Interviewing Hiring Managers Right the First Time

As recruiting and staffing professionals, we all need to be detailed and diligent when interviewing our hiring managers to ensure we are prepared for both effective advertising and sourcing strategies. But what things do we really need to ask a hiring manager?

It all depends on what we currently know and don’t know about the position we are recruiting. List the things we do know about the position to make filling in the gaps much easier when discussing them with the hiring manager.

Let’s take a look at some topics that we may to discuss depending upon the current relationship we have with the hiring manager.

If we have not worked with a hiring manager in the past, then we will need to discuss all of the following with them.

List of Competitors or Target Companies

Have a list of 3-5 competitors ready for the meeting, even if we aren’t sure those should be on the list or not. Sometimes a target company may just be a company that is local and not necessarily in the same industry.

  • Discuss the competitor list with the hiring manager.
  • Are any companies he/she has hired from in the past?
  • Which, if any, companies listed would be most preferred for their next hire?
  • Do they have any additional companies they would like to add to the list that are also highly desired for the target list?
  • Also, very important, are there any companies on the list that he/she would not want to see candidates from?

*Note, oftentimes if a particular company has lower hiring standards and a hiring manager knows that already, it can save us from wasting time trying to present those candidates upfront.

Take 3-5 Profiles to the Meeting With You

Make sure the profiles you take offer a slight variety, to give you a hint of what the manager will bite on. Ask the hiring manager if they have 2-3 example profiles either from current employee resumes or someone who has left the company who had the right resume profile for you to compare your sourcing with.

  • How flexible are they on the educational background?
  • How flexible are they on the years of experience?
  • Which skills are most important to them?

Required Skills & Educational Background

Ask questions around the skill/educational requirements to identify where this hiring manager is flexible.

  • For example, if a requirement says MBA in Accounting, would they also consider someone with a master’s degree in Accounting?
  • Or if the experience level says bachelor’s degree with 5-7 years of experience, would they consider someone with a master’s who has 3-4 years of experience?
  • What are the absolute skill requirements you need in this person — e.g. software knowledge or industry knowledge?
  • What is the minimum educational requirement?

Ask for Names of People

Oftentimes, a hiring manager has the name of at least one person in mind who they have either previously worked with, or know through others, or even know them as they are an internal candidate working in another group.

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  • Do you have any names from your past or current staff who you would like to be contacted about your opening?
  • If so, do you know the name of at least one company they have worked for?
  • Do you have any contact information or even a resume for any of these people?
  • How do you know them or know of them? (This is key information you can use for your cold-call).

Inquire About Past Hires

Recycle what is known and then add to it. If a hiring manager has had success with particular resources in the past, then don’t discount them as a “repeat resource.”

  • Where have your best hires come from in the past?
  • Existing employee referral? Who?
  • Did they come from networking or advertising from any organization or association?

Associations & Organizations

As staffing professionals, we need to ask the hiring manager for names of organizations and associations. We can definitely conduct our own research; however, there may be a particular group the hiring manager already knows. You need to get that information from them.

  • Are you personally members of any professional organizations or associations? Which ones?
  • Is there anyone from within those organizations who you would be interested in considering for your opening?
  • Which company do you know they have worked for in the past?

Describe a Day in the Role of This Person

This will give you some understanding of the departmental culture to gauge the type of person who will “fit in” to this team.

  • What are the day-to-activities this person will be involved in?
  • What other areas of the company will this role interface with?
  • Will this role require traveling? How much on average?

As a recap, below is a list of things you should know after an initial hiring manager intake meeting:

  1. List of target companies
  2. 2-3 example profiles
  3. List of names to contact immediately
  4. Resources for both advertising & sourcing
  5. Blurb about the day-to-day of this role for both evaluating and selling to passive talent

As recruiters, we do not have the luxury of time to have gaps in our initial intake meeting with a hiring manager. Be organized and ready for both our advertising and sourcing efforts after the first meeting with the hiring manager. If we have an organized list of what we need ready for our meeting, we will save time in the long run being able to identify the right slate of candidates the first time around and fill the requisition more efficiently.

Ryan Phillips is a technical writer & sourcing researcher at AIRS. She lives in Helena, Montana. Joining AIRS in 2010, she transitioned to the role from the internal recruiting team at The RightThing. Phillips began her recruiting career working for a technical recruitment staffing firm in the Silicon Valley, where she recruited for IT, Engineering, Marketing, and Accounting. She later moved into the RPO field, where she did mainly niche engineering recruitment for Microsoft. She works on curriculum development for all AIRS courses, including the industry-leading AIRS Certification classes. She also continues to consult with RPO clients on their social media branding strategies, as well as support the internal RightThing sourcing team to develop client specific sourcing strategies.

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