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It’s not just about the candidate. How’s your hiring manager experience?

What do your hiring managers really want to know about a candidate before making a hiring decision? Putting aside the list of competencies, experiences, your recruiting matrix, and anything else collected in an intake session or given to you officially – what is it that they REALLY want to know?

Now take just a moment or two and assess how well you think you’re meeting the needs of that hiring manager.

Many recruiters are intuitively taking the experiences of their hiring managers into account during the recruiting process. In some cases, it’s not so much intuition as it is the fact that they’re worried about a bad “Hiring Manager Satisfaction Survey” score. However, it might be time to challenge the norm with regards to how hiring managers are treated and escorted, ushered, pushed, and/or dragged through the recruiting process.

How do you find alignment with your hiring manager?

We posed this question to a room full of talent acquisition leaders – all of whom have some degree of responsibility for the experience of their candidates and hiring managers. The results put a spotlight on two key areas impacting hiring manager experience: assessing for fit with the hiring manager’s needs and creating Service Level Agreements (SLAs) to help keep the focus on providing a better experience for candidates, hiring managers and recruiters.

Shift your competencies to what hiring managers really want

An easy place for us to start being more intentional and consistent in our drive to delight not only the candidates but also the hiring managers is by taking a closer look at our desired competencies. Grabbing that list of what we think the hiring manager is looking for and comparing it to the actual skills and experiences for the current job opening. Making sure those requirements actually align with what the hiring manager needs in their department might sound like Recruiting 101, but it may surprise many to find out just how far afield or watered down those two become over time.

We asked strategically crafted groups to prioritize the following candidate characteristics by what really matters to their hiring managers.

  • Fit with organizational culture & values
  • Learning agility
  • Personality & motivation aligned to business challenges
  • Potential for higher levels of technical skills within the current role
  • Prior experience in a similar role

While no two groups came up with an identical list, a few key points rose to the top. Nearly all the groups ranked “Prior experience in similar role” as the number one candidate characteristic desired by hiring managers. Two other characteristics rounded out the top three: “Fit with organizational culture & values” and “Potential for higher levels of technical skills within the current role.”
In essence, intuition tells us that our hiring leaders want a person that has the experience they need, the ability to grow, and who will fit well within the team.

While there were no earth-shattering revelations there, the exercise was a strong motivator and sparked solid conversations around the idea of “measuring for cultural fit” and the typical “lip service” that many recruiters are challenged with in relation to what hiring managers often “feel” or qualities they’ll “know when they see them.”

Turning this in a slightly different direction, we’d challenge you to run this exercise with hourly positions in mind.  Then again with technical roles.  We suspect that you’ll create a slightly different prioritization list. Taking it one step farther, we would challenge talent teams to take those five candidate characteristics to hiring managers and ask them to prioritize the list for each role, each time.  The result would hopefully be, at worst, an interesting conversation at the intake session and, at best, an actionable list of qualities to assess and work towards when building pipelines.

Service Level Agreements between recruiters & hiring managers

Truly improving the hiring manager experience goes beyond a shift in language and candidate qualities. When asked, many of the recruiting leaders attending our 114th colloquium meeting had some sort of informal SLA with their hiring managers. Taking the time to consider and document your SLA is an exercise that will impact the experience of your hiring managers AND recruiters.

A few SLA organization points to consider (as taken from CXR members who shared their Hiring Manager/Recruiter SLAs):

  • “This hire is coming to work for you. We will help you lead the process to get them here.” This SLA outlined key responsibilities for each phase of the process: intake; attract & engage; assess; select; hire.
  • “Joint process accountability” with specific deadlines for key phases such as when a search begins, when a recruiter will submit candidates, when a hiring manager will respond to those candidates etc.
  • A list of TA commitments alongside a list of hiring manager commitments and the process if any of those commitments are not upheld.
  • After the kickoff/intake, send a follow-up email to outline responsibilities for the recruiter and the manager. Within that email, remind the manager there should be a 24-48 hour turnaround for feedback/updates.

These SLAs weren’t created in a vacuum. It took open conversations between TA stakeholders and the hiring managers. The successful SLAs – those that are making the biggest impact – have measurable standards attached to each key stage. Prioritized competency lists and SLAs aside, improving the experience of any talent acquisition stakeholder ultimately comes down to putting yourself in their shoes. Take the time to talk to your hiring leaders to learn what they really need, then shift your process to meet those needs while providing the best possible delivery to all involved.

Chris Hoyt

A veteran of recruiting and HR, Hoyt is a sought-after speaker with presentations including national conferences with SHRM, LinkedIn, HR Technology and others in the USA as well as iRecruit, Australasian Talent Conference and more abroad. Chris has been promoting and leading full scale and enterprise-wide integrations of social media and mobile marketing within workforce strategies for his entire career. His expertise and passion for interactive/social recruiting, candidate experience, and both national and international recruiting strategies are all areas that Hoyt now leverages as co-owner and President at CareerXroads, a Recruiting/Staffing consulting and think tank organization that works with corporate leaders from around the world to break out of traditional recruitment practices and push the envelope in an effort to win the ongoing war for top talent.


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