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Recruiter and Hiring Manager Relationship: Building Your A-Team

Posted by
Kaushik Satish
July 27, 2023

Two percent: That’s the number of job applicants who eventually receive offers, estimate recruiters. On the face of it, this might look like organizations have a huge pool of applicants to choose from. But in reality, it simply means that a significant amount of time, money and energy is spent on identifying the right fit from a large pool of unsuitable ones. Sample this: US businesses spend “an average of $4,129 per job, many times that for managerial roles.” A large part of the $20 billion of human resources vendor payments are made towards hiring.

Because the most common solution to hiring challenges tends to be to increase the top of the funnel. Recruiters spend a large part of their day scouring various online sources for candidates that appear suitable for roles, only for hiring managers to reject them summarily. In the worst case, hiring managers begin looking for potential hires themselves, duplicating efforts. As a result, hiring takes longer, projects are delayed and the candidate experience becomes suboptimal due to the existing relationship between recruiters and hiring managers, or lack thereof.

Creating a Partnership Through the Recruiter and Hiring Manager Relationship


In every hiring retrospective, recruiters feel like hiring managers are too vague or picky. And hiring managers feel like their needs are not understood. 

In this post, we discuss what recruiters can do to bridge this gap and cross over to build better relationships with hiring managers.

Understand needs with clarity and in-depth for hiring team collaboration

Even experienced recruiters sometimes don’t understand the exact profile hiring managers are looking for. This could be because the role itself is fluid, the recruiter doesn’t understand it clearly or just the complex cross-functional skill it needs.

Questions recruiters should ask hiring managers

To get past these challenges, you, as a recruiter must begin by asking clarifying questions about the role. For example:

  • What technical and behavioral skills should the candidate have?
  • What qualifications do they need?
  • What mix of experiences should they have?
  • What kind of organizations should they have worked in?
  • What metrics will their performance be measured on?
  • What should they definitely not be/have?
  • How can they demonstrate their suitability — a portfolio, Github page etc.?
  • What questions should I ask while screening them?
  • Who is the current top performer in the team? What were their qualifications when they were hired?

Don’t take their first response as the answer. Ask probing questions to better partner with your hiring manager. For instance, if the hiring manager recommends that the candidate have not-for-profit experience, ask why. Check if it’s okay for the candidate to have similar experience in corporate social responsibility initiatives in a for-profit organization etc. Develop an instinct for the role.

Also, understand the hiring manager’s preferences. How often do they want updates, how do they prefer to be updated, is there someone else on their team who can answer questions in between etc.

Proactively share updates to strengthen the recruiter hiring manager relationship

No one likes to nag for updates, hiring managers certainly don’t. Build a cadence to update hiring managers of the progress you’re making on each role. Choose the method of update — this can be anything from a dashboard on your application tracking system (ATS) to a Slack message. Remember to match this to the hiring manager’s expectations. 

Use these catch-ups to discuss your challenges in recruiting for specific roles. Renegotiate the variables — better pay, remote work, concessions on the exact skillset or number of years of experience etc. 

Build a better partnership with hiring managers by validating every step of the way

Don’t wait until you’ve found 100 potential candidates to take resumes to them. Instead, start small and validate your progress regularly. Irrespective of whether the hiring manager approves of your choices or not, ask for feedback. Learn from their decisions to create a better process of recruitment collaboration. Ask questions such as:

  • What red flags should I look for when I find candidates similar to the ones you rejected?
  • It appears to me that this candidate may be a good fit, what have I missed?
  • What skills is this candidate missing?

Use these answers to sharpen your next level of search based on this feedback. Moreover, you can get more information on waitlisted candidates before making a decision. For instance, a content writer might have listed samples on their resume that’s not relevant to the industry you’re in. If that’s the reason for their rejection, you might contact them to check if they’ve worked in your space before. This will help you make the most of your existing search, instead of going back into the wild disheartened.

Streamline the recruitment process to build a better recruiter and hiring manager relationship

The simplest way to win the trust of the hiring manager is to make their life easier as much as you can. While you might not be able to make many decisions without their active input, you can handle interviews, tests etc. independently. 

Prepare the candidate for the interview.

Explain the role, introduce the interviewers, discuss the company culture etc. This saves a lot of the hiring manager’s time.

Schedule to everyone’s convenience.

Give ample notice to all the parties, pick a time they’re all comfortable with, confirm the hiring manager/interviewer’s availability.

Collate relevant candidate documents.

Put the resume, test results, samples/portfolio etc. in one folder for easy access. This will prevent interviewers scrambling through their email for information. Also make sure to include notes from your own preliminary candidate interviews.

Collect feedback as soon as possible.

Once the interviews are over, connect with the hiring manager and collect feedback. Ask for more than just a yes or no. Understand their reasons so you can learn from it. 

Close the loop to partner with your hiring manager.

Depending on the hiring manager’s decision, either make an offer or inform the candidate of your decision. 

As much as there is friction between the hiring manager and the recruiter, they’re, in fact, on the same side marching towards the same goal: Hiring the right people for the right roles. With some thoughtfulness, collaboration and instinct, recruiters can build winning relationships with hiring managers. Recruiters can become the trusted partner in a hiring manager’s journey towards growth. Who wouldn’t want that!

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