Hiring Managers and Recruiters: It Takes Two to Alley-Oop


Whoever you were rooting for in Sunday night’s NBA playoffs, you have to admit that it was a good series. Both finalist teams had history making seasons: the Warriors setting the record for consecutive victories in the regular season and the Cavaliers coming back to win from a 3-1 deficit in the finals.

Both teams had their share of star-power and relied on star players to bring them to the playoffs. That being said, no amount of star-power can ever take the place of good ol’ fashioned teamwork. Steph Curry and Lebron James are both living legends, but neither would be able to make it to the finals without their supporting teammates working like a well oiled machine.

There may not be as much money riding on your next hire as the NBA finals, but there’s just as little room for error. In today’s competitive, candidate-driven job market, the top tier  professionals are hired within their first 10 days of job seeking.

Considering that 71% of job offers are extended after 3-6 weeks of interviewing, it’s no surprise employers are saying that “not finding enough suitable candidates to fill open positions,” is the most common issue with identifying qualified talent.

This is not a good play to be running when you need a lot done in a very short amount of time. By the time the majority of employers are ready to extend an offer, their top choice for the job starting their second week of work for a competitor.

While Recruiters agree that there is a problem with candidate quality, they believe that the main thing holding managers back from hiring are these lengthy hiring practices. According to the MRI Network 2016 Recruiter Sentiment Survey, here is what recruiters believe to be holding managers back from hiring:

  • 56% Lengthy hiring practices.
  • 52% Hiring managers are not finding enough suitable candidates to fill open positions.
  • 42% Not offering competitive compensation packages.

So, while candidate quality is clearly a problem, sluggish hiring policies and low-ball offers are driving away most any talented, self-respecting candidate that applies to “business as usual” companies.

It Takes Two to Alley-Oop

It may not always feel like it, but hiring managers and recruiters are on the same team.

Though these two groups have, traditionally, blamed everything that goes wrong with hiring on the other, this dynamic isn’t the kind of tradition you should honor. No matter who drops the ball, the game will get going much faster when hiring managers and recruiters are trying to work together, not trying to figure out who the blame will stick to best.

Hiring managers and the recruiters who support them needs to be in synch. You can’t plan for everything, but everything usually works out better when you have a plan. Getting a suitable candidate approved and hired may sound simple, but, like basketball, there’s more too it than shooting a ball through an 18 inch hoop.

Making a suitable or superstar hire may not sound hard, but that’s only if you’ve never tried the footwork out for yourself. Getting a suitable candidate vetted and approved by everyone who needs approving can be kind of like getting a ball past 5 guys who are payed millions of dollars to stop you from doing it.

When wires get crossed, when someone forgets to call a candidate back in the chaos or otherwise “drops the ball,” then opportunities to hire can be missed. Just like basketball has a shot clock, there is a time limit to make your hire, and when you can’t sink it in the brief window you have, then opportunities are missed and candidates end up playing for the competition. Each player has a job to do, so every recruiter / hiring manager engagement should begin by drawing up a game plan for making a championship-level hire.

Making Your Game Plan 

Championship-making plays don’t happen by accident and neither do championship-level hires.

Hiring managers and recruiters need to come together at the start of every engagement to devise a game plan for meeting specific, realistic and appropriate candidate requirements. This game plan should include the timeline that the hire should be made on and the budget range for filling this position.

Drawing up a game plan is as easy as answering the following questions:

  • What does the hire need to do?
  • How will they do it and when does it need to be done by?
  • Who does the hire need to work well with in order to do their job?
  • What does an acceptable candidate look like?
  • What does a champion candidate look like?

Both the hiring manager and the recruiter are responsible for knowing the answers to these questions. They need to know everything about the job: from the technical/deliverables side, to the people who the hire will report to and/or supervise, to the traits that have made for good hires in the past.

When hiring managers and recruiters jump into the hiring process without deciding on these essential traits / skills, they are setting each other up for failure. When recruiters aren’t given enough information or the right information, then the candidates that they present will be sourced based on false or incomplete data. When hiring managers are presented with miss-matched candidates, then they will either have to make a questionable hire or start the whole circus over from the beginning.

Both players will be interacting with and evaluating the same candidates, so they need to be following the same game plan. Anything else will result in dropped balls and time wasted, which makes a championship-level hire an unlikely prospect.

What does the Hire Need to do?

The first thing that hiring managers and recruiters need to talk about is the job itself. Basketball is putting a basket in a ball, but we can all agree that the logistics can be pretty complicated. Every job will require something different of the person who does it, so identifying which traits and skills are most important is best done from the very beginning.

Hiring managers and recruiters need to know what is required of a hire. If either player is playing from a different version of the play book, this introduces an element of chance and uncertainty that you don’t want.

  • What is the first deliverable that a new hire will be responsible for? Which skills will the hire use to deliver?
  • What is the most important deliverable that a hire will be responsible for? Which skills will the hire use to deliver?
  • Which skills are the hire going to be relying upon the most?
  • Which soft skills (communication, presentation, personability, etc.) will the hire rely upon the most?

Hiring managers and recruiters need to sell top talent on the job, not fumble with the details. Nobody wants to work for people who don’t sound confident in their knowledge of the job, so make sure that the two of you have this stuff down before you even write the job description.

