How the Best Recruiters Build Relationships with their Hiring Managers (+ hiring manager questionnaire)

There’s a lot of buzz in the recruiting industry again around candidate experience - but what about the hiring manager experience?

As recruiters, our relationships with these key stakeholders - the hiring managers - make or break our success, yet we don’t focus enough on how we can create a positive experience for them, as well as the candidate. It’s surprising that an industry that prides itself on delivering the best experience possible, ignores the people who actually make the hiring decision...the manager!

As the Head of Staffing for Google’s consumer hardware business (think Chromebooks, Pixel phones, Google Home and others) I run a team of recruiters and have seen many examples of both strong and struggling recruiter/hiring manager relationships.

After overseeing or participating in hundreds of these types of relationships, I’ve noticed a few patterns for what works and what doesn’t. In this article, I’ve distilled those patterns down into 5 key actions you can take to build strong relationships with your hiring managers.

  1. Interview your hiring managers
  2. Talk less, listen more
  3. Have an opinion, make a recommendation
  4. Be a partner, not just a service provider
  5. Be concise

1) Interview your hiring managers

Interviews aren’t just for evaluating candidates anymore, they’re also a powerful tool for getting to know and establishing rapport with that new hiring manager you’ve heard through the grapevine can be a little difficult.

This may be incredibly obvious, but recruiting is a people business, and with people, building relationships is the key to success. Despite knowing this, many recruiters skip the first step of relationship building. They jump straight into hashing out the job requirements, hoping to get back to their desk as fast as possible. If you start your relationship with a hiring manager focusing only on the role, you’ll diminish the impact you can have in helping to build a winning team.

Instead, set aside time to interview your hiring manager upfront - ask insightful questions about the team, the culture and why this role is critical to the organization. If you do this, you’ll demonstrate your intention to understand their needs and establish trust from the get-go.

Since hiring managers often don’t even know who they need to hire, you can help them clarify their needs and brainstorm the perfect candidate profile together by asking the right questions in advance. Having clarity around who the right candidate is will move the hiring process along much faster, and quickly turn you into a trusted partner (more on that later).

Hiring managers, like all of us, want to work with people they like. I’m not saying you should connect on social media or spend weekends together…… but the best way to get someone to like you, is to take an active interest in their needs and expectations and ask them questions to learn how they like to operate.

2) Talk less, listen more

The biggest mistake I see recruiters make is talking more than they listen. To do our job well we must first listen to the hiring manager to understand what they need, and then listen to the candidate as they tell us who they are.

Sure, you’ve hired 100 people into the company and think you know exactly what the manager wants. Maybe that’s true... but if you don’t listen you’ll never know for sure.

Each role has some kind of nuance or detail that makes it critical, and if you don’t pay close attention you could miss it. For instance, maybe a hiring manager needs someone who can grow into a team leader in the future, or has a niche skill set for a new project. It’s these types of details that make the role critical to the team’s success, yet they are easy to miss if you aren’t asking the right questions and listening carefully to the answers.

3) Have an opinion, make a recommendation

Our job as recruiters, is to hire people. We are the experts. That’s right...we are the professionals. As the experts in hiring, we must have an opinion on our candidates if we expect to earn the trust, appreciation, and respect of our hiring managers.

Some of the best hires I’ve made (or not made) happened when I shared an informed opinion on the candidates with my hiring manager. Whether it was a quick “oh, you’ll love this person’s personality” or “ugh, that person was not a good culture fit,” made all the difference.

The fact that I evaluated the candidate and shared my insights with the hiring manager, helped the team move beyond the qualifications of each candidate, to understand whether they would actually be a successful addition to the team. Because I take the time to bring actionable insights on different candidates to light, my opinion has been the deciding factor on countless hires throughout my career.

Ask yourself two things as you form your recommendation:

  1. Is my opinion based on something I’m qualified to evaluate? If not, then make sure you focus on criteria for which you’re able to create an informed opinion.
  2. Am I taking notes that I can share with the hiring manager to illustrate how I developed my recommendation? If not, make sure you know which criteria you want to evaluate ahead of time, and organize your notes into thoughtful feedback.

4) Be a partner, not just a service provider

A lot of recruiters miss this point and think of hiring managers as their “client.” Instead, think of them as a partner - it’s a subtle but important difference. Your relationships with your hiring managers should be strategic partnerships that help them reach their goals and get their jobs done well and efficiently.

Remember, their job is NOT to hire’s to deliver a product, increase sales, save lives or something else not necessarily related to hiring. In order to partner, you must communicate how your process works, make recommendations on how to make things easier, and ultimately deliver the talent that makes everyone more successful. That’s it.

5) Be concise

Finally and most importantly...keep your communications brief and to the point. Our hiring managers have jobs to do. Yes hiring is part of that job, but it’s far from all of it. Stay on point, deliver the information they need to make sure they are evaluating each candidate consistently, and hire the best possible candidate you can for each and every role.

Building strong relationships from day one with your hiring managers is one of the most effective ways you can increase your impact on the team and accelerate hiring (and your career). It can also often be one of the most challenging parts of our jobs as recruiters. But if you’re able to follow these 5 principles for earning trust and building rapport, you will set yourself up with the optimal team dynamic to be able to attract, interview and hire the best talent on the market.

About the Author

Jeff Moore is a Staffing Manager at Google and has over 20 years of recruiting experience. He is currently responsible for building the Consumer Hardware team within Google. Jeff grew up in New England and currently lives in Silicon Valley with his family and two dogs. He’s an aspiring photographer and rabid Boston sports fan.