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Preparing for the Kickoff Meeting with Your Hiring Manager

For recruiters, being a strategic partner means research and gathering data before the kickoff meeting with your hiring manager. Here's how.

In the strongest recruiter-hiring manager relationships, the recruiter is a strategic partner to the business rather than a reactive support member. It’s important to approach your relationship with your hiring manager (HM) as a partnership with equal accountability, rather than one in which you’re there to offer a service. That’s why we prefer to call the initial meeting you’ll have with your HM after the role opens a “kickoff meeting” rather than an “intake meeting.” Intake suggests that you’re there simply to receive input, not to give it. The word infers that, rather than leading or participating in a conversation, armed with market information and well-researched data, you’re there to take notes, or to take an order.

So for starters: if you’ve become accustomed to calling this initial meeting an “intake meeting,” we recommend seeing how it feels to drop that word. From the perspective of the kickoff meeting, “strategic partnership” means gathering as much information as possible prior to sitting down with your hiring manager. It means understanding the role, the team, and the market to the best of your ability so you can arrive with an initial sourcing strategy and a general profile of the candidate who will be successful in this role. (If you’re off, that’s okay! You’ll calibrate at the kickoff meeting. The point is to do some research and critical thinking ahead-of-time so you’re not just passively taking notes on what your hiring manager wants.)

If you’ve been given a job description that’s tied to the req, look at that first and highlight any areas you need clarification on and sections you’d suggest changes to. Jump onto your hiring manager’s LinkedIn profile to see if they have any connections who could be referrals for the role, or whom your HM could ask for referrals from. Decide who should attend the meeting. In many cases, it may just be you and your HM; but if there’s a dedicated sourcer for the role, they should be there as well. From there, here’s how to prepare:

Perform external research

Dig into LinkedIn and spend some time gathering “role synonyms” and skill sets that talent in these roles lists on their profiles. Create a list of those skills, titles, and words for your searches. What companies have the same or similar roles open, and what do they list as the primary qualifications and responsibilities for the role? (Your hiring manager, of course, will add on their own; but it’s helpful to come into your kickoff meeting with a baseline drawn from the market.) What kind of hiring competition can you expect? Where is talent for this role located—both geographically and online? What’s the current salary range for the role? Look to Glassdoor, Payscale, or Dice’s Salary Calculator for compensation benchmarks and competitor insights; Indeed’s Hiring Insights or LinkedIn’s Talent Insights for hiring data; and sites like the Bureau of Labor Statistics or DHI Hiring Indicators for data on market dynamics. Include this data in your calculations for compensation, time-to-hire, cost-of-hire, and more.

Perform internal research

Depending on your relationship with the business unit you support, you may already be conducting “research” on a daily basis. The strength of your rapport with, and understanding of, the team as a whole is directly correlated with your ability to successfully build it out. What role does the team play in the company? How has it evolved, and what are its short- and long-term goals? Immerse yourself in the team—even if just for a few business meetings. Put yourself in a place to hear what the whole team is doing, how they interact with each other, what their culture and communication style looks like. What hurdles are they up against? What are their pain points? What excites them about their work? Speak with team members who’ll be working closely with the new hire. What core competencies do they think are critical to success in the role? Who’s the best person they know who worked in that role? What qualities made them so successful in it?

Forecast your outcomes

As a repository of all your past hiring efforts, your ATS and CRM hold the data that allows you to forecast your recruiting outcomes. They tell you the number of people you sourced, screened, interviewed, and extended offers to in order to make a hire the last time this role was open. They show how long previous candidates sat in each stage of the funnel before moving on. They hold the reasons candidates rejected your offer or the reasons you decided not to move forward with them. They show what kinds of candidates moved forward, and the sources of hire for your successful candidates. They tell you what your talent pipeline looks like now, based on whom you’ve been nurturing relationships with recently. And so on.

Use historical passthrough rates to forecast the number of outreaches, phone screens, and interviews you’ll need to make a hire, as well as an approximate time-to-hire. You’ll share this data with your hiring manager at the kickoff meeting so they have clarity on how much work will have to go into the top of the funnel on your end. It will also give them a sense of what this req will demand of their own efforts and time commitment. Note that forecasting may be especially worth doing for diversity hires, since speed and diversity can’t always happen in tandem when it comes to hiring. Spend an hour sourcing candidates on LinkedIn before the kickoff meeting to understand the diversity landscape for that req. This is a strategy that requires visual ID, which can be hugely problematic; but rather than identifying individuals “as” one thing or another, see what the pool appears to look like in aggregate.

Report on that information in your intake meeting. Then ask how much time your hiring manager can let you spend trying to find underrepresented candidates for that req. Between the two of you, you can decide what to prioritize.

Find example candidate profiles

It’s in your best interest to come to the kickoff meeting with a handful of prospective candidate profiles that you and your hiring manager can go through together. These don’t need to be available candidates; this is purely an exercise in reading your hiring manager’s body language and facial expressions when presented with certain candidates, and drawing out the nuances of what they’re looking for. Make sure the profiles are different enough (disparate experiences, skills, and backgrounds) that your hiring manager can point out the details about each that are most compelling for them. Having 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. You’ve now got all the data you need to present to your hiring manager. Once you arrive to the kickoff meeting, it’s their turn to fill in the blanks. Here are the questions you’ll want to ask about the role to fill out the contours of the persona you’ve begun to build.

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