Managing Expectations: How We Set Recruiters and Hiring Managers Up for Success at Greenhouse

If you’re in recruiting, you’ve probably heard ad nauseum that a hiring manager and recruiter need a strong working relationship in order to make effective hires. The tricky thing isn’t knowing that—it’s outlining which action steps are necessary to create that “strong working relationship.”

At Greenhouse, we’re constantly thinking about optimizing our sourcing, interviewing, and hiring processes. We’re the first to admit that there’s always room for improvement. So along this line of thought, our Recruiting Team set the theme of “Great Expectations” for Q1 2016. Our goal was to elevate our hiring manager-recruiter partnership to a high synergetic level by identifying every stage in our recruiting process where we could proactively set expectations for our hiring managers. We know through experience that insufficient communication and misalignment on a job req between these two parties produce major blockers, so we were determined to overcome this as best we could.

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So to give our recruiting team the necessary framework to be more effective communicators and to help our hiring managers better understand the recruiting process and their responsibilities in it (and set expectations accordingly), we used the following 4-step process:

1. Understand our recruiting process

Everyone knows that in order to explain your recruiting process to your hiring managers and ensure buy-in, you’d better be an expert in what you’re explaining.

For our Recruiting Team, this meant starting off with a white-boarding session to sketch out our recruiting cycle. We identified the stages that existed within our process across all of our open job searches and put them in a shareable, easily digestible format. (I’m a fan of Google Docs for its collaborative nature and LucidCharts for its visual aesthetic. Ultimately, our team created a PowerPoint deck so that we could more easily present to our hiring managers). The specifics of a recruiting process are unique to each company but generally speaking, the process may look something like this:

  1. Internal role approval and assignment to a recruiter

  2. Recruiter and hiring manager kick-off meeting

  3. Creation of interview plan in Greenhouse

  4. Role is live!

  5. Core interview process

  6. Offer approval

  7. Offer delivery

  8. New hire hand-off for onboarding

Keep in mind that “recruiting process” isn’t the same as “interview process.” A recruiting process includes all the work that happens before a role goes live on your careers page, including meeting with the hiring manager to define a role, writing a job description, identifying interviewers based on the skills you want to assess, etc.—and all the work that happens after you select the person you want to hire, including getting them to sign, setting them up for a successful onboarding, and even conducting a post-hire sync with the hiring manager to review their experience recruiting with you. Not all of these steps have direct hiring manager involvement, but it’s important that hiring managers are aware in order to better set expectations.

2. Put ourselves in the hiring manager’s shoes

Now that we’d outlined our process and identified the points in it where communication is most important, the next step was to put ourselves in our hiring manager’s shoes. What do they feel throughout the recruiting cycle, and what would be helpful for them to know? While we’re busy reviewing resumes and conducting phone screens, are they twiddling their thumbs and wondering why they aren’t talking to any qualified candidates? What we found was that a lot of our action items revolved around better communication around our sourcing plans and the expected timeline for phone and onsite interviews.

This exercise of imagining ourselves as hiring managers and thinking about what we’d want to know was tremendously beneficial for our team; we identified several opportunities for “great expectation setting” we hadn’t considered before. For example, it’s now a best practice for us to email hiring managers and designate interviewers the day their role goes live, both to provide a heads up that candidates will be coming through the pipeline soon and to make sure we’re all on the same page about what our ideal hire looks like. It’s also part of our process to check in face-to-face with a hiring manager once they’ve conducted their first phone screen so that we can better calibrate to them outside of the written feedback they submit. And that only skims the surface of the changes we were able to make!

In short, we found that putting ourselves in our hiring managers’ shoes was beneficial not only for deepening our hiring managers’ understanding of what we do, but also for helping us be a better partner through standardizing communication and creating checklists for ourselves.

3. Share our process with the hiring manager

After we’d identified the most effective communication points and updated our process to include them, the next step was to schedule a meeting for us to present and share this information. Originally, our intention was to meet only with the newest hiring managers at Greenhouse, but we quickly realized that including experienced hiring managers in the mix would benefit everyone by creating more opportunity for discussion and feedback.