How Will they do it and When Does it Need to be Done by?

Once the hiring manager and recruiter have a clear idea of what the new hire will be doing, they need to understand the timeline on which tasks will be completed. Additionally, these two players need to decide on the timeline for making their hire and come up with a plan for doing so.

While many of your candidates may be able to complete the tasks you need them to complete, a certain degree of experience will be required for them to complete these tasks on the timeline you need them to be completed on. Just because a candidate can do the work doesn’t mean they can do it at the rate you need from them.

Hiring managers and recruiters need to be on the same page when it comes to candidate speed and the speed with which top candidates need to be hired. Establishing a timeline from the beginning will ensure that everyone is working at the same, all-out pace to make a great hire.

The Hire’s Timeline

  • How quickly must the hire deliver their deliverables?
  • How much faster will an experienced candidate be able to complete their tasks?
  • How will their experience let them work faster than other candidates?


  • How long has it taken to make a hire in the past?
  • How can you make the same quality of hire (or better) in less than half the time it usually takes?
  • How will you make a qualified hire on this timeline?

Establishing the speed at which a hire will need to work will show hiring managers and recruiters the level of experience needed for the position. Establishing a timeline for your deliverable, a great new hire, will help hiring managers and recruiters to make hires more quickly. Time is of the essence in hiring, so hiring managers and recruiters need to create a timeline for making a hire and need to stick to that timeline.

Who Does the Hire Need to Work Well With?

Steph Curry and Lebron James aren’t the only people on the court, but both of these players have integral roles in the success of their teams. The person who is hired will have to work well with their teammates and, no matter if they’re the star of the show or the person supporting that star, the fit has to be right.

Hiring managers and recruiters need to know the people who will be working with the hire. Even if a hire is going to be writing code in a dungeon-like basement, they’re still going to have to get along with their fellow nerds. Work isn’t all work, and making a highly skilled hire who works HORRIBLY with their team will never work out in the long run.

  • Who will the hire be reporting to?
  • Who will be reporting to the hire?
  • Who will the hire be working with most closely?
  • What is the general personality type of the team that you’re hiring for?
  • What is the “right” sort of personality for the job?
  • What do you think the “wrong” personality for this job might be?

Even if a candidate is highly skilled and highly interested in your open job, a bad fit still makes them a bad choice for the job. A bad fit will always lead to tension in the team and will cause more inefficiency than any under-performer could hope to accomplish. Hiring a bad fit is effectively lowering the bar for the team that they joined, so don’t

What Does an Acceptable Candidate Look Like?

Not every player can be a star, but not every position requires star level talent.

Some jobs require people to sit in a chair and refrain from profanity. Other jobs require super-human levels of attention and have a huge impact on company performance. When hiring managers and recruiters sit down to talk about what an acceptable candidate looks like, they should be aiming to do just this, not re-defining what “acceptable” means.

Acceptable means passable, workable or otherwise OK. It doesn’t mean good, and it doesn’t mean sub-par. When defining what an acceptable candidate looks like, this standard should be just above the bare minimum, but just below what you’d call a “good” hire.

The reason that hiring managers and recruiters need to agree on what an “acceptable” hire looks like, is so that these two parties are working from the same baseline for comparison. Hopefully you are able to find candidates who are better than “acceptable,” but agreeing on what is “acceptable” from the get ensures that no time is wasted with unacceptable candidates.

  • How many years of experience does an “acceptable” candidate have?
  • Which skills does an “acceptable” candidate need to have?
  • How quickly must an “acceptable” candidate have to work?
  • Which personality traits does an “acceptable” candidate need to have?

Hiring managers and recruiters need to agree on what an acceptable candidate looks like from the very beginning. If this step is skipped or if the two players leave this meeting with different definitions of “acceptable,” then….

What Does a Champion Candidate Look Like?

You should always agree on what an acceptable candidate looks like, but I think we can all agree that “acceptable” isn’t a great catch phrase. For instance “Frosted Flakes: They’re Acceptable!” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

You want to make a championship-level hire, but recruiters and hiring managers need to cooperate in order to pull it off. While identifying champion candidates is fairly easy, hiring them can be a challenge. These candidates will almost certainly be interviewing at other companies and they will definitely have larger salary requirements than their “acceptable” counterparts. This being the case, hiring managers and recruiters need to close with champions as quickly as possible and present them with job offers that are reflective of their talents.

In order to make a champion hire, you need to move quickly and know the answers to these questions:

  • What separates an acceptable candidate from a champion candidate?
  • What does a champion candidate do on their first day on the job?
  • How much faster does a champion candidate work than an “acceptable” candidate?
  • How much more can you pay for a champion candidate?
  • Which other traits will a champion candidate possess? Why do these traits make them a champion?

The last thing you want is to find a great candidate, but lose them because someone promised them a salary that falls outside your budget. In order to make champion hires, recruiters and hiring managers need to put their differences aside and work together toward this common goal.

By starting the hiring process with a game plan based on the demands of the job, hiring managers and recruiters have a much better chance of making champion level hire. While you’re welcome to keep winging it, you will always get better results from a carefully crafted game plan.


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