Recruiting Best Practices

6 Ways Recruiters can Build Better Relationships with Hiring Managers

Lauren Shufran

Lauren Shufran

Content Strategist

Posted on

March 4, 2020

If you’re a sourcer or recruiter, chances are you’re spending a great deal of time thinking about candidate experience (CX). There’s a direct correspondence, after all, between CX, offer accept rates, and talent brand; so it makes sense that these are the folks you’re aiming to build a foundation of trust with. But in the midst of that, it’s sometimes easy to lose sight of who else it's critical to build strong relationships with: your hiring managers.

Consider this: Organizations that improve hiring manager satisfaction are 3x more likely to reduce time-to-hire and 2x more likely to improve quality-of-hire. Add to this research that showed the biggest driver of talent acquisition performance was strong relationships between recruiters and their HMs. And then add your own experience, which probably looks like this: when you’re not in sync with your HMs, you create more work for the both of you. Not coincidentally, you also impair the experience of the candidate, who’s now at risk of dropping out of process, rejecting your offer, complaining to their networks about you, and so on.

We’ve heard some somber stories from both sides of the aisle... but at Gem, we’ve also been able to witness some phenomenal recruiter-hiring manager relationships that result in consistent hires of best-in-class talent. Below is our top-6 list of how those recruiters are making it happen. And if you're looking for a more thorough (and updated!) resource on recruiter/hiring manager collaborationincluding best practices and spotlights from the pros—we've got you covered.

1. Know Their Needs from the Start

Sound obvious? Mmm-hmm. Now, what if we called this section “Know Their Needs Better than They Do,” which is more like what we mean here? Hiring managers don’t always know right away what they want from the open role, or exactly how to communicate their talent needs. It wasn’t so long ago that 51% of recruiters were saying hiring managers had to do a better job communicating what they were looking for in a candidate.

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When hiring managers can’t articulate what they’re looking for, they won’t end up satisfied with the quality of candidates recruiters send their way… which sends you back to the drawing board. So insist on a face-to-face conversation rather than an email or a job req hand-off. Here’s a shortlist of questions worth asking in that session:

  • What will the person be responsible for (projects, impact, etc.)?

  • What pain points will the hire solve?

  • What qualifications, skill sets, and tool proficiencies must they come with? Which skills and qualifications are nice-to-haves?

  • What will their day-to-day look like? What tasks does it entail?

  • How will you measure their success?

  • What’s the best person you know who has worked in this role? What qualities made them the best?

  • What challenges are typical—or what challenges do you foresee—in hiring for this role?

While you’re at it, we’d recommend coming to the kickoff meeting with a handful of prospective candidate profiles that you and your hiring manager can go through together. Putting the profiles right in front of them might help them articulate what they get excited by, and what makes them lose interest in a prospective candidate.

2. Use Data

Talent acquisition teams finally have analytics at their fingertips like they never have before. Use them both to answer any remaining questions you have about the open role, and to help your hiring manager understand what the talent market looks like and what they can expect in terms of candidate quality and time-to-hire.

As a repository of all your past hiring efforts, your ATS and CRM hold the data that allows you to forecast your recruiting outcomes. Combined, they tell you the number of people you sourced, screened, interviewed, and extended offers to in order to get an offer accept the last time this role was open. They show how long previous candidates sat in each of those stages of the funnel before moving on. They hold the reasons candidates rejected your offer, or the reasons you didn’t move forward with them. (This might be an eye-opening moment for hiring managers: how many candidates withdrew from process due to their own unresponsiveness?) ‍

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They show you what kinds of candidates moved forward in each step. They tell you what your talent pipeline looks like now, based on how many people you’ve been nurturing relationships with recently. And so on.

Mine that data to gain insights about prospective candidates and gauge how many prospects in your CRM have skills or histories similar to candidates that were hired and thrived in your organization. Start at the number of hires you need and use historical passthrough rates to forecast the number of prospects you’ll need to reach out to to get a single hire. Then share this data with your HM and the larger team involved in this hiring effort, so they see how much work will have to go into the top of the funnel.

