Forging a New Path

The relationship between hiring managers and recruiters at many organizations appears to be broken. What can be done to fix it?
By: | November 28, 2017 • 7 min read
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When Ben Eubanks worked as a recruiter, he followed what some in the restaurant industry call the “two-minutes, two-bites rule” to ensure hiring managers were happy with his services.

“Just as a server will check on a customer a couple minutes into their meal to ensure everything’s great, you want to check in with the hiring manager right after the new hire starts to make sure everything’s going as expected,” he says.

Eubanks’ check-in would typically consist of a quick two-question email asking the hiring manager to rate, on a scale of one to 10, how the position-fill went and whether anything in the process could have been improved.

“Over time, I started to get a clearer vision of each hiring manager and what their preferences were,” says Eubanks, who is today principal analyst at Lighthouse Research & Advisory in Huntsville, Ala.


Other recruiters might do well to follow Eubanks’ example. In recent years, evidence has suggested that the relationship between recruiters and the hiring managers they serve is less-than-ideal, if not borderline dysfunctional. Numerous surveys have revealed, for example, that hiring managers blame recruiters for failing to bring them suitable candidates for open positions and lacking an adequate understanding of the business. Not all the fault lies with recruiters, however: Many blame hiring managers for being unresponsive and uninvolved in the recruiting process. Jobvite’s 2017 Recruiter Nation Report is one of the latest to highlight recruiters’ complaints: 56 percent of the 800 recruiters polled say hiring managers’ slow pace is to blame for the biggest bottlenecks in talent acquisition. Another 43 percent say hiring managers take too long to review resumes.

A recent survey of nearly 7,000 job candidates, hiring managers and talent-acquisition managers undertaken by Hanover, Md.-based Allegis Group finds the vast majority of companies are dissatisfied with their recruitment processes and are plagued by what appears to be a disconnect between hiring managers and talent-acquisition professionals.

Barely 8 percent of the employers “strongly agree” that their recruiting process enables them to fill positions quickly and cost-effectively with high-quality talent, according to the findings of the survey, titled Staying in Front: An Inside Look at the Changing Dynamics of Talent Acquisition.

Meanwhile, although only 28 percent of hiring managers expect so-called “turnkey hires,” or candidates who check all the boxes with respect to skills and qualifications for a given position, 50 percent of the talent-acquisition managers think full qualifications must be met, as do 50 percent of candidates.

Companies neglect to attend to the hiring manager-recruiter relationship at their own peril: Bersin by Deloitte’s last High-Impact Talent Acquisition Maturity Model study found that it’s one of the most important factors in an organization’s ability to attract talent.

“The biggest shock we got from the research is that the recruiter-hiring manager relationship is four times more influential than 14 other drivers, out of a total of 16,” says Robin Erickson, Bersin by Deloitte’s vice president for talent acquisition, engagement and retention research. “Also, 97 percent of organizations rated at the highest level of talent-acquisition maturity reported strong relationships between their hiring managers and recruiters.”

So what explains the gap that often exists between the two parties at many organizations?

It often boils down to a lack of understanding, says Erickson. Hiring managers often complain that it shouldn’t be so hard to find people to fill jobs and that they’re not hearing enough updates from recruiters. Recruiters, meanwhile, complain that hiring managers often have unrealistic expectations, don’t understand the talent market and have little idea of the amount of work they put in to filling each role.

Erickson and others say the key to success is spelling out expectations early on. The most important component of that is the intake meeting between recruiters and hiring managers, says Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder in Chicago. However, a survey CareerBuilder conducted late this summer of nearly 2,500 hiring managers and HR professionals reveals that 55 percent of organizations do not require such meetings, even though 30 percent of respondents say it takes longer to fill jobs when there isn’t one.

“Doing an initial intake conversation for each position is critical, even if it’s a hiring manager you’ve been supporting for years,” says Haefner. “You can’t assume you know exactly what they want.”

Given the volatility of skills requirements for certain jobs, skipping an intake meeting “can cost you dearly in getting the req closed out quickly,” she says.

The ideal intake meeting should be a two-way conversation between recruiter and hiring manager so that not only can the recruiter gather as much information as possible about position requirements and ideal candidates but also educate the hiring manager as to what the talent market looks like in terms of pipelines, candidate availability and compensation trends, says Haefner.

“It’s important in setting the hiring manager’s expectations for who’s out there and what they’ll require in terms of pay and benefits,” she says.