As recruiters, we know who takes the rap for just about everything that goes wrong in a placement, right? Who gets blamed when the offer come in well below the salary range you told the candidate? You do. Likewise, when a position is unexpectedly filled by an internal candidate, or the entire hiring process grinds to a maddening halt, the recruiter, it seems, is to blame. Except, of course, we’re not. (I’m talking about ethical, responsible recruiters here, not the few bad apples who do, from time to time, give us all a bruised reputation.)
I’m not claiming we’re perfect. We’re human, after all, and we make mistakes. But often – very often – these just aren’t our mistakes. But if you’re new to this, there’s one mistake you may be making over and over again and that’s failing to realize when the hiring manager isn’t being entirely truthful with you.
Here are the six most common “hidden truths” to watch out for when working with certain hiring managers.
They’ve already made the hiring decision.
Yep, the hiring manager already knows exactly whom she’s hiring. The soon-to-be-hired candidate knows, too. Problem is, nobody else knows. In large organizations, especially publicly traded ones, there are strict rules about fair hiring practices. Hiring managers are required to post open positions on through approved channels and demonstrate that they went through a transparent process of screening and interviewing all qualified candidates who apply within a specified period of time. Yet, sometimes a manager already knows who their ideal candidate is. Informal conversations occur. Agreements are reached with a wink and a nod. And you, the unknowing recruiter, jump through all kinds of hoops to find great candidates. It’s not just a terrible waste of everyone’s time. It’s unfair to you and downright cruel to the other candidates whose qualifications gave them every reason to be hopeful – and to put their hearts into preparing for the interviewing process.
The position isn’t approved.
If it doesn’t have its own line on an approved budget, the job doesn’t exist. Yes, sometimes managers who want to add to staff will try to put the horse before the cart. The thinking goes something like this: “if I could just show my manager a real candidate who could do this job, they’ll be more likely to approve the position.” They may be right. But they’re probably wrong. And you can’t waste your time on somebody’s else’s roll of the dice. Ask, straight up, if the job is an approved position. If it’s not, there is not job to fill.
The job is a revolving door.
The hiring manager needs someone in the job. So they may be unwilling to share the dirt with you why no one ever seems to stay in it. Is there a high profile, high stress project? Is the team dysfunctional? Is this guy a bad manager? You need to know these things. But getting to the facts takes careful, nonjudgmental questioning. Make it clear that, by asking for details, you’ll be able to find a candidate that’s up to the demands of the job. Then ask how long the previous incumbent occupied the position, what caused them to leave, and what critical skills they were lacking.
You’re not alone: they’ve got lots of other agencies working this position.
You may think you’re the only recruiter working on this placement. But are you? As the recruiter, you need to know just how many channels will be employed for this position. There are few things that can punch a hole in your credibility as thoroughly as having the candidate tell you they’ve already applied for the job – via your competitor. Ask. And don’t take the assignment unless you feel completely comfortable with the answer.
They’re totally unclear about what they need.
You know how great it feels when you walk out of your meeting with the hiring manager, detailed job description in hand – and a list of great candidates running through your head. You also probably know how annoying it feels when you get that email a few days later… “just adding a few thoughts” that amount to a radical rewrite of the job. Proceed with caution. It’s entirely possible that the manager has no idea whom they really need in the job – because they have no idea what the job should really be or what it entails. How does this happen? Often, it’s the result of panic. Maybe a long-standing incumbent caught everyone by surprise with their two weeks’ notice. And the manager, lacking up close knowledge of the job, is scrambling to get somebody in that chair. What makes this even more difficult is this sad reality: most managers don’t want to admit how little they understand about a job that has reported to them for years. So, with each passing day, they will tweak, refine and grossly rewrite the requirements of the job. And at some point, you may realize it’s better to walk away.
The hiring manager is actively job hunting.
A history of turnover in the position you’re recruiting doesn’t bode well. But a sudden surge of turnover throughout the department? That’s just bad. Yet, it can be very tough to get a read on the overall stability of the department from a one-on-one conversation with the manager. That said, if the manager seems to be asking you just as many questions about the kinds of jobs for which they would qualified, tread carefully.