In November 2015 Hello Talent sponsored the recruiting “unconference” TruAmsterdam. Our very own Dustin Robinson led one of the tracks called “Hiring Managers Suck.” This post is based on his takeaways from that track. To read the original post on LinkedIn click here.

Hiring Managers Suck… Or Do They?

Imagine spending hours fine tuning a presentation only to suddenly be told you need to deliver something else entirely; consider what it would be like to have over half your work time spent waiting on someone to answer your emails and approve the next step; think about working on closing a deal with a major client only to have your business partner tell the client to take a hike because they weren’t excited enough about your product. Sounds awful right? The frustrations associated with experiences like those just mentioned are far too often identical to what recruiters experience when working with hiring managers. Recruiters are constantly struggling with changing requirements, slow response rates, and hiring managers who unreasonably expect every candidate to be dying to work for them – as a result they are losing out on top job candidates. Hiring managers suck.

Or do they?

Recruiters love to swap hiring manager horror stories, but sometimes we fail to consider addressing the issues that lead to these horror stories in the first place. This complain first, solve later/never approach is similar to how the music industry has approached piracy. Yes, people were and are stealing music, but many would argue that such theft is more the result of a service, quality, and experience problem than it is of poor ethics and/or a lack of stiff financial and criminal penalties. Hiring managers can be difficult to work with, but recruiters need to spend time innovating around and through such problems rather than complaining about them.

Last week a group of HR and recruitment experts discussed this in a track I led at the recruiting “unconference” TruAmsterdam. The track was called, as with this blog post, Hiring Managers Suck and in it we got together to discuss how working with hiring managers can be difficult and what we can do about it. During the track we focused on three areas: 1) What are recruiters’ main complaints about hiring managers? 2) What are hiring managers’ main complaints about recruiters? and 3) What can recruiters do to improve their collaboration with hiring managers?

The Main Problems with Hiring Managers

One of the main points that came up was that hiring managers don’t seem to know what they want in a candidate. All they know is that they need a “purple squirrel” – someone with comic book levels of skills and expertise – and they need that squirrel yesterday. Recruiters end up with little to go on other than “find me someone amazing!” and work hard to make a guess about what the vacancy really requires, but just as they start finding and presenting candidates hiring managers finally realize what they actually want and change the requirements again. This burns existing candidates and forces the recruiter to start over in building a pipeline.

Another issue is communication. Hiring managers are notorious for not getting back to recruiters about CVs, requirements, salary levels, etc. A lot of time is lost on waiting for a response from a hiring manager. Hiring managers seem to want to have great people working for them, but aren’t always invested in making that dream a reality. This creates bottlenecks that can end up costing you candidates.

The other major complaint that came up is that hiring managers sometimes struggled to conduct effective, professional interviews. Sometimes hiring managers are discriminatory in their interviewing practices. For instance, one recruiter at Tru shared a story about a hiring manager starting an interview by asking an ethnically Asian candidate which noodles she most preferred to eat. Another problem that was mentioned was how hiring managers treat the interview as a “prove to me how badly you want this job” session rather than an opportunity to convince a talented candidate why he/she should switch jobs and join the team. Sometimes an interview needs to be a test, but at other times it needs to be a sales pitch – not every HM understands that. This issue, along with those previously mentioned can create a situation where top talent ends up walking away from the job and you’re left to chose from candidates who are mediocre at best.

The Main Problems with Recruiters

While hiring managers seem to have some issues, the problems aren’t just coming from one side of the equation. During Tru I asked my fellow track members to pretend they were hiring managers and share some of the problems they have with recruiters. One of the first things that came up was “recruiters don’t know what I want.” On one hand hiring managers have changing and unrealistic expectations, on the other hand, it appears that recruiters aren’t spending enough time with the hiring manager to really understand the role and the traits a candidate needs to effectively fill a vacancy.

We also talked about how hiring managers complain about having too many bad candidates submitted to them by recruiters. When a CV comes to their desk or they enter an interview they end up feeling like the recruiter hasn’t spent much time screening, vetting, and interviewing candidates. Hiring managers aren’t recruiters, but sometimes they feel like they have to step in and do the recruiter’s job. This causes them to not trust recruiters, which only leads to more communication breakdowns.

How Can We Improve Our Collaboration with Hiring Managers?

In light of all the problems recruiters and HMs seem to have in working together we spent the final part of the track at Tru discussing how to work more effectively with hiring managers and came up with a variety of solutions. Here are some of the standouts:

  • Send simple candidate summaries to HMs when giving them CVs. HMs don’t have time to read everything, so try to make it easier for them to quickly process information about candidates.
  • Send weekly updates to the hiring manager on where you are at in the process. Even if you’re not getting them CVs yet it let’s them know that you are working on their vacancy.
  • Include recruiting metrics such as time to fill, quality of hire, etc. as part of their personal KPIs and performance reviews (only works if company is on board of course).
  • Create an internal leaderboard showing how hiring managers rank in terms of response time, candidate satisfaction, etc. One recruiter shared how her company has adopted this approach and now has previously unresponsive HMs working closely with the recruiting team. Public rankings can be a great incentive.
  • Make sure you get face time with the hiring manager. Have a new job opening? Take the hiring manager out to lunch rather than just calling them or (shudder) sending them an email. Also, even when you’re not recruiting for an HM be sure to drop by and chat on occasion. Relationship building goes a long way in working with hiring managers.
  • If the HM can’t/won’t describe the nature of the position you need to recruit for try talking with someone who works under the HM. This person often has a better understanding of the job anyways because he/she is closer to it.
  • Sit in on interviews where possible. This helps you to learn how an HM interviews and also gives you the opportunity to jump in and steer the interview in the right direction should things go off course.

Take the time to address collaboration issues, build relationships, and create the right incentives and you’ll find that working with hiring managers isn’t as bad is its sometimes made out to be. Hiring managers suck. Hiring managers can suck, but they don’t have to. Recruiters who take the time to focus on improving collaboration with hiring managers can expect better results and in turn, a better place to work.

Shameless Plug

Hello Talent is a great tool for working with hiring managers. You can invite them to view talent pools you’ve made, and then they can take advantage of the simple overview Hello Talent provides to quickly leave feedback and comments. To make things even easier we also have features like assignable candidate profiles, in-app notifications, @mentions, and reminders. Working with hiring managers is easier with Hello Talent.