5 critical questions recruiters want to ask their hiring manager - ánd themselves

Written by: Jeroen Kneppers Jeroen Kneppers

Read in: Nederlands

Recruiters and hiring managers have the same objective: to hire the best candidate for the company. For the recruiter keeping the hiring manager focused during the section process, these critical questions will help.

Recruiters aren’t subordinate to hiring managers. But they sure act sometimes like they are. They are equals that have to team up to hire the best candidate for the job and the company. It would serve recruiters if they’d stop behaving as solely ‘servants’ of the business, as John Vlastelica, founder of Recruitment Toolbox, recently stated in his keynote at ERE Recruiting conference in San Diego.

Vlastelica encourages recruiters - in the role of talent advisor - to adopt a different attitude towards hiring managers. This attitude is not about working harder or being subservient to the hiring manager, but to demonstrate some solid expectation management. It is only in that way they can demonstrate themselves as true business partners.

intake hiring manager

To be able to take on that role, recruiters must conduct critical (and sometimes difficult) conversations about:

  • The use of data
  • The amount of CV’s presented
  • To select on diversity
  • The size of the application committee
  • Duration of the selection process

1. Which data do you actually use?

Which data can be used to encourage the hiring manager to set the right expectation pattern? Consider a situation in which you discuss the recruitment of a software developer in Amsterdam.

In this case you can look at different types of data:

  • Macro data such as the height of the salaries in the region. For example, with the large amount of venture capital entering Amsterdam, the scarcity of Dutch top talent is huge. Find out with these data if your hiring manager is open to hiring international candidates or even remote workers to increase the top of the funnel.
  • Micro data such as lead times of previously completed roles, which in turn provide good insights to set realistic expectations on the length of steps in the selection process.

Manage expectations about the candidate based on this data. If the hiring manager sticks to a Dutch-speaking engineer, this increases the lead time of the role. Discuss in this case: which skills does the candidate really need?

2. Do you really need more CV’s?

A common statement from hiring managers: ‘I need more candidates!’ As a recruiter, ask yourself: which problem does proposing more candidates solve? A larger number of candidates only increases the chance of uncertainty among hiring managers: the more candidates, the more options, the more choices to make. Look closely at the required skills and then introduce a limited set of candidates. Then, pitch these people really, really well with the hiring manager.

As a talent advisor, you also make a lot more impact if you not only manage the top of the funnel, but also the middle of the funnel: the screening and the interview processes.

recruitment funnel

The need of a hiring manager for more candidates is logical: maybe that one gem is amongst them. But the hiring manager is often not aware of the consequences of larger numbers. Too much attention at the top of the funnel ensures more time in marketing, screening and interview costs. This narrow focus also ensures that you create a disappointment factory: the more candidates you invite, the more you will have to turn down. This of course can negatively affect your employer brand.

3. Do we recruit on diversity?

The general sentiment among hiring managers is often: ‘I want to create a more diverse team, but I do not compromise on quality.’

This exhibits the image that diversity is too often seen as something ‘nice to have’. When determining requirements for the ideal candidate (according to Vlastelica also called the WGLL or ‘What good looks like’), the selection for diversity is seen as a bonus. Hiring managers tend to be risk-averse: ‘We prefer our kind of people.’

The recruiter’s job is to make the hiring manager aware of the value of diversity: that different types of candidates can add something extra. They create a more diverse team together - which can contribute to innovation within the company.

So, which skills, knowledge or insights can diverse talent bring that you do not yet have in your team? In other words: don't just look at whether someone is suitable for the job (the ‘fit’), but also at what someone is adding (the ‘bonus’).

hire on diversity-1In addition, Vlastelica challenges recruiters and hiring managers to look further than ‘hire for culture fit’, because equality does not sufficiently entail a culture of innovation. This is the responsibility of the recruiter. After all, this talent advisor primarily works for the company. Therefore, ensure that the need for diversity of the company is already included in the first intake with the hiring manager.

4. How about a smaller application committee?

Within corporate organizations, we recognize a common pitfall: an oversized  application committee. Moreover, an individual hiring manager is not necessarily a good judge of talent. That is why many of them involve several colleagues in the selection process. This leads to a trade off. The more people they involve in the decision, the greater the chances that they’ll accept a middle-of-the-road candidate.

Recruiters do well to carefully discuss the composition of the interview team and the selection procedure during the intake with the hiring manager. Two things are important here.

  1. Small team? Chances of regret
    If you involve too few people in the selection, chances are that you will choose a candidate that you would rather not have hired afterwards.
  2. Big team? Mediocre candidateConversely, with a too large application committee there’s the risk that you will not hire the right candidate - and therefore miss out on talent.

perfect interview team

A larger application committee also makes it more difficult to schedule interviews, not to mention to collect (timely) feedback on the interviews. The result: the time to hire increases unnecessarily.

Mike Lee - Manager Corporate Talent at The Home Depot - argued during his session at ERE that the perfect interview team consists of four people.

5. Why does the selection process take so long?

Time is precious. Nobody benefits if the selection process drags on for weeks. Then why does it take so long for most companies to fill vacancies?

The problem often lies with a wrong image about the profile sought, or lack of clarity about the selection process. The talent adviser is responsible for setting realistic expectations with the hiring manager during the intake. Hiring managers might expect candidates to respond immediately and that they can schedule interviews within two days. It is important to remember that candidates also have packed agendas.

Therefore make an analysis of historical vacancies for a realistic picture. What should the selection process look like? In which phase do you unnecessarily lose time? Make sure that you set clear expectations about the duration and content of each phase during the intake. Scheduling interviews is very time-consuming - especially when the application committee is too large.

lead time selection processIf the selection process is disrupted or too much time is lost in a phase, then don’t be afraid  to pause the process. Discuss any issues with your hiring manager. This manager often spends a lot of time at the top of the funnel. As a talent advisor you have to be critical of activities that are not linked to success, such as presenting more CV’s.

6. (BONUS) How important is this for you?

This is for recruiters who really want to take on the role as strategic advisor. Research shows that the speed and quality of the hire largely depend on how involved a hiring manager is in the selection process. Top talent chooses engaged managers: people who are really, really committed to hire the right person for the job (see image).

A hiring manager therefore has to make an effort to ‘sell’ the position to the candidate. It is up to the recruiter to coach the hiring manager along the way. By creating clear expectations and setting goals for the interviews. But also by encouraging the manager to give candidates feedback: they should leave the building better informed than when they entered.

Don't you get energy from coaching a difficult hiring manager? Then you have a problem: this is the essence of your role. Having a critical conversation with the manager is one thing, having a critical conversation with yourself...  is another.


For a better and faster selection process and a more strategic role, at least remember the following takeaways:

  • Use data to create the right expectation pattern with the hiring manager.
  • More CV’s are not always better. The hiring manager often does not know the consequences of supplying additional candidates: time, expenses, and possibly negative experiences of candidates. It is up to you to teach this to the hiring manager.
  • Selecting on diversity can bring a lot to the team or company. So don't only look at the ‘fit’ of the candidate, but also at the ‘bonus’.
  • An excessively large application committee is a slow selection device. So be selective when putting the team together.
  • If a phase in the selection process lasts unnecessarily long, then dare to pause the process.

Benieuwd hoe wij je kunnen helpen (aan de hand van data) een kritisch gesprek met je hiring manager te voeren? Neem dan contact met ons op.