The Role of the Hiring Manager in Recruiting

I think it was Management 101 in which we all learned that as leaders are identified and as they grow from individual contributor roles to leadership positions, the biggest predictor of success shifts from the quality of their performance to the quality of their team’s performance. Today, the fact is that every company is looking for high-potential, high-quality employees in a diminishing pool of talent. The relative importance of this and the degree of difficulty is illustrated in the points below:

  • A Hay Group/Recruiting Roundtable Study found that the relative contribution of a star performer is more than three times that of an average performer.
  • In March 2006, a Gallup Poll/USA Today survey found that 59% of managers said that finding and training enough good people to fill current and future requirements was their most pressing problem.

So, it’s safe to infer that the importance of talent and raising the talent bar is a given. On top of that, we’re competing with other companies in a global economy to secure the very best talent. What’s interesting is that you won’t find a lot of commentary out there about the hiring manager’s role in this process. Worse yet, to some degree, is that we’ve led hiring managers to believe that recruiting talent is a function of HR. It’s not! It’s quite simply one of the most important activities leaders do.

The Hiring Manager’s Role in the Recruiting Process

Several years ago, the Corporate Leadership Council surveyed approximately 8,000 recruiters to determine what’s most critical to effective recruiting. The most common answer was “the hiring manager.” In another recent study, the Council analyzed 30 factors to determine what’s most important when it comes to attracting and retaining employees. It found that base pay and the quality of the manager were by far the two biggest ways to attract and retain talent. Thus, without question, hiring managers are the key to hiring success; yet, ironically, one of the biggest challenges recruiters face is the hiring manager.

This can take the form of lack of clarity on the position, lack of time from the hiring manager, unrealistic expectations, or simply disconnects on procedures, roles, and responsibilities. Effective staffing models create a sustainable, scaleable, and repeatable process. As we recruit, we want to follow the same process across the organization so that we can measure our results, consistently deliver on those results, and continuously improve the quality of our hires. It’s interesting to note that hiring managers who wouldn’t dream of approaching their functions or businesses without following some type of standard operating procedure will often take a shoot-from-the-hip approach to recruiting.

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As business partners to our hiring managers, we need to do three things: 1) Counsel and educate our hiring managers on the importance of their engagement in the recruiting process; 2) let them know that recruiting is a process, and educate them on their role within the process; and 3) make sure that they hold us (HR) accountable for delivering the best, diverse talent, and understand that they have a shared accountability in collaborating with us to recruit and retain this talent.

Seven Keys for Highly Effective Hiring Managers

Given this landscape, here are seven keys that hiring managers can use to unlock the door to efficient and effective recruiting:

  1. Planning. Often our urgency to implement (recruit) translates into a lack of planning. This can lead to poorer outcomes in recruiting if we haven’t properly considered our organizational design, leadership team alignment, competencies, etc. Also, now’s a good time to look at your internal talent to determine if you’ll need to look externally in your search.
  2. Three-way meeting. A good job description (which doesn’t often exist right now) is an important starting point. But, a meeting with the hiring manager, recruiter, and HR partner is critical in order to determine what the optimal profile is, discuss the current labor market, review any anticipated obstacles, and provide needed perspective for the recruiter on career paths, selling points of the position, experience, or history of the hiring manager.
  3. Help your recruiter learn what “good” looks like. The recruiter’s role is to minimize the amount of time that it takes a hiring manager to recruit, source, and screen high-quality talent. In order to do this, the hiring manager needs to make an upfront investment to ensure that the recruiter understands what “great” looks like. Aside from the meeting mentioned above, this includes some simple but important steps, such as talking about the profiles of some of the best people in their department or, if possible, meeting with some of those top performers on their team. In addition, get detailed feedback on why a manager liked or didn’t like a specific candidate. The more this is done, the better the recruiter should be able to deliver the right talent to the hiring manager.
  4. Avoid the Common Pitfalls. I could discuss a lot in this section, but let me give you the Big Three:
    • Changes to what’s originally laid out for the job. A lot of the heavy lifting in recruiting is done during the first two to four weeks of the recruiting cycle. It’s when recruiters work hardest to source and screen talent. Any changes a hiring manager makes after the three-way meeting described above creates a lot of wasted effort for recruiting.
    • The industry-experience trap. Industry experience is not only highly overrated, but it’s also the quickest way to sub-optimize the talent you recruit. If you think of the pool of top-quality, top-quartile talent, the minute you say they must come out of the food industry or the high-tech industry, you’ve reduced that pool of available talent by about 98%! The fact is that for the majority of our jobs, top talent with high learning agility can learn the nuances of our industry, but industry-experienced candidates who do not possess high learning agility will never become top talent or future leaders for you.
    • The most important metric isn’t time-to-fill. When you ask most hiring managers about recruiting metrics, the first one they mention is time-to-fill. To me, it’s the least important metric and one that you want to score average on – whatever that metric is for your industry, function, or job. Hold your recruiters to the highest standards for quality and diversity. A year from now, you really won’t remember whether it took seven or 10 weeks to fill that job, but you’ll live with the quality of the hire for a long time.
  5. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. By now, it’s clear that recruiting really is collaboration among the hiring manager, HR partner, and recruiter. To ensure that the partnership is most effective, communication needs to be ongoing and in-depth. At a minimum, a weekly update meeting should take place beginning within two to three weeks from the project initiation.
  6. Removing Roadblocks
    • Time is the enemy. For recruiters, this is a given. The best talents have many options in the marketplace, and they’re not going to wait for lengthy interview cycles or cumbersome decision-making processes.
    • Make sure interview teams are all reading from the same page, and determine who makes the hiring decision. Using multiple interviewers can increase the quality of the hiring decision. But, it’s critical to ensure that all interviewers are all in agreement as to what the hiring profile is, and that they send a consistent message to the candidate on the position, company, and culture. Also, if you have seven interviewers, get all of their input – but don’t set the expectations that all seven have to endorse the hire.
  7. Selling the opportunity. Remember that the best candidates are also interviewing us. They’re assessing how we measure up to their expectations in relation to the job, the vision and the caliber of our leadership, the quality of our hiring manager and of their peers, compensation, benefits, career path, and culture. As a result, everyone that participates in the interviewing process should devote some time to addressing these topics, selling the opportunity, and ensuring that the candidate experience is a good one for the interviewee.

As their subject matter experts in recruiting, staffing leaders need to help their hiring managers understand our processes and systems. Hiring managers are both customers and key contributors to this process. Their role is critical because at the end of the day we don’t own staffing – they do.

Ed Davis has been a leader in the staffing field for over 25 years. Davis is currently managing director of staffing with United Airlines. Prior to joining United, Davis was vice president of staffing with ConAgra Foods and R.R. Donnelley. Throughout his career, Davis has created enterprise-wide recruiting processes, systems, and organizations at large corporations. He is a frequent guest speaker at industry conferences and he was recognized as “Staffing Professional of the Year” by the Staffing Management Association of Chicago in 2006.