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Recruiter and hiring manager alignment is critical to your hiring success: Here’s how to achieve it

How confident are you in your understanding of the hiring requirements of your business? The answer to that question can vary greatly depending on who you’re talking to. People within the recruiting function usually have a good sense of the talent that’s available in the market and their organization’s future needs (at least, we hope!).

But what about hiring managers? Recruiting is not their full-time job, and they might have a different understanding of what to expect from the talent pool.  This understanding can diverge in several directions:

  • Skills and qualifications required to do the job.  More often than not, there are several different ways of solving a staffing problem.  For example, is that Masters degree really essential, or would a Bachelor’s suffice if the candidate has many years of experience?  It is important to really dig into the requirements, using counter-examples to determine where there may be tolerance for alternatives. The MoSCoW method can be useful here: what skills are “Must Have”, vs “Should Have”, vs “Could Have” vs “Would Like to Have”?  What is the best alternative?
  • Supply vs demand in the market, and the ability to hire.  Supply vs Demand is not something that an individual company can control, without adjusting the requirements.  Ability to Hire also relates to the company’s Employer Value Proposition (which includes compensation, benefits, values, culture, etc.)
  • Candidate expectations.  The expectations of candidates can change with the wind.  This could involve many factors, including remote and hybrid working options, technology stack, compensation structure, etc.

A lack of internal alignment can easily be exacerbated by volatility in the market, as we have seen in recent years. For example, for each unemployed worker worldwide, there are now 32% more vacancies than before the pandemic, according to the International Labour Organization. Within the US specifically, there were 528,000 jobs added in July 2022 and pay was 5.2% higher than the previous year. We’ve also seen significant changes in candidates’ expectations in relation to flexible working options. McKinsey found that more flexibility is one of the top three reasons why job seekers today are looking for a new role. 

This means there’s often a disconnect between a hiring manager’s perception of a role and the recruiting team’s perception. If hiring managers don’t have a clear sense of how competitive the market is, what the going rate is for a particular role, or even how candidates’ expectations of the hiring experience have changed, this can create friction and frustration with recruiters. 
Here are four ways to solidify recruiter and hiring manager alignment — and improve your company’s demand alignment as a result.    

1. Collaboration is key

Defining the roles and responsibilities for a job is not a linear process, nor is it one that can be clearly assigned to the hiring manager or recruiter alone. There should be frequent collaboration and a strong feedback loop between recruiters and hiring managers. 

Sourcers or recruiters should be involved in the creation of roles and responsibilities. They can work with the hiring manager to define which requirements of the job (such as technology, location, experience, or education) have flexibility. If they anticipate difficulty in a certain area — for example, a hiring manager’s desired experience or technology — they can suggest an alternative like considering candidates in adjacent industries or offering more on-the-job training to more junior candidates.

Recruiters can also continue to be business partners to hiring managers throughout the hiring process by probing the talent pool, looking for bottlenecks, and offering suggestions for tweaking requirements or considering alternatives when necessary. 

2. Start off strong with an intake meeting

Before officially opening a role or even writing a first draft of a job description, having an intake meeting (sometimes also called a job kick-off meeting) can help ensure hiring managers and recruiters are aligned from the outset. What does an intake meeting involve? Recruitee suggests covering topics like: the ideal time to hire, the proposed salary for the role, what the interview process will look like, any assessments or take-home assignments the hiring manager would like candidates to complete, and a short list of must-haves for the role. 

It might feel like a burden to add yet another meeting to both the recruiter and hiring manager’s calendars, but this initial effort can pay off in the long run. It gives hiring managers the chance to outline their expectations for the role and recruiters the opportunity to share their up-to-date market knowledge and correct any misconceptions. According to Glassdoor, “While you might think that skipping an intake session will save time, it may not: it can ultimately increase your company’s time-to-hire by sending your recruiter on a wild goose chase.”

3. Set up service-level agreements (SLAs)

“Service-level agreements have proven to be one of the most effective ways to improve recruiting results, increase recruiting consistency, and, at the same time, strengthen the relationship between recruiters and hiring managers,” John Sullivan, an HR thought leader and professor of management at San Francisco State University told the Society for Human Resources Management

Service-level agreements can be as simple or complicated as you want. On the simple end of the spectrum, you can create a bullet-pointed list for each person. Or, you could design a flowchart that illustrates different outcomes at each stage of the hiring process. What really matters here is to clearly define what’s expected of each party and on what timeline. For example, if a hiring manager submits a draft of a job description to a recruiter, how many business days will they take to review it? If a recruiter sends a hiring manager a short list of qualified candidates, what will be their turnaround time for making a decision to move them forward or not?

4. Calibrate and recalibrate: Understand where and when to be flexible

Going through the steps we’ve outlined so far will help create clear communication between recruiters and hiring managers, but this is not a “set it and forget it” situation. The talent market is always changing in terms of job requirements, salaries, and candidates’ expectations. Greenhouse recently found that 58% of job seekers expect to hear back from companies in a week (or less!) after submitting their application and, perhaps not surprisingly given that statistic, 60% of job seekers are unimpressed by time-consuming recruitment processes.

Even if hiring managers and recruiters hold an intake meeting and agree at the outset of the hiring process, this doesn’t guarantee everything will go according to plan. After opening the role and beginning to interact with candidates, the recruiter may discover potential setbacks. For example, there may not be enough candidates who have the required technological skills in the desired location. In these situations, the recruiter will need to make suggestions to the hiring manager about making the job requirements more flexible or broader. They might also suggest considering candidates in adjacent industries who are likely to have transferable skills. This requires flexibility on both sides.

The hard work is worth it

Sure, it takes work to strengthen the relationship between recruiters and hiring managers, but the payoff is absolutely worth it. When you achieve recruiter and hiring manager alignment, your company can be more efficient and agile in your hiring process. You’ll maintain much more realistic expectations of who you’ll be hiring and when. Plus, you’ll also be creating a better experience for candidates when the hiring team has a unified vision of who you’re looking to hire.

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