This one is for all of the recruiters out there: Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting out, chances are you’ve been in a situation where you’ve spent weeks working on an open role, only for the hiring manager to toss all of your submittals into the “no” pile. Before you start to imagine all of the ways to secure the manager’s imminent demise (exploding box of glitter, compromising viral SnapChat, you get the idea), consider the fact that it doesn’t have to be this way.
Repeat after me: Recruiters are not order takers. Can you imagine an engineer building something directly off of a paper spec from a design team? Not likely. There is a conversation that happens to make sure that both sides have the same understanding and end goal. There are also checkpoints built in to make sure that things are going as planned.
Recruiting is no different. In order to ensure that expectations are aligned, you must conduct a thorough recruitment meeting with the hiring manager before the job is blasted to the masses. Here are a few thoughts on how it should go down.
1. Understand the Key Reason for the Opening
To truly understand the position, I like to start simple by asking “In a sentence or two, what will this person be responsible for?” This not only a great exercise for the hiring manager to think about the most important aspects of the position, but it also arms the recruiter with targeted information to relay to candidates. Don’t worry about sounding silly. Sure, you may know the gist of the role, but this allows you to define it in the same way that the hiring manager does. The response doesn’t have to be overly innovative or creative, it just needs to be true.
Next, find out whether this a newly created position or a replacement. Again, you may know the answer to this before you sit down, but the response prompts important dialogue. If it’s a brand new role, what provoked the need? Why now? Is there a new product line or customer segment that needs coverage? If it’s a replacement, does the hiring manager want a clone of the person who held the role previously, or does the team want to take things in a different direction? Keep in mind that this information in particular is only for your benefit. Candidates don’t need the gory details of why the last person didn’t work out—those gems will come out in time once they are on board, usually after one too many cocktails. Hello, team building.
2. Determine “Must Haves” Versus “Nice to Haves”
We’ve all seen job descriptions that seem like wish lists fit for a fairy godmother. To avoid anything close to that, take the chance to ask what aspects take priority over others. Would a person who aligns perfectly with the team and corporate culture but only has a few years of experience work out? Or do you need someone who can get in and hit the ground running? There are many things that folks can learn on the job or through dedicated training sessions; personality is not one of them. Uncover which areas have flexibility and which are set in stone from the start or you’ll be spinning your wheels for weeks.
As part of this process, use your knowledge of the market to get realistic about salary. If the role asks for someone with 3+ years of experience but budget is closer to entry-level, speak up! Your goal is to come away from the meeting fully confident that the person you seek truly exists and that the responsibilities align with what would be a step up for a job seeker. The phrase “purple squirrel” should never enter your mind. Like really, ever.
3. Identify Target Companies and Industries
Savvy managers have a strong command of not only their own speciality but also how that specialty may shift from one organization to the next. A B2B sales job at your company may vary greatly from the way that it’s laid out at your competitor. So, uncover which target companies will make your hiring manager salivate over a resume and which ones will make him turn his nose up in disgust. Build the top picks into your search and figure out if you have any employees who formerly worked for this hallowed employer. Chances are, they’re game to reach out about your open position, especially if a referral bonus is attached.
HR alert: Use this only as a guide, and definitely don’t sacrifice diversity. If everyone on the team comes from the same company or industry, push your hiring manager to think outside of the box for this hire. Diversity of thought and background make a team stronger and provide the ability to consider new methods and approaches to challenges.
4. Lay Out the Interview Process
Don’t leave the meeting without agreeing on how the interview process will look from beginning to end. Can this change over time? Yes, of course. But you should have a process in place before you speak to your first candidate so that you can set clear expectations around next steps (and ensure that you aren’t scrambling to find interview participants while the candidate is waiting in the lobby).
As soon as the recruitment meeting is complete, send a summary of the interview process to the hiring manager, as well as anyone else who will participate. If you have any first-timers on the roster, set a time to sit down with them to review interview best-practices and offer up sample questions. To make sure you get the answers you need after each interview, you’ve got to make sure the right questions are asked. Plus, the candidate will likely spend a good hour preparing to interview, shouldn’t the interviewers invest some time, as well?
5. Schedule a Follow-up Meeting
The initial recruiting meeting is just that: initial. Follow up with the hiring manager once he or she has interviewed a few candidates to make sure that the original targets are still on point. Yep, you can deliver every item on the “must have” list but still miss the mark because priorities change. Plus, the interview process really should evolve over time. Put time aside to reassess, even when things are going well. You should be in constant communication with your hiring manager throughout the entire interview and selection process.
It’s never too late to get on the right path. If you’ve repeatedly missed the mark on your candidate submittals, stop what you’re doing (especially if that includes Googling “exploding box of glitter”) and schedule a meeting with your hiring manager right now (and his or her boss, if you think it will help align priorities). The main goal is to connect expectations across the team so that you can source and hire the best candidate for the job.
Taking the above steps will not only help you narrow your focus to find the right candidate, it will also lessen the likelihood of you saying “that’s a better question for the hiring manager” during your phone screen.