Harmony Is Possible! 3 Steps for Calibrating the Recruiter-Hiring Manager Relationship


Kat de Lara

Kathleen de Lara is the Inbound Marketing Manager at Entelo. She leads the team's content strategy, working with recruiters and talent heads to provide resources supporting their hiring pains and needs. Prior to Entelo, she was on the content marketing team at Identified, a recruiting platform acquired by Workday. Connect with Kathleen at kathleen@entelo.com.


“Recruiting isn’t broken, it’s just hard.” No matter how long you’ve been in the talent space, you’ve likely heard this at least a dozen times. True, recruiting great talent isn’t always a walk in the park. One of the biggest blunders to point the finger at for the seemingly impossible-to-solve challenge of obtaining great talent is the misalignment between recruiters and hiring managers. It all comes down to clearly vocalizing expectations for a role—the list of skills and experiences qualifying someone as a good fit for a role may not be identical between the two parties.

This problem is all too common as hiring managers often blindly hand over job reqs to recruiters. As a result, the hiring process starts off on a model built to break—misaligned expectations result in undesirable candidates, and all too often, both teams find themselves back at square one.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Recruiters and hiring managers can—and must—collaborate in order to get on the same page and work towards improving the hiring process together as a team.

Here is a 3-step process to help you achieve recruiter-hiring manager calibration, enabling you to get the best talent through the door faster:

1. First, have hiring managers outline the job description and come up with a list of keywords or phrases representing a candidate’s desired skills and experiences.

Get hiring managers in the habit of articulating the types of candidates they’re looking for, going beyond just stating the job title. Job titles often leave room for interpretation, as titles are associated with specific responsibilities, which can vary company to company and can also change over time within the same company. (To put this into perspective, consider the handful of titles that barely existed five years ago).

Let’s not forget many hiring managers often reuse and recycle a company’s job reqs, neglecting the reality that roles evolve over time. For example, the list of an Account Manager’s responsibilities during the early stage of a company is much different (and likely shorter!) than that same list during a late stage of that company. As a result of these outdated role descriptions, recruiters have to spend valuable time figuring out that a job req is inaccurate and then have to update it by working with a hiring manager. This slows down the hiring process, because everyone must take a step backwards.

Instead, have hiring managers outline clear benchmarks for what the future employee will do and accomplish, what their past experiences and background should look like, and what their desired skill sets are. This encourages hiring managers to spend time elaborating on the specific duties of the role and qualities of the person holding it, rather than using generic boilerplate to illustrate what could, in actuality, be a much more complex (or different!) job.

Outlining role and employee profiles also naturally prompts hiring managers to be more thoughtful about job descriptions, considering:

  • Which responsibilities and skills aren’t included, but should be? e.g. “Must be able to take on and manage multiple time-sensitive projects on short notice.” (If the company is going through a high-transition period).
  • Which questions are left to be answered by the hiring manager? What can be miscommunicated in the job description? e.g. A candidate reads the job description and wonders, “How will I be equipped with the training resources and management support to properly onboard into this position?”
  • How could this role possibly be misunderstood by candidates? By current employees? By competitors? e.g. Is there an opportunity for full-time employment in this contractor role?

Clearly, when it comes to explaining the job, over-communication is better. By elaborating on their expectations for an employee in the role, hiring managers effectively convey what recruiters should be looking for in candidates. The more detail managers provide on sought-after candidate backgrounds, skills, and experiences, the higher quality of candidates recruiters will bring into the funnel.

2. Next, create multi-tiered lists ranking qualified candidates prior to reaching out to them to schedule an interview.

Instead of putting all candidates on a single list, bracket them into tiers based on how their qualifications complement the role. Follow this method:

Divvy up your full list of candidates into three buckets: Good, Better, Best. Sifting through each candidate, you will come across those who look like a good fit for the job req. Then, you’ll encounter some specialties, skill sets, certifications, or impressive projects that will naturally rank one candidate higher than another. Soon enough, you’ll have your three buckets filled.

The final multi-tiered list will be a prime example of how slight traits or experiences can align and divide recruiters and hiring managers’ candidate expectations. For instance, a recruiter might classify an engineer who worked on a product feature as a Good fit, while a hiring manager may classify the same person as a Better fit because of their ability to take on the initiative of working on a solo project.

Granted, before the final lists are ready, many candidates will initially shift between these lists as recruiters and hiring managers get a feel for what differentiates candidates from being categorized as Good, Better, or Best. Over time, recruiters will begin to develop an eye for assessing an adequate fit (Good), a satisfactory fit (Better), and a perfect fit (Best), and hiring managers will feel more confident that the recruiter is on the same page with future open reqs for similar roles.

The goal here is to communicate to recruiters what the role entails and which characteristics to look out for (and to rule out) in candidates. Hiring managers should help recruiters to better understand how their team operates, what the team dynamic is like, and what their team’s specific wants and needs are. Sourcing then becomes less about trial and error and more about passing highly qualified candidates quickly through the hiring process, cutting down time-to-hire and allowing recruiters to move on to filling the next open req.

Overall, this bucketing process works well to calibrate recruiter and hiring manager expectations, as recruiters get a better understanding of what the hiring manager is looking for in a candidate now and for future similar open roles.

3. Finally, after the interview, reconnect with hiring managers and debrief on how selected candidates met or missed expectations.

It’s crucial for recruiters to debrief on the multi-tiered candidate lists by checking in with hiring managers to learn how candidates either met or missed expectations set by the first two steps. Get an understanding of what worked, what didn’t, and what can be improved in the vetting process. From here, recruiters and hiring managers can fine-tune their criteria for selecting and categorizing candidates for future open roles.

In this case, there is a method to the madness!

Of course, successfully aligning recruiters and hiring managers shouldn’t be limited to solely these three steps. Learn more recruiter-hiring manager obstacles—and their solutions!—by checking out our ebook, The Definitive Guide to Recruiter and Hiring Manager Partnerships. Click the button below!

Recruiter and Hiring Manager Partnerships


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