3 Ways to Influence Difficult Hiring Managers

By Roy Maurer Apr 25, 2017
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CHICAGO—Recruiters typically don't play offense within their organization. But to have a more effective relationship with hiring managers, they should, said Kris Dunn, CHRO at Kinetix, a recruitment process outsourcing firm in Atlanta.

"Recruiters who have challenges with hiring managers don't influence them enough. To deal with difficult hiring managers, the best recruiters are more proactive and assertive in their approach," Dunn told attendees yesterday at the Society for Human Resource Management's 2017 Talent Management Conference & Exposition.

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Recruiting Externally and Internally]

To gain influence with hiring managers:

  • Share informed opinions about the relevant job market.
  • Be prepared with metrics to back up assertions.
  • Hold hiring managers accountable for their role in the talent acquisition and management process.

Strike First

Dunn said recruiters should understand the power of making the first move. "It's negotiating 101," he said. Recruiters (including many in the room, by a show of hands) often feel as if they are victims of a hiring manager's unreasonable expectations, from the speed for which requisitions are expected to be filled, to asking for top-level candidates for less than top-level compensation.

"Average recruiters wait for the order to come in," Dunn said. "Smart recruiters have opinions on the market and tend to frame the conversation with hiring managers first. Make the first strike by presenting your thoughts on what it will cost to bring in a quality candidate in your market, and the time to fill that specific opening."

He said that recruiters should tell the hiring manager what the compensation "sweet spot" is for that role with the credentials and experience the employer wants. "Before you hear what they want to pay, lead with your market research. For hiring managers who tend to move slow on scheduling and interviewing and making a final decision, tell them about the time-to-fill for that role and how much it costs to exceed it."

Bring Data

Hiring managers won't respect recruiters unless they can back up their opinions with data, Dunn said. And standard metrics like time-to-fill, cost-per-hire and turnover by themselves won't cut it anymore–cost-per-hire is not a priority for hiring managers who just want the job filled.

Analytics from candidate relationship management tools have set new expectations against which recruiters are judged.

"The bottom line is that it's really hard to control a conversation with a difficult hiring manager unless you've got data," Dunn said. "But recruiters have the opportunity to influence hiring managers by figuring out hiring funnel data."

Open requisition metrics measure the conversion stages of the recruiting and hiring funnel.

"A great way to manage the expectations of hiring managers is to show them that you know what the funnel looks like, and it shows them that you are proactive," he said. "If you see the funnel has lots of prospects coming in but not a lot falling down to the interview stage, you can show you've got bad candidates, for example."

Another important measurement is what Dunn calls the hiring manager batting average. "Turnover is tough to leverage and communicate, but if you measure a hiring manager by the hires that are made by that manager and how many are left after one year, you broaden accountability beyond the talent acquisition team."

Get Them on the Record

What about those slippery hiring managers? The ones who are too busy and hard to track down, come up with changes to the requisition mid-process, make excuses about delaying selection, and never offer feedback about resumes or rejections during the process. How do you rein them in?

Dunn recommended a forecast and probability technique to box them in during the process and get recruiters closer to the goal of making a hire.

As an example, a hiring manager decides it would be a good idea to hire Candidate A away from a solid full-time job with a temporary contractor position. "Instead of sheepishly saying 'OK, I'll go make the offer, and take the bullets,' ask the hiring manager for the probability of that offer being accepted," Dunn said. "And then you share your own informed probability, backed up with experience and data."

That assertiveness may sway their decision right there. But if they stick to wanting to make the likely doomed offer, another option is sharing the two probabilities with additional stakeholders in the organization, including their boss.

"Prepare to share your opinions up and down the organizational chart," he said. "Sharing progress and roadblocks is how business gets done."

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