Successful recruiting is a delicate balance of multiple skills that have to come together in unison. None of which is more critical than the ability and know-how to build a strong working relationship with your hiring manager or client. Drawing from my five-plus years of recruiting experience, I would even go as far as to say that this dynamic between the recruiter and hiring manager is the key determining factor in whether or not a company makes their desired hires in the time frame they need. Building this partnership is a skill, and just like any other skill, it takes practice and hard work to learn and improve it. By breaking down this fundamental recruiting concept into some of its elemental pieces such as communication, trust, and building value, I wish to share what works for me.
In today’s high-paced technology environments where decision makers find themselves torn between endless meetings and constant issues, recruiters must find an open and healthy line of communication with their hiring managers. The first step is to establish a recruiting rhythm by picking a day and time of the week when both parties agree to sync and discuss hiring regularly. This may be an elusive time slot that you find on your way to work, during lunch, or even after hours, but the key is to make yourself available and to pencil in those thirty minutes to an hour dedicated just to a conversation between hiring manager and recruiter about their hiring needs. You will already begin to strengthen your partnership once this basic commitment has been established. Of course communication cannot be limited to a once-a-week timeslot, and this is where your persistence, creativity, and motivation as a recruiter have to come together to help you discover other touch points that work for your hiring manager. Maybe the magical way to be in touch with them outside of these meetings is email, text messages, a direct call in the evening, a note through your ATS, an IM, or a simple hallway conversation. Whatever that best method may be, you have to put in the time and effort to discover it, but once you do, it will start to pay dividends immediately. The ultimate goal is to get to a point where communication becomes an organic constant rather than a sporadic occurrence, and that both parties value it equally.
Once the groundwork of communication has been established, you can begin to build trust. Developing trust starts at day one when you come prepared to the initial meeting, and it evolves from there through every interaction as you demonstrate your expertise, integrity, and reliability. It’s important to remember that as a recruiter, you have the knowledge and expertise that your hiring manager or client may not. Taking the time to truly internalize what they need and want to accomplish is step one in being able to provide valuable advice and help. Once you understand their expectations, then you can layer in your own professional experience and suggestions to be more effective in your budding partnership. The key to staying on the right path in your execution is to always have the hiring manager’s best interests in mind. When you operate under this basic principle, then the hiring managers will be able to support the changes needed to be made (and let’s be honest, there are always changes that need to occur), as well as appreciate the raw feedback you have for them. Being honest with your hiring manager might not always be easy, but if it’s coming from a place of good intention, it will ultimately highlight your integrity and expertise in addition to strengthening the trust between you both. You’ll know that your hiring manager really trusts you when they’ve grown to rely on your advice and opinions. Of course, you should never neglect the smaller elements that lead to trust, which is being reliable and dependable on a daily basis. Whether it’s a new lead that needs to be explored, a candidate that has to be followed up with, or a report that needs to be generated, your client must have confidence that you have them covered on all of their bases. One small lapse, an oversight, or a delay can really put a dent in the trust that takes a significant time to build, so good organization and prioritization must be part of you tool belt at all times.
Lastly, what every hiring manager wants to see is the value that comes from a relationship. Zeroing in on what’s crucial and reading between the lines is what makes one recruiter excellent and another simply average. At the end of the day, progress has to be made in the form of closed reqs, a developed or evolved recruiting process, a new value proposition, etc. Taking initiative, providing feedback, building efficiency into the process, strengthening the brand name’s presence in the market, and focusing on quality over quantity are some of the ways to add value. It starts with anticipating what needs to be done and going beyond that to understand what could be improved, even if it has never been an issue before. Being reactive as a recruiter is the best way to be mediocre because at minimum, any employee is expected to do what is asked. Having the foresight to tackle and optimize something less conspicuous is, instead, exceptional and quite notable. It could be as simple as optimizing the interview feedback collection in an ATS, or as complex as strengthening the interview focus areas to improve signal during the earlier screens. Going the extra mile serves a dual purpose: first, it will continue to strengthen your relationship with your hiring manager, and second, it will help you to get hires sooner. One of the biggest impacts we can have as recruiters outside of making hires is to provide key insight into metrics. Simply speaking, metrics are the vehicle by which we can achieve quality over quantity. Knowing how to understand, collect, and utilize conversions across the stages of a recruiting funnel is crucial. Metrics especially become imperative for the hiring manager when there is poor traction. Being able to dissect and understand where the problem lies allows for change and for progress to continue instead of changing nothing and hoping for the best.
Building relationships is a process that is going to vary among individuals and different hiring managers based on people’s personalities and circumstances. However, there are common factors like communication, trust, and building value that can help us as recruiters to achieve a more uniform, more successful experience. Setting up expectations for communication and navigating busy schedules to change the conversation from a forced one to a more organic occurrence will be the catalyst for a healthy relationship. Gaining trust through your continued honesty, commitment, and alliance, and expertise will take it to the next level. Finally, delivering tangible results that the client or hiring manager can apply not only immediately, but also in the future will help to solidify a great relationship and leave both parties in a place for continued and sustained success.