If you ask a recruiter who their primary customer is, they will most likely tell you that it is the hiring manager. Indeed, they are core to any recruiter’s work and success. Without a hiring manager, there is no work, and without their approval, careers can be short.
But hiring managers are not always right or well informed. The majority of them are inwardly focused on the skills and people they need to achieve their immediate goals. And given budgets today, there is no room for people who need training or who cannot perform well quickly.
We all tend to stay with the familiar and with whatever works. That translates into hiring managers asking for what they already have, without regard for changing markets, the labor market or the future. Managers most likely have a limited view of the labor market and make assumptions. They assume, erroneously, that whoever they want is available reasonably quickly and at an affordable price. They assume that if they are not presented with a suitable candidate right away, then the recruiter must not be qualified. And, many managers assume that their role in the recruiting process is minimal.
This often leaves recruiters in a dilemma — go out to the market and do whatever it takes to find what the manager wants or push back and risk the manager’s anger or dissatisfaction.
The risk is that managers will find it inappropriate for a recruiter to lecture them about what they need or about the market … and even more so, perhaps, to tell them what future skills they might need.
Yes, recruiters are the only people focused daily on the labor market. They understand what skills are readily available and what ones are more difficult to find. They know comparative salaries between firms. They see what competitors are looking for and hiring. Smart recruiters are aware of suddenly changing skill requirements that might signify a strategic change of direction.
And because of this, they do have a responsibility to the manager, the company, and to potential candidates to be honest and clear about the labor situation, the salaries, and the potential for changing skills.
Gaining Respect and Influence
Here are several ways to gain hiring managers’ respect and to deliver better candidates.
Tip #1: Gather data
Gather data from a variety of sources including from the recruiting industry, the state and federal government, and from internal sources. Assemble and share relevant salary data and other information that gives a hiring manager some basis for thinking differently. Perhaps prepare a monthly labor situation update or a short briefing paper on a regular basis. Challenge their assumptions with data and with illustrations.
Tip#2: Provide graphic and neutral information
Rather than try to “sell” a point of view, become a source of objective information and thinking. Use charts, infographics, or stories that illustrate your points. Realizing that hiring managers are very busy, make the information short, relevant, and easy to understand.
Tip #3: Get them more involved in the process
Most of the time, hiring managers have limited contact with candidates and almost no responsibility for engaging or closing candidates. Typically, their role is limited to an interview. Recruiters do most of the engagement, often negotiate and close the candidate, and present the offer.
By removing the hiring manager from this process, you reduce her exposure to the candidates needs and concerns. You shelter the manager from any difficult conversations and limit her knowledge of how candidates respond. It would be better to partner with the hiring manager and have any conversations or calls together — even when this is difficult because of time. The best way a manager can learn is by being involved.
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Tip#4: Help them reimagine a job
Create a new job description that helps a manager think differently about the skills and type of person needed to achieve her goals. Come up with several personas of what successful skills and backgrounds successful new hires might have. Include educational achievements, experience, and any other information that might be different from the normal people hired for that particular position.
Tip #5: Use the manager’s own staff
Use the manager’s team to help you do this. Current workers often have great ideas as to how a job could be redesigned or changed to accommodate a new set of skills or even a lesser set of skills. If it is possible, involve the hiring manager and have an open discussion about the positions, the talent market, and what type of person should be recruited. This will improve any referrals you get and also ensure that the candidates you present will generally be acceptable to the manager and his team.
Tip #6: Build deeper relationships
Many recruiters hardly know the hiring manager. Their relationship is cursory and transient. For maximum success, recruiters need to develop a relationship with a hiring manager that convinces them that you have invested time and your skills to help them be as successful as possible. This may take time, but it is worth it to be able to work with less friction and partner with a hiring manager to find the best possible fit.
There is no panacea. Building a deep relationship of trust and respect with a manager takes time and hard work. The payoff is huge, though. You will find it much easier to have frank conversations, find and present competent candidates, and be happier in your work.
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