.

Wait a minute, if I don’t hire 5 people?

Last I checked, the hiring managers were the ones doing the ultimate hiring.

So the recruitment team brokered a deal: If I deemed the candidates worthy of an onsite interview, they would be interviewed, no questions asked (to me obviously, not during the interview).

We agreed on what the requirements were, the recruitment process, and from that point, my sales hiring managers discovered their candidates when the interview was booked in their calendar; they then had full access to the CV aaaaaand my recruiter notes (so much valuable information that is rarely read by hiring managers). The hiring velocity increased dramatically.

Was it perfect? Absolutely not.

Cast the 1st stone if you’ve never had a candidate that was perfect on the phone turn up for the in-person interview and became a totally different person.

The perfect example was when I got this feedback:

“Chloe, your candidate for the South African market spent half of the interview telling me that our product won’t sell in South Africa. I need candidates who believe in our product.”

Mmmm, yeah, that’s a problem.

Overall, however, the system worked, and the trust grows between you and your hiring manager. You get rid of the resentment that grows on both sides: “recruitment’s not my job”, “what’s the point of getting candidates, I’m never getting feedback”.

But what happens when you cannot reach that level of partnership with your hiring manager?

Well, it’s not easy being a recruiter, even with the best relationships possible with your hiring managers, so this is where you become creative.

A few years back, I was working with a VP of Marketing based in Texas but who traveled a lot, so they basically were always in a different time zone, and it was super hard to keep track of what continent they were on at any given time, so regular catch-ups were difficult and there were a good few communication mishaps.

After a while of trials and (mostly) errors, I figured out that they wanted to review 4-6 candidates at any given time, and would interview about 3 (sucks for my ratios). And I had half a dozen jobs open with that hiring manager.

I ended up doing something completely random: I opened up a shared document and started reducing the number of candidates I put forward as well as ranking and colour-coding them. I also added the link to their profile on the ATS so that it could get accessed in one click (when you’re working from an airport or a hotel lobby, every little helped).

The hiring manager would then highlight in a different colour the candidates they wanted to interview, and if the candidate was unsuccessful, they would cross them. This way I knew the result immediately, even though I didn’t necessarily have feedback for a few days. That really helped with candidate management.

Honestly, I didn’t think that I had done anything particularly remarkable with that shared doc. I had just let my inner Hermione Granger out to play with colour coding, however, during my next quarterly review it turned out that this hiring manager had given great feedback to my manager about that “home-made asynchronous communication tool”. 

Which leads me to a suggestion I had made when the recruitment team brainstormed ideas to improve the recruitment process: how about, we, recruiters evaluate the performance of our hiring managers?

As recruiters, our performance, our bonuses are evaluated through multiple criteria: number of hires, time to fill, cost of hire, retention (not fair, we can’t really influence that), tenure of our hires and last but not least, the satisfaction of our hiring managers.

When I suggested we evaluate and give feedback to our hiring managers’ performance in the hiring process, I was shot down and told that I was being vindictive. So I took the feedback and never mentioned it again. So when John Vlastelica mentioned it last week in The Shortlist, I really felt validated in the way I approach my relationships with my hiring managers.

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While not all of your relationships with your hiring managers will be good or really good ones, remember that the hiring manager has their part to play in the hiring process and that it’s ok for you to have expectations of them and to fight for these.

Lots of love to my former hiring managers: Claire O’Rourke, Diane Melchionne, Gerard Murnaghan, Cian Johnston, Bill Richards, Sharon Beirne, Saskia Wabel, Simon Kelly, Antoine Maillot, Maarten Ridder, Marion Tilly, Damien Tramblay, Matthieu Pujol, Tiago Baiao, Nicola McCarthy, Naomi Baily and many many more.