5 Easy Ways to Win Over Difficult Hiring Managers

Bridge the relationship gap with preparation, empathy

Roy Maurer By Roy Maurer April 16, 2019
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​NASHVILLE, TENN.—The relationship between recruiters and hiring managers is one of the most critical factors affecting the success of an organization's talent acquisition efforts.

"Many of us [recruiters] have worked with hiring managers who are either difficult to make happy or indecisive—or who even obstruct some of our best efforts to help find and hire top talent," said John Carrozza, a principal consultant with Riviera Advisors, an HR management consulting firm in Los Angeles.

Carrozza spoke April 9 at the 2019 Society for Human Resource Management Talent Conference & Exposition.

"There are many ways that recruiters can make a deposit in the 'relationship piggy bank' with hiring managers, especially the difficult ones, where we have to go a little farther to get them to see the world through our eyes," he said. "We can also use those moments to help see the world through their eyes as well. It's easy to complain about the hiring managers who are difficult, but they are also complaining that recruiting just doesn't get it. This is a great opportunity to bridge that gap."

[SHRM members-only platform: SHRM Connect]

Carrozza offered five ways to win over difficult hiring managers:

1. Calibrate. He suggested recruiters bring the resumes of potential candidates to the intake meeting at the start of the search. The resumes could be from past applicants, top candidate finalists, or the organization's talent network. "These are great opportunities for those hiring managers who have trouble articulating what they are actually looking for," Carrozza said. "You want to see what they like and what they don't like, based on resumes relevant to the role."

Claire Petrie, SHRM-CP, talent acquisition manager in the Buffalo, N.Y., office of Remedy Intelligent Staffing, recommends recruiters use the initial intake meeting to nail down what hiring managers really want.

"When hiring managers just provide you with a job description or a list of traits or skills they think they have to have, this is where the process can go wrong," she said. "Be prepared to educate the hiring manager on why just providing you with the job description isn't enough to make the process successful."

In case the hiring manager wants to get on the phone immediately with one of them, remember to stress that these are not active candidates.

2. Regularly track search efforts in summary reports. Be sure to agree on an update frequency before the search starts. Recruiters can use an Excel spreadsheet to provide valuable information about candidate activity—where candidates were found, the last touch point made with them, recommendations for next steps. "Many hiring managers have told me that they never hear from their recruiters," Carrozza said. "This is your chance to tell your story, or someone else will. Provide regular, simple updates on the candidate search. It reduces the amount of phone calls you get from hiring managers and strengthens the relationship with them."

3. Prebook calendar items. Get candidate interviews on the calendars of hiring decision-makers before you actually need them, Carrozza said. Prebooking helps reduce some uncertainty and expedites the hiring process. "If you're spending one or two weeks sourcing candidates and think you'll be interviewing in the third week, ask for open slots on the manager's calendar at the intake meeting. Fill in the meeting dates as you assess and schedule candidates for interviews."

4. Work backward from key hiring dates. "When you ask hiring managers when they want the job filled, they usually say 'right away' or try to be cute and say 'yesterday,' " Carrozza said. "The reality is that there are key business objectives that require people to be in some positions. Work backward from some of those key dates," he advised. For example, there might be a monthly or quarterly report deliverable needed for finance or accounting jobs, or a salesperson needs to be at a conference on a certain date. So instead of hiring someone unnecessarily quickly, step back and plan out the best schedule to fit the role.

5. Feel their pain. It's important that recruiters and hiring managers work together to empathize with each other, Carrozza said. "But empathy is a two-way street. If we ask for it, we have to give it. We have to understand enough about the organization to be able to show empathy."

He said that too many recruiters don't really know how the organization they work for achieves its business goals. "Build a knowledge bank of the industry you work in," Carrozza said, "not just about the competitors for talent, but the industry as a whole, the trends, the innovations, the direction. This will help create more empathy for hiring managers." 

Petrie said that a consultative approach works best. "Be a business partner, not just a recruiter," she said. "Don't default to making excuses as to why a search is hard. Whether you are in-house or in an agency, build those relationships. Get to know your businesses. The outcome will be so much more rewarding."

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