Hiring managers are a key driver of the talent.experience — how engaged they are in the process has a critical impact on quality of hire and retention. Bersin by Deloitte research revealed that developing strong relationships with hiring managers is the top driver of talent acquisition performance and four times more influential than all the other 15 performance drivers measured.
Yet, our relationship with the hiring manager has been fraught. We talk about them either as “friend or foe” and refer to working with them as if “herding cats.” Recruiting thought leader Bill Boorman recently described this phenomenon as The Hiring Manager Conundrum. No wonder the relationship with the hiring manager ranks fourth among all the things that keep talent acquisition professionals and leaders up at night according to an ERE study.
Maybe it’s time we tried on a different perspective. What if we viewed the hiring manager as a customer? How could we create a better hiring manager experience?
Here are 10 success strategies for creating a customer-centric hiring manager relationship based on my decade-long experience leading recruiting teams and consulting projects:
- Earn trust — As true for any relationship, the basis for a successful talent acquisition/hiring manager partnership is trust. If there is a lack of trust, missing a key expectation (such as time to fill) may very likely get escalated all the way to your CEO. Conversely, if you have succeeded in building trusting relationships with your hiring managers, they are more likely to forgive an honest mistake, more open to your counsel, and eager to provide constructive feedback. Try to put yourself in your hiring manager’s shoes: recruiting is one additional task that gets added to their work load. How can you make it as easy as possible for them to participate? I recommend you (re-) read Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team. Key ideas from this field guide can be applied to earning or repairing trust with your extended team — your hiring managers.
- Be transparent — I have seen talent acquisition functions that either had unspoken policies around what not to share with hiring managers or assumed business leaders didn’t care to know. If there is anything that can make or break trust, it’s a lack of transparency. One of my favorite exercises is showing hiring managers the end-to-end recruiting process. Overlaid with pain points from candidates, recruiters, and executives, it creates powerful awareness around key interdependencies along the process and a greater appreciation for the work we do. Another way to be transparent is to share sourcing insights with hiring managers. I have yet to meet a leader who did not want to know the sources being explored for their search. Share with them! Discuss with them! Or simply ask if there is any other questions they may have about recruiting — just don’t assume they are not interested.
- Become a student of the business — Every business leader you support wants to feel that you are specifically dedicated to them and their business needs. A key complaint I often hear from hiring managers is that they feel their recruiting counterpart doesn’t understand their business and unique workforce needs. In order to create credibility, become a student of your hiring manager’s business. The better you understand the function you support, the better you can be an advisor around talent market dynamics, meaningful job descriptions, and alternate talent pools. Collaborate with HR business partners to participate in key client meetings and to get involved in workforce planning discussions.
- Convince with data — talent acquisition now has more analytic tools at its fingertips than ever before. Use them! Two critical questions on hiring managers’ minds can be answered with data: “What is really relevant for success in this role and our company?” and “What are the talent market dynamics influencing our hiring for this role?” In order to get a handle on analytics, start with free tools (e.g. your HRIS for success profiles; your ATS for pipeline reports; Glassdoor for salary, reviews, and competitor insights). Also talk to your current recruitment technology vendors — chances are your present solutions already include analytics capability or can be added at a negotiated rate. Then, make sure your recruiting team is trained and clearly understands scenarios when to use these analytics in hiring manager conversations. I have seen organizations spend unnecessary money on buying yet another recruiting solution because they failed to conduct the steps outlined above.
- Clarify expectations early — I am a huge fan of intake sessions as a way of aligning with hiring manager expectations early and creating a joint plan of action. Many companies conduct this initial meeting, but it often lacks preparation and focus. In preparation for the intake meeting, compile data answering the two questions highlighted in the “Convince with data” section. Review the job description tied to the requisition and highlight any change suggestions or clarification needs. Take a look at the hiring manager’s LinkedIn profile — does he/she have any connections who could be referrals for the role? Then, decide who should attend the meeting. If you have a dedicated sourcer for this role, bring them along. During the meeting, use a standard template to ensure key information is captured including job description changes, salary range, screening criteria, designated interviewers and offer approvers, as well as hiring manager referral and sourcing suggestions. At the end of the meeting, commit to a deadline when you will get back with next steps (e.g. an email with a suggested sourcing plan based on today’s discussion).
- Simplify — A main criticism from the business about HR in general is that we are too complex in how we operate. I usually guide clients through a process review, the Hiring Manager Touchpoint Analysis™, to help identify and address barriers to hiring manager experience along key interaction points. Ask yourself: How can key hiring manager activities be streamlined? How can approvals and reports be accessed via mobile devices? How can we simplify interview scheduling?
- Create joint accountability — I often get asked by executives “Whom should I ultimately hold accountable for recruiting success?” Talent acquisition owns the end-to-end process and the hiring manager the hiring decision. Viewing hiring managers as customers does not mean they are not accountable for many steps in the recruiting process. I am a huge fan of metrics, but more often than not recruiting KPIs tend to be ill-defined or applied so broadly that they become unfair measures. Break down the end-to-end recruiting process to the task level, then for each task define RACI roles and turnaround times. Some organizations go as far as creating enforceable service level agreements between talent acquisition and the business. We establish contracts with external customers, why not with our internal ones?
- Coach on interviewing skills — According to Candidate Experience Awards data, candidates who were dissatisfied with the interview process cite distracted interviewers, late or no-show interviewers, and non-job relevant questions as key drivers of dissatisfaction. Assess hiring manager skill gaps based on interview audits and a general understanding of manager demographics. I am partial toward making interview training mandatory, especially if most of your hiring managers are first-time supervisors. When I say “mandatory” I don’t mean “HR mandated.” The directive should be communicated and reinforced by your CEO and top-level leadership. This will drive buy-in, increase accountability, and position recruiting as a strategic talent advisor.
- Communicate, communicate — A common complaint I hear from hiring managers is that once they submit the requisition, things seem to disappear into a “black hole.” And that this lack of communication continues throughout the entire recruiting process. Make it your mission to become a pro-active communicator. Over-communicate. This does not have to take all of your time. It can be just a brief email or quick note at key milestones (e.g. invite to intake session after x hours of requisition, email with screening summary of proposed candidates, follow-up call after interviews, updates on candidate offer status). Keeping hiring managers in the loop throughout filling their vacancy goes a long way in building trust.
- Make “them” part of the solution — At the conclusion of a recent client hiring manager workshop, the participants asked if every quarter they could come together again to provide feedback and discuss what worked and didn’t work in recruiting. This was the first time they had been asked for their input. Often we either assume that business leaders are too busy to provide feedback on HR matters. Or we have heard so many complaints over the years that we are discouraged to ask. Implementing a regular hiring manager feedback mechanism through surveys or focus groups or assigning dedicated account managers can align people around a joint goal: to hire the best qualified people for your company.
Have you tried any of these tips and how have they worked for you? Can you share additional best practices in creating a customer-centric hiring manager experience?