We began our presentation by telling our hiring managers that our goal was to set up Greenhouse to have successful partnerships between hiring managers and recruiters, as well as to elevate the quality of hire. We wanted to ensure that they understood 1) our recruiting process, 2) what they were responsible for throughout this process, and 3) the approximate timeline for each stage in the process. We explained in detail the work that isn’t readily visible to our hiring managers in order to heighten their awareness of the potential lead time involved with each step.

Also, we not only talked through what we’d do, but also how we’d do it. Our Recruiting Team has the following three guiding principles for running a job search, and by sharing these principles, we helped hiring managers understand what to expect from us from the get-go:

  • Be transparent: To both the hiring manager as well as to candidates about our process.

  • Be data-driven: About the decisions we make, whether it’s concerning putting together an offer package, re-jiggering our interview process to create a stronger pipeline, or determining how to create targeted sourcing strategies, etc.

  • Be proactive: Act when we can. Recruiting is a very time-sensitive job, and this means that sometimes we’re going to push our hiring managers, but that’s only out of our desire to ensure an effective process and stellar candidate experience.

From here, we set our communication cadence with specific hiring managers. Some preferred it in text; others preferred online chat. Some requested face-to-face syncs and others thought email was more efficient. On top of all the standardization within our recruiting process, we made sure to have that layer of customization; we wanted recruiters and hiring managers to use the communication style that worked best for them.

4. Finally, invite feedback

With collaboration comes iteration and with iteration comes improvement, so after sharing all of the above, we wanted to hear how our hiring managers thought we could better do what we do. This information sharing session was just as beneficial for us as it was for them; hiring managers from our SDR team all the way to one of our co-founders came back with feedback on how to improve not only our process, but also our delivery of that process through a presentation. On a more positive side, several hiring managers across our Sales, Marketing, Customer Success, and Engineering Teams articulated how it was helpful to see our process laid out in such an organized way and that they hadn’t been aware of all the work involved with each step on the recruiter’s end. (So, they got a sense of what it was like to be in our shoes!).

How you fit into all of this

Perhaps you’ve found yourself in a situation where your hiring manager is frustrated that it’s taking “so long” for you to find their “Boston-based-Ivy-League-educated-sales-leader-with-5-years-of-experience-selling-a-SaaS-analytics-product-that-has-experienced-high-growth-in-the-past-two-years-who’s-also-a-certified-Salesforce-admin-and-oh-who-has-time-outside-of-work-to-launch-a-sales-meetup-program-and-likes-pizza-and-beer.” (Sound familiar?!).

At this point, you’ve got a couple of areas to address: First, you should provide your hiring manager with better visibility into the lead time for generating qualified candidates. (Maybe you aren’t taking “so long” compared to the average time-to-fill across all jobs, but it feels that way to the hiring manager because they haven’t heard from you in a while). And, secondly, you should dig deeper into why they really want the combination of candidate qualifications they’ve asked for and provide feedback as to what you see is possible based on the market and budget.

Clearly, a huge part of your responsibility as a recruiter is to facilitate proactive communication and expectation setting with your hiring manager, helping them stay informed on your process, on your candidate pipeline, and on the state of the market.

So, follow the 4-step process I presented above: outline your recruiting process, put yourself in their shoes, share your process, and invite feedback. Adopt the theme of “Great Expectations” and see what doing so does for your relationship!

Want to learn more about how you can form a strong working relationship with hiring managers? Download our ebook “The Definitive Guide to Recruiter & Hiring Manager Partnerships” by clicking the button below!

The Definitive Guide to Recruiter & Hiring Manager Partnerships

Ariana Moon Headshot 2

Ariana Moon is a Recruiter at Greenhouse—and a proud one at that! She partners with hiring managers to learn what they do and helps them grow their teams, working on finding everything from entry-level hires to new directors. She supports both the tech and non-tech sides of recruiting, and thinks it's awesome Greenhouse allows for this flexibility. Outside of work, she dedicates her time to latin dancing and loves exploring her physical limits almost as much as she loves eating sweets.

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