From Good To Great: 3 Tips That Will Help You Improve the Recruiter and Hiring Manager Relationship

For a successful hiring process, it’s crucial to invest in the relationship between the recruiter and hiring manager. The recruiter and hiring manager relationship is the foundation on which every search is built. When this foundation is solid, you can expect a positive candidate experience, an efficient operation, and a quality hire. When it’s shaky? Not so much.

Good recruiter and hiring manager relationships are the product of a thoughtfully designed approach. No matter who’s on your individual hiring teams, there are three tips that can consistently improve the recruiter-hiring manager partnership at scale. But before we delve into those, let’s explore what happens when your most important stakeholders aren’t in sync.

The misalignment in recruiter-hiring manager relationships

The dynamic duo of the hiring process – the recruiter and hiring manager – often face challenges in their collaboration. This friction can lead to a strained relationship, causing frustration for both parties. 

Recruiters often find themselves running down job posts, timely interview feedback, and important decisions on candidates. It’s no wonder they tend to think hiring managers need constant hand-holding! 

On top of that, too-selective hiring managers can make the process feel like less of a search for qualified candidates than an endless chase for a unicorn (or at least a Harvard grad).

Meanwhile, since recruiters’ activities – like reviewing candidates, diligently screening them, and ensuring there’s a job responsibilities-to-job requirements match – mostly take place out of their line of sight, hiring managers may get the false sense that, well, recruiters don’t do much of anything. When it takes a while for a recruiter to find and share qualified candidates, this perception only gets worse. 

If a recruiter and hiring manager relationship is antagonistic (or even just ambivalent), it will have a negative impact on the hiring process (and its success). Usually, the cause of the problem is simply misalignment – not bad intentions. However, the consequences can be dire, especially in a tight labor market and resource-constrained environment for recruiting teams. Wasted money, wasted time, bad hires, and no hires are just some of these results. 

To avoid these problems, here are three tips to help you put the recruiter and hiring manager relationship on the right track across your organization. 

Tips for recruiting teams to improve their relationships with hiring managers

Have (and show) empathy for the hiring manager

Hiring is generally an episodic event for people outside of the talent acquisition team. That means that hiring managers aren’t accustomed to it on a daily basis – and for some, it’s an entirely new experience. So it’s no wonder that they’re not well-versed or up-to-date in the hiring process. Best practices (and major no-no’s) often change, especially when it comes to crafting job posts, conducting interviews, and other steps in the recruitment process. 

A hiring manager has lots at stake, considering that the vacant position is most likely on their team or within their department. The longer it stays empty, the heavier the burden on the hiring manager, increasing their workload, affecting their ability to meet goals, and getting worse every day. 

Whomever they hire won’t just be a passing colleague, but a teammate they’ll likely work with on a regular basis. A hiring manager’s compensation may even depend on whom they hire (and when). So it’s essential to view the situation from the hiring manager’s perspective – and with a lot of empathy. 

With that in mind, your hiring process should be as friendly as possible for hiring managers. 

Recognize that recruiting isn’t an everyday activity in a hiring manager’s routine. To ensure the process goes smoothly end to end, provide support to hiring managers who may be going through uncharted territory. Provide them with tools that will make their job easier such as:

  • Job post templates: Give hiring managers easy-to-use job description templates that streamline job ad creation and leave little room for error (or writer’s block). 
  • An interview question bank: Offer hiring managers tried-and-true (and non-discriminatory) interview questions to use while evaluating candidates.
  • Standardized scoring rubrics: Implement a standard scoring rubric to help hiring managers assess candidates fairly against predetermined criteria.
  • Automated email reminders: Put automated email reminders in place to hasten the hiring process and avoid unnecessary delays that could turn off candidates. 

These tools can really help hiring managers go through the process without stressing out themselves or their recruiting partners. However, don’t overdo it with tools. According to Josh Bersin’s 2019 research, the average company has around 15 different recruiting technologies in its tech stack. Overwhelming your hiring managers doesn’t help. 

Act as a partner, not an order-taker

Efficient recruiting isn’t achieved when recruiters simply follow orders. They must become true partners in the process. When recruiters are seen as equals to hiring managers, they’re able to set realistic expectations of the process. While it can feel easier (or at least nicer) for recruiters to simply say yes to all their hiring managers’ demands, that actually creates more work down the line. “Easy decisions for a hard life, hard decisions for an easy life,” the adage says. 

Hiring managers know their functions best, and they’re often more senior in the organization than the recruiters they’re paired with. But that doesn’t make them experts in labor market conditions. They don’t know what kind of talent is available (and where, and for how much), what job seekers want, or how the job market functions today. That’s where recruiters can add unique value, providing much-needed feedback to set the right expectations. (That’s why they’re partners, not order-takers). 

To establish trust and build alignment, recruiters should share insights and educate hiring managers about the current market conditions. This will create a more collaborative environment and accelerate the process of finding qualified candidates.

Considering hiring managers aren’t fully immersed in the world of talent acquisition, it’s not unreasonable for them to have outdated ideas regarding hiring. For example, hiring a candidate without a college degree or with a criminal record (“fair chance hiring”) might be radical concepts to someone who isn’t up to speed on the latest recruiting trends.

By teaching hiring managers, providing recruiting intelligence, and setting realistic expectations for the entire hiring process (from how large the local qualified talent pool is to how long it will likely take to fill a req), recruiters can become valuable partners in the recruiter-hiring manager relationship. 

Align as early as possible (and always before the job is posted)

Timing is everything! It’s essential that recruiters and hiring managers are on the same page as early as possible in the process, even before a job is posted. 

When a recruiter and hiring manager (and any other stakeholders, like HR business partners or interviewers) aren’t in sync, any steps “forward” in the hiring process are essentially wasted. (And that means time, money, and goodwill down the drain.) It’s nearly impossible to write a job post that attracts qualified applicants, screen candidates, or interview effectively if not all parties agree on what even makes a job seeker right for a role. 

By the time a job is live on job boards, the recruiter and hiring manager should be closely aligned. It should be crystal clear who’s responsible for what, when, and why. On top of that, they should have a shared understanding of the open position – the responsibilities, budgeted salary, and requirements. 

To develop harmony between hiring managers and recruiters early on, require a standardized intake (or, as we like to call it, “kickoff”) meeting as soon after a req is opened as possible. These meetings set the tone for the entire recruitment process; do them right, and you’ll have healthy qualified candidate pipelines to choose from. Do them wrong, and you’ll get…well, a wrong hire, no hire at all, or any other disaster that can befall the hiring process.  

The golden rule is that a job posting should be a (faithful) reflection of what was agreed upon during the kickoff meeting. Don’t design a great intake process only to post old, irrelevant, or downright bad job ads. 

Jumpstart the recruiter and hiring
manager relationship

The cornerstone of any successful hiring process is the productive relationship between hiring managers and recruiters. 

To achieve that, they need to align on roles, responsibilities, and realistic expectations throughout the hiring process. The best way to jumpstart that is through an intake meeting. In addition, a handful of simple systematic changes to your process can work wonders. 

If you’re looking for the next step, watch our webinar Designing a World-Class Hiring Intake Process for Efficiency and Fairness. It explores the outsized benefits of a well-designed recruiting intake process on hiring speed, cost, quality, and diversity. Through insightful discussion and practical tactics, you’ll gain the knowledge and tools needed to run your own exceptional intake process.   

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