What’s been the “it” concept of recruiting for the past half-decade or so?

The easiest answers here would be: 

  • Candidate experience
  • Something about AI enablement

Both are important to recruiting, no doubt. If you have a crappy candidate experience, you won’t get good people, broadly speaking — although the narrative around candidate experience may shift a bit in the economic recovery period and people needing jobs. (That’s for a different post.) AI could be a major component of the future of recruiting, but right now it’s predominantly a scheduling and sometimes screening tool. Ironically, the rise of AI-connected suites probably hurts candidate experience in some respects.

We’re starting to get a little bit better in recruiting around terms like “conversational intelligence” or “conversational tech,” and that’s great — because that all speaks more to where recruiting is right now. And that means we need to think about a different concept too.

Let’s talk hiring manager experience

Yes, let’s do that. We have written about this a little bit before, including on Lever’s blog.

The basic premise is simple: while candidate experience is great and important, hiring manager experience speaks to the relationship developed between the recruiter (either agency or in-house) and the hiring manager. In an in-house situation, this relationship is crucial for all future searches to go well; in an agency situation, it can be your most important avenue of business development. If the hiring managers at a client don’t like the experience you provided, will you get hired back for later searches? No. 

Begin with the negative: What usually harms a hiring manager-recruiter relationship?

There are several core reasons this relationship can go sideways, including:

  • Respect: If a hiring manager is insanely busy and owns a P&L, there can be a lack of respect about someone tied to HR (or a third-party firm) constantly trying to get time with him/her to contextualize the role. Some hiring managers may sneer: “Don’t these people have the functional expertise? Get it done.’ (We’ve heard this.)
  • Trust: A sibling of respect. The hiring manager needs to believe that the recruiter knows what’s going on and what’s necessary for the department and the role; the recruiter needs to have trust in the hiring manager’s understanding of the role, understanding of the compensation needs in-market, etc.
  • Information: The passing of information in this process can usually harm both trust and respect. The role might be contextualized poorly (front-end information), and then information about candidates is passed via disjointed hand-written or typed-out notes (another information hurdle), and then the final stages around last-wave interviews, offers, onboarding, and more can become a game of telephone. A few years ago, people online thought it was so crazy that some candidates just don’t show up on Day 1, i.e. “ghosting.” It’s crazy, sure, but if you look at the disjointed information throughout the process oftentimes, it’s more logical than we realize that a candidate might just say “Eff this” and head for seemingly-greener pastures — or, at the very least, a better-organized process.

In short: we live in this supposedly data-driven time. Almost every hiring manager you may come in contact with is being judged on data, being asked to get more data, being constantly shown slide decks about and containing data, etc. Data data data. It’s the new oil. And yet, a lot of times our recruiting processes lack data and are too sloppy and subjective. When there’s that huge of a disconnect between the core of how the business is being run and the process of working with a recruiter, many hiring manager-recruiter relationships will suffer.

How do we fix this?

You want alignment between the hiring manager and the recruiter. This will lead to faster and better hires, and a better overall process. Let’s start with some ways to improve the quality of hire:

  • Become an expert: Become knowledgeable of the day-to-day activities and the purpose of the roles, teams and departments that you support. This means observing the work, talking to people, asking to be on certain distribution lists (you don’t need to read everything, no), happy hours, and more.
  • Gather context: Speak with at least one other member of the team, ideally an individual contributor in a similar position or one who would work closely with the new hire. What is their perception of what’s critical to the role? You will sometimes hear this defined as “team-based hiring.” 
  • Dig deeper: Conduct in-depth candidate screens (that count), by adding more rigor and scrutiny to your candidate conversations. Include 4-5 interview questions that the hiring manager usually asks. Get these during the kick-off meeting.
  • Articulate: Effectively communicate the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate you speak with, tying them back to the critical competencies discussed with the hiring manager.

Aside on HoneIt: our two-way tech helps with all of the above, but that final bullet (“Articulate”) is one area we can really help you out. The interviews are recorded to the cloud, and they can be sorted by question set, so a hiring manager can easily compare Candidate A’s response to Candidate B’s response, without deciphering the chicken scratch of a recruiter. (No offense guys, but many of you have horrible handwriting.) 

Hiring managers are busy people who have affinity for receiving info on candidates in a specific way. If you hand them what they want in an easily-sorted, intuitive platform, they will respect that process — and it bolsters their respect for you too.

OK, so how do we increase speed of hire, especially if we need to hire back a lot post-COVID?

  • Minimize surprises: Make sure you get the critical information up front, so there are no unexpected deal-breakers from the candidate down the road related to salary, work authorization, commute, timing, etc.
  • Find interviewer alignment: Anyone involved with the interview process needs to have a clear understanding of the role and what the hiring manager is looking for. 
  • Block off interview time: Depending on the urgency of the hire, reserve time on a hiring manager or team member’s calendar in advance for quick scheduling. Candidates can often make time early morning, around lunch and at the end of the day.
  • Create fast feedback loops: Ensure open communication and don’t be afraid to ask a hiring manager if what they’re looking for has changed, which happens all the time. This is especially important with junior hiring managers, who may not actually know what they’re looking for in the first place. New positions in the company that are created to fill an organizational gap often involve multiple stakeholders with conflicting perspectives of what skills and competencies are needed. Recruiters can help remind and enforce that cross-functional stakeholders have spoken, and better yet – join those conversations.
  • Eliminate repetition: If you haven’t broken down what each interviewer is looking for and the questions they are asking, there is likely a ton of overlap. Candidates will likely get the same high-level questions, which is a waste of time.
  • Address final concerns: By the time you’re ready to make an offer, you should already have a very good idea of the package that an applicant will accept. Back and forth at this stage goes downhill fast. Address legitimate concerns from the candidate in a timely manner, but there shouldn’t be any surprises at this stage about other offers, desired salary, relocation, work authorization, etc.

The bottom line

Without a strong relationship between hiring managers and recruiters — one rooted in trust, respect, and successful flow of information at all stages — nothing is going to get done that well in the recruiting process. Period, full stop. There are a lot of reasons why companies make bad hires, but many of them come from these disconnects between hiring managers and recruiters being omnipresent throughout the process. 

So while you continue to focus on intuitive, communication-heavy candidate experiences, make sure you’re also focusing on your relationship and the hiring manager experience. Deliver the information they want in the ways they want it; make it easy for them to evaluate A vs. B and make it comfortable for them to approach you with changes in the role or context. 

The more we focus on developing these relationships and true “conversational tech,” the better off the branding and perception of recruiters will be long-term.