Forging a New Path

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.

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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 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.

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Judging from the CareerBuilder survey results, many hiring managers have unrealistic expectations about the talent market. When asked their biggest challenge in getting aligned with the hiring manager about a new requisition, 20 percent of recruiters chose “hiring manager thinks it’s easy to find the perfect candidate” while 20 percent chose “compensation and list of requirements don’t match the market rates.” Sixteen percent chose “Hiring manager has an unrealistic list of requirements.”

Indeed, many recruiters complain that hiring managers often appear to have little understanding of the amount of work recruiters must do to fill reqs and are often to blame for the delays that end up increasing time-to-fill, says Erickson.

One obvious solution, she says, is to create a service-level agreement — similar to that between vendors and clients — that clearly spells out the expectations and responsibilities for each party.

“The SLA should outline the roles and responsibilities for the hiring manager and the recruiter and have a scorecard that measures whether each side is keeping up their end of the bargain,” she says.

Another is to require a “recruitment strategy kick-off meeting” for each new requisition to create a mutually-agreed on plan to fill the position, ensure the hiring manager’s expectations are calibrated to the available talent for the position and that the hiring manager and her direct reports share the open position with their networks.

“Hiring managers have to be actively partnering with recruiters to not only find candidates but convert top candidates to come work for the company,” says Erickson.

Recruiters can also strengthen their bond with hiring managers by learning more about the business they serve. At CareerBuilder, recruiters will often attend a team’s quarterly meeting or even sit in on sales calls to get a better sense of how the company works, the presenting styles of the hiring managers and a better insight into the day-to-day work that various jobs entail, says Haefner.

“It’s dangerous to allow yourself to get siloed into the world of recruiting,” she says. “By getting out in the business world, you’ll gain more insight and will be better equipped to build personas of the ideal candidates for a position.”

On a more granular level, recruiters without technical backgrounds who are seeking to fill a technical position should ask the hiring manager to point them to a subject-matter expert within the company who can help them in areas such as keyword searches and critical terms, says Eubanks.

“Talking with someone knowledgeable like that can help you sort out the people who are truly qualified from those who are just throwing buzzwords onto their resumes,” he says.

Technology shares some of the blame for undermining the recruitment relationship, says Michael Drayer, group vice president for strategy and client services at New York-based Symphony Talent.

“Tech has enabled a lot of bad recruiting,” he says. Most technology is designed to only measure whether a candidate meets the baseline qualifications for a job, not whether a person can actually perform well in a given role and is a good fit with a team. The result, says Drayer, has been recruiters presenting hiring managers with candidates who often don’t quite measure up. Recruitment tools that incorporate artificial intelligence, he adds, may be part of the solution.

Ultimately, it’s worth a recruiter’s time to get to know their hiring managers better.

“If a hiring manager can trust the recruiter they’re working with to have the same sort of passion and commitment to the position that they do, then they’re going to be much more likely to want to work with that person,” says Erickson.

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Andrew R. McIlvaine
Andrew R. McIlvaine is former senior editor with Human Resource Executive®.