Are Your Hiring Managers Making Bad Impressions on Candidates?

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Jun 27, 2022

For all of the effort that companies exert to enhance their recruiting effectiveness, there’s an issue that is too often ignored — the impact that hiring managers have on candidates’ desire to join your organization.

In hiring, the human connection matters a great deal. “Hiring For Attitude” research revealed that 46% of new employees will fail within 18 months of hire, and when they fail, 89% of the time, it will be for attitudinal reasons (like coachability or emotional intelligence) rather than for lack of technical skills. So we can’t just unemotionally funnel thousands of candidates through our recruiting pipelines, making offers to the most technically skilled and rejecting the rest. Hiring is a delicate process, and connection and fit are of paramount importance.

How can you tell whether your candidates’ connection with hiring managers is positive or negative? The simplest and most direct approach is, of course, to ask those candidates.  

To make things really easy, you can start with new hires. After all, as people who have recently experienced the actual process as candidates, they are uniquely positioned to assess the connection they felt with hiring managers. Unfortunately, the research on recruiting shows that only 26% of companies are frequently or very frequently gathering this type of feedback from new hires. And the numbers are much worse when it comes to asking candidates who rejected the company’s job offer.

Even if you don’t have data from candidates about the effectiveness of your company’s hiring managers, there are a few reasons to be concerned.

First, the connection that a hiring manager has with a candidate will be heavily influenced by the extent to which the hiring manager truly listens to candidates. This is, assuredly, the point of interviews. However, there’s research indicating that many managers aren’t wonderful listeners. 

For example, across the thousands of people who’ve taken the online test “Do You Know How to Listen With Empathy?” about a third of respondents failed pretty badly. And only about 20% of people achieved perfect scores. Listening well is easier said than done.

Second, too many hiring managers fly by the seat of their pants in interviews. A Leadership IQ study found that only 7% of HR executives strongly agreed that their company’s hiring managers are consistent in how they interview candidates. By contrast, 37% strongly disagreed that their hiring managers are consistent. 

Finally, in the Hiring For Attitude study, we learned that 82% of managers reported that, in hindsight, they could tell that a new hire would fail. Why didn’t managers pay attention to the warning signs that a candidate wasn’t a good fit? Hiring managers reported that, among other factors, they were too focused on other issues or too pressed for time. And it’s a safe bet that if hiring managers are preoccupied during interviews, candidates will sense that inattentiveness.

The point of all this data is that whether from preoccupation, poor listening, or lack of structure, hiring managers are often making less-than-ideal impressions on candidates. And it’s likely that those impressions are hurting your recruiting effectiveness. To be clear, I’m not blaming hiring managers or impugning their potential; they’re stressed, overworked, and often undertrained for hiring. As a result, they may rush through interviews without listening intensely, attending to warning signs, or following a consistent process.

Although I’m not blaming hiring managers, I am pointing out that, in the absence of hard data, there are reasons to be a bit concerned about the connection that hiring managers are forging with the candidates you’ve worked so hard to bring into the pipeline. World-class recruiting requires building relationships at every stage of the hiring process. And most companies would do well to improve (or at least measure) their effectiveness at every stage, including those involving hiring managers.

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