3. Educate Hiring Managers on Your Recruiting Process

The title “hiring manager” is a bit of a misnomer. Most hiring managers fall into that role by accident, and they’re only “in” that role for as long as their team is hiring. Since they’re not hanging out at the top of the funnel with you, they may not be fully aware of how “the recruiting process” differs from “the interview process.” They may be wondering what’s taking so long to even see a qualified candidate. So let them know what’s happening in the background.

After you help identify the hiring manager’s needs, prepare the job description, and decide on interviewers, there’s still the work of sourcing talent, screening, testing, and shortlisting before the first round of interviews even happens. Sketch out that end-to-end process for your HM. Give them the details and pain points of each step so they can see the parts of the hiring process that aren’t readily visible to them. This will emphasize the importance of planning and lead time, lend them awareness of the work that takes place on your end, and create awareness of all the dependencies (and interdependencies) along the way.

4. Build Trust

Transparency can make or break the relationship between recruiters and hiring managers… and thus the strength of your hires. One great way to practice transparency is to share sourcing insights with your HMs. What subject lines have led to exceptionally high open rates in previous searches like this one? If you’ve linked out to company content in past outreach (which you should be doing!) what content got the most clicks and was most compelling to talent? What sources have been most valuable to you in the past for roles like this? And so on. Here are other ways of building trust:

  • Be up-front about your limitations. If you don’t have the technical knowledge to screen engineers, say so. If you’re recruiting for particularly hard-to-fill roles, be honest about your bandwidth when your HM comes to you with another req. They'll respect your honesty, and you can come up with workarounds together.

  • Be up-front about how reasonable their expectations are. If your HM wants an A+ candidate at a B- salary, tell them that those grades don’t match up. If they want the role filled in three weeks but the average time to fill that position in your industry is 45 days, tell them. You’ve got hard data available to prove your point—from Glassdoor, to PayScale, to LinkedIn’s Talent Insights, to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and more.

  • Become a student of your hiring manager’s area of the business. Turn the tables when you can and let your HM teach you about their business. The better you know their business function, the more credibility you have with your HM, and the stronger an advisor you’ll be when it comes to crafting meaningful job descriptions and suggesting alternative talent pools.

5. Offer Your Hiring Managers Interview Training

Hiring managers don’t necessarily come to their roles with interview experience. So walk them through the process. Educate them on what makes an effective (and what makes an ineffective, and what makes an illegal) interview question. Point out red flags HMs should be on the lookout for in candidates’ answers, and clarify what they might expect from candidates’ responses. What does a bad/good/great response to each question look like? How might unconscious bias creep into interviews? Give them data to break down any preconceived notions they might hold (that a candidate’s educational background is one of the worst predictors of job performance, for example).

6. Build and Nurture a Deep Talent Pool

A talent pool is a database of candidate profiles—ideally stored in your CRM—for talent that either has expressed interest in working for your organization, or that you sourced in the hopes they’d consider working for you one day. 54% of recruiters say that hiring managers expect them to hire candidates for hard-to-fill roles more quickly than is possible. On the other hand, 42% of hiring managers say they wish recruiters would have a warm talent pool for future open positions.

In other words, building a talent pool both fulfills an HM desire and keeps you from scrambling when those hard-to-fill roles open up. It’s the difference between proactive and reactive hiring—beginning to fill the role before the role even opens. So keep a constant lookout for high-quality talent that would be a great fit for your organization. Stay in touch with former applicants, silver medalists, talent that you met at events, and so on through nurture campaigns, so that you’re already top-of-mind for them when you reach out about that newly-opened role.

From the perspective of your relationship with your hiring manager, one of the best things about a talent pool is that it shortens the time it takes to convince someone to hop on the phone with you for a screening call. From the hiring manager’s perspective, there won’t appear to be a “delay” early in the funnel, and it won’t appear to them that you’re not putting the effort in. So if you don’t have one already, start building that database now.

So there you have it: 6 ways to improve your relationship with your hiring managers. If you’re not feeling great about your current relationships with your HMs, we recommend reaching out to them this week to put some time on the calendar to chat. Maybe you send them this post (or this resource on recruiter/HM collaboration!) and let them know you’d like to discuss how you can be better supports for each other. After all, your hiring depends upon it.


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