How To Build a Strong Recruiter & Hiring Manager Relationship

Posted by Ashley Jones
hiring manager

Though recruiters and hiring managers share a common goal, they don’t always make the best team. Hiring managers may complain about time to fill or the lack of qualified candidates offered by recruiters, while a recruiter might criticize a hiring manager’s unrealistic expectations. If you don’t work together effectively, nobody wins—the candidate experience will suffer, as will your hiring outcomes.

Put an end to those ineffective recruiter/hiring manager dynamics and learn to make the most of your collaboration. Recruitment is all about the relationship, whether it be between the candidate and recruiter, or the recruiter and hiring manager.

Your ability to work with your hiring manager and communicate efficiently will dictate how well you’re able to meet your shared goal of identifying and hiring the right candidate. Consider these tips to ensure a smooth hiring process by making the most of your recruiter/hiring manager relationships.

Start Your Journey Together on The Right Foot

When it comes to filling mission-oriented roles, time is of the essence. Come to your first call or intake meeting with a hiring manager prepared with some background research so you can get the ball rolling swiftly and in the right direction.

Prepare to share insights about the state of the market spanning the size of the talent pool and similar job openings, to the cost of living in a specific geographic region and comparable salaries. By coming ready with market intel in your back pocket, you’ll set the tone for your recruiter/hiring manager relationship and present yourself as a collaborative talent advisor versus a mere order taker.

It doesn’t hurt to do some preliminary sourcing either. Bringing a few sample resumes is a great way to get immediate feedback from the jump. It can help a hiring manager see if what they’re looking for is realistic and whether you’re headed down the right path.

Ask Questions to Make the Most of Your Interactions

How do you identify the right talent and also answer all the questions candidates will surely have for you? Start by asking questions yourself – your hiring manager is a great resource.

“You should always have questions whenever you’re working with a hiring manager or a job description,” says Jessica Mathias, Director of Talent Acquisition at Core4ce. “Make sure you know not only the salary ranges, but also the ideal requirements, the preferred requirements, and sometimes the minimum qualifications as well. That way you can fine tune your search.”

Come with specific questions that will help you decipher between a hiring manager’s wish list and nice-to-haves versus the minimum qualifications and any potential deal breakers. This will not only help you to source the right talent, but also improve your job description so that you attract the right talent.

If you’re recruiting for a technical position you haven’t dealt with before, don’t be afraid to ask the hiring manager for some additional tips, like two to three suggested questions you can ask candidates that will help you determine if they’re technically up to par.

You might even do a role play with the hiring manager to make sure you have the information right, because each program is different and the technology is changing,” suggests Molly O’Boyle, Project Manager, Talent Acquisition at OBXtek. “If you’re open to finessing the details and role playing instead of just trying to wing it, that will give you a lot more confidence.”

Keep the questions coming throughout the recruitment process as needed. “Always circle back,” adds Mathias. “If a candidate is a no, then tell me why so I can refine.” If you do your homework, ask questions to fill in the blanks, and get feedback to continually improve your process, you’ll be in great shape.

Set Expectations & Keep the Lines of Communication Open

In your initial intake meeting, it’s crucial that you set expectations for what can be expected of you amidst the current state of the market, and also what you expect of the hiring manager throughout the process. “You have to impress upon them and make them understand the market itself,” urges Mathias. “It’s a war on talent right now and every minute counts.”

If the hiring process is too long, candidates are prone to losing interest and moving on to the next opportunity. So set up timeframes for your hiring manager to reasonably review resumes and conduct interviews to help everyone stay accountable. You can clearly spell out that resumes you provide should be reviewed by X number of hours or days.

“Unfortunately, sometimes it has helped hiring managers open their mind when they’ve lost candidates because they didn’t move fast enough,” admits Mathias.“I find that metrics really work to help them understand how many candidates we have to reach out to just to get one or two people in front of them.”

With time being of the essence in the current candidate market, its vital that you have a streamlined process that promotes open and swift communication. “Some companies have the recruiter go to the recruiting manager, and the recruiting manager is the liaison with the hiring manager,” explains O’Boyle. “That is very difficult to work with, because once you start removing the direct connection with the hiring manager, the process gets sluggish.”

So be sure you set the expectation for what communication will look like throughout the process. “The hiring manager needs to realize there’s going to be a lot of back and forth,” says O’Boyle.

Extra Timeline Considerations for Subcontractors

When it comes to government contract recruiting, sometimes the communication process must extend outside of your organization, to the prime contractor. Thus it’s important to not only have a strong and efficient working relationship with your hiring manager, but also whoever has decision-making power at the prime.

“If you are the prime contractor, that hiring manager for that contract has a lot more power to make quick decisions than if you’re a subcontractor to a prime,” explains O’Boyle. “What we are finding is that our hiring manager on the program has to present resumes to the prime to get approval—and that is adding time, time, time.”

If there’s only one person at the prime who can review your candidates and they happen to be unavailable or out of town, your hiring process may inevitably come to a dead stop. While situations like this can be out of your control, do what you can to express the need for urgency and efficiency.

“They need to realize they need to turn it around faster, because their work isn’t going to get done if they don’t get those new people in,” says O’Boyle. “But a good relationship with your program manager and the client works out very well—they’re much more flexible to listen.”

The Key to A Successful Recruiter/Hiring Manager Relationship

We’ve highlighted the importance of communication throughout the recruitment process. It starts at the intake meeting and continues throughout the journey as you share potential candidates with the hiring manager, follow up after interviews, and update them on candidate offer statuses. Feedback should also be a focus of your communications. Ask for feedback as you source, not just when you’re ready to hand over your shortlist of prospects.

While communication is king, the key to a successful recruiter/hiring manager relationship at the end of the day is honesty and respect. “You need to be honest – on both sides of the coin,” emphasizes Mathias. “You need to set up expectations with the hiring managers of what you’re seeing with the market and candidates. And then the hiring manager needs to be honest with the true aspects of the job.”

“And then there needs to be respect on both sides, because we’re all trying to do a job here,” adds Mathias. “Recruiting is not 100% of a hiring manager’s job, so we have to be respectful of that when we are asking them for feedback on candidates. But they also have to be respectful of us and know that we are trying to help them in the long run.”

Find more recruitment and retention articles here.


  • Ashley Jones

    Ashley Jones is ClearedJobs.Net's blog Editor and a cleared job search expert, dedicated to helping security-cleared job seekers and employers navigate job search and recruitment challenges. With in-depth experience assisting cleared job seekers and transitioning military personnel at in-person and virtual Cleared Job Fairs and military base hiring events, Ashley has a deep understanding of the unique needs of the cleared community. She is also the Editor of ClearedJobs.Net's job search podcast, Security Cleared Jobs: Who's Hiring & How.

This entry was posted on Monday, August 29, 2022 3:10 pm

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