Confessions of a Hiring Manager [Video]

Devin Foster

Here we recap the March 25 episode of Talent Experience Live — featuring a hiring manager who wished to remain anonymous — revealing secrets of the recruiter-hiring manager relationship, the manager’s role in ensuring a great candidate experience, writing an effective job description, and more. Watch the full episode below and read on for highlights.   
 

Hiring managers have great power over the candidate experience and interview process, but face very specific challenges. 
 

Our Talent Experience Live "mystery guest," with 20 years of experience as a hiring manager, got real about running a marketing team of 26. First, he (we'll call him JD) gave credit to the expertise and hard work of TA team members. 
 

“I would not have been able to hire 90% of the employees I have today without recruiters,” JD said. Jen Nyman, TA Manager for Phenom, questioned him on what it’s like from his side of the desk throughout the hiring process — revealing his perspective on hiring manager behaviors that can leave recruiters (and candidates) scratching their heads, as well as the #1 interview tactic he wishes he’d known from the beginning.
 


Confession 1: We need help writing job descriptions.


JD relies heavily on previously existing job descriptions and Google searches for his writing, using templates as a basis for the skills and experience section, and then crafting the job duty content himself. 
 

(Cue raised eyebrows from Nyman.)
 

Here's what makes an effective job description: 
 

Getting job descriptions just right can be a time-consuming struggle for hiring managers. “We need to make sure the candidate understands what we’re actually looking for. Share candidly what the day-to-day role looks like, share what’s expected of them," JD said.
 

"What kind of person should they be? They need to understand the type of environment they’re coming into, and how it will benefit them and challenge them," he added.
 


Confession 2: We don’t always carve out enough time for interviewing.
 

Why do hiring managers often approach the candidate search with such urgency, then somehow find no time to schedule interviews?  
 

This is something that needs improvement, JD and Nyman agreed. Spurred by the excitement of finally being allocated open headcount, hiring managers often push recruiters to move fast to get candidates lined up. 
 

“If it’s an urgency for me and I’m asking the recruiter to make it an urgency for them, then I need to carve the time and make those interviews easy,” JD said. “I think in the future, we probably will have better tools to make these things easier and much quicker in real time.”


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Confession 3: We don’t always know what we’re looking for in a candidate.
 

Hiring managers commonly begin the interview process with an awareness of skills gaps they need to close and the type of candidate they may be looking for. But a clear picture of who will make a great fit may not emerge until after they speak with several candidates, or in the case where the role changes. 
 

How Hiring Managers Come up with Specific Requirements: For JD, it’s more about the experience of the candidate, the potential and confidence they exude during the interview, and how well they’ll fit in with the company culture — traits that almost always win over specific skills or education level. 
 

Skill can be taught; potential can’t.
 

Why We Say No to Certain Candidates: To the surprise of recruiters, hiring managers sometimes pass on candidates. 
 

Reason being, according to JD, they lack a core skill set, or he needs a “plug-and-play” candidate who can immediately perform without training, and timing is a factor in the decision. 
 

“I hear from recruiters, ‘Why didn’t you tell me that’s what you needed in the first place? I would have recruited for that specific skill.’ The reality is, I didn’t even realize that skill set was so important until I started talking with [candidates],” JD said.
 


Confession 4: We should provide timely feedback to recruiters, but that isn’t always easy. 
 

Feedback on candidate profiles and interviews is crucial in helping recruiters continuously improve the recruiting process, and according to Nyman, recruiters want it "as soon as possible, while it's fresh." 
 

If more than a few days pass, hiring managers may confuse candidates (true story, admitted JD), and so the candidate experience suffers.
 

“Real-time feedback is ideal, but I need an easy way to do that,” JD said, adding that having technology would be extremely useful.

 

Confession 5: We have a big responsibility to the candidate experience. 
 

Every interaction along a job seeker's journey with your organization influences their experience — and hiring managers play one of the most major roles. 
 

“As a hiring manager, it’s my responsibility to make sure that every single candidate put in front of me is respected, is valued, is given a fair and open opportunity to showcase their skills, their knowledge, their experience, their possibility of how they can contribute to this company,” JD said. “When an interview doesn’t take into account all of that on the human side, then I don’t think it’s a great experience.” 
 

What should hiring managers do when they recognize an interview hasn’t gone well? 
 

Own it, JD said. “I certainly can recognize mistakes I’ve made in that interview and make sure I don’t make them again.” 
 

On handling an inflated interview process: A process that drags on for weeks, includes multiple interviews and possibly a test project, but ends in a “no" is one of the biggest turn-offs for candidates.
 

Hiring managers should preserve the relationship with silver medalist candidates with proactive damage control. Reach out personally, preferably with a call, to explain why they weren’t chosen, and thank them for all the time they gave along the way. 
 

Let's say a candidate goes through a couple rounds of interviews and completes a test project within just a few weeks, all to hear that they're not chosen for the job. It's important to make sure this candidate is cared for properly, and that they know why they were rejected. It might have nothing to do with them, in the case that the team's needs change or the position evolves during the interview process. 
 

Plus, they might be a really good for the company; just not a good fit for the job, JD said. 
 

“When communication comes from the hiring manager, it has a special touch," Nyman said. "It’s our job as a recruiter to encourage that from a hiring manager if we think it will add value to the process.” 

 

Confession 6: I might not even glance at a resume before interviewing. 
 


JD prefers to approach the interview with as little bias as possible so that he can get a feel for the candidate. Likewise, he believes that's the best way for the candidate to get to know the company.
 

“This is where recruiters are so valuable,” he said. “I tell them, ‘If you think the candidate’s right, just schedule the interview.’” 


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Confession 7: The #1 most important interview tactic is…
 

Making an interview all that it can be versus what it should be is pivotal in identifying best-fit talent. But what does that mean? 
 


Rather than taking a textbook approach focused on checking all the right boxes that meet the traditional idea of an effective interview, just have a conversation, JD said. 
 

“I’ve found that having the most genuine conversation that I can with the candidate has produced the best results for hiring that I’ve ever had, as opposed to the textbook definition of a good interview.”
 


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