Recalibrating Relationship w. Hiring Managers

Post by
Brian Mooney
July 23, 2019

I recently went to an event and met a corporate recruiter who was frustrated with a hiring manager because she thought they were on the same page but the manager kept turning away all the candidates. I assured her that managers wanting to see more candidates, even when the perfect candidate is sitting right in front of them, is a common problem.

We talked a little bit about her relationship with the manager the way she had been dealing with these issues. She did what a lot of people do; cater to the manager's individual preferences and personality to "keep them happy".

This might work to some degree, but it will not be sustainable as your company grows. The advice I gave to her that I wanted to share with you all was to recalibrate her relationship with the manager. 

Related Article: HR's Secret Weapon: Cross-Functional Buying Committees

You can't write a manager off as a lost cause and work around the problem. You need to talk to them and work through the problem. If you're not understanding why they are saying no to candidates that fit the profile then you need to sit down and go over the candidates in detail. If they are not being consistent about what they want in a candidate then you need to bring their attention to those inconsistencies. If the manager cares at all about their team, then this discussion should be met with some sort of empathy.

Of course, this is all easier said than done and it helps to have a plan to recalibrate your relationship. Here is my approach:  

  • Use internal resources: Talk to your manager, they probably have had tons of these conversations and it's helpful to talk through various outcomes.
  • Schedule a time: Don't attach a serious discussion about your process to a candidate follow up discussion.
  • Meet off-site: It's better to have these discussions in a more relaxed setting that is outside of the office. A little food or coffee in the stomach never hurts.
  • Have an agenda: Have a soft agenda and send it to them ahead of time. If there are things you want them to think about, make sure you include them. You should be direct, without being aggressive, and not beat around the bush.
  • Schedule check-ins: Your relationship is unlikely to change permanently because of one conversation. You need to schedule regular check-ins (and keep those meetings) so you can continue to deepen the relationship and address bubbling issues more quickly.

The reality is not everyone has the skills, experience, or even self-awareness to know they are being difficult. I've found that each manager has their own experience working on teams and hiring at various companies. The reality is they are probably unaware there is an issue and just operating from a place of fear. Fear that they are going to make a bad hire, look bad in some way or are not confident in their own ability to recruit the right people. If you understand that then you can start to approach the problem with a different mindset, one that allows you to detach your own emotions from the behavior of the manager.

If you're having trouble partnering with a hiring manager and want to talk in more detail shoot me an email at