Stop Being A Jerk: How To Manage Unmanagable Hiring Managers

DSC_0148 (2)I want to start off this post by simply saying that this is a statement on behalf of all those recruiters out there who feel this way.  I personally know quite a few, and I want to give a voice to all my colleagues who, as recruiters, can’t say anything because, well, when you’re a recruiter, you don’t really have a voice that gets listened to a whole lot – and opinions can count as an occupational hazard.

I’ve been in the recruiting business for a while now; I get that this is a thankless job. One day you’re a zero; the next day you’re a hero. The question on everyone’s mind seems to be not “what have you done for our business,” but rather, “what have you done for me lately?”

It’s a mindset that’s unflappable, of just-in-time, all the time; whether explicitly stated or implicitly implied, it’s that sentiment that constantly hangs over the head of every recruiter almost every. single. day.  I get it, and I guess I’m a glutton for punishment – you’ve got to be to stick around in this industry.

I also know that when it comes to recruiting, I love what I do, and I suffer staffing’s slings and arrows because I actually like what I do.  Hell, I’ve even written a post on why I’m (still) a recruiter, because there’s nothing better than helping the right people find the right jobs. I enjoy helping them – and the companies hiring them – succeed.  It’s really a win-win when winning means doing what I do, and doing it well. And I’m really good at recruiting. I’ve got the analytics to prove it.

But for all my experience and years grinding it out in this business, there’s still one mystery that I just don’t get: why so many hiring managers are such big jerks. Seriously – what’s the deal with the endemic antagonism? It’s a pervasive unprofessionalism that’s seemingly ubiquitous in this profession. And for some reason, it seems to be getting worse.

Hiring Managers: Recruitment Friend or Foe?

2014-10-20_13-17-18Why is it that hiring managers seem to think they have a pass to treat recruiters without even a modicum of courtesy or respect? I mean, c’mon. For the love of God, if you want that diamond in the rough, that unicorn, purple squirrel or even just a butt in a seat, here’s the deal: you need us.

And we’re here to help.  I don’t ever pretend I know more about a hiring manager’s area of expertise or line of business than they do; not so on the other side of the desk, where a recruiter’s experience is consistently undermined, undervalued or entirely written off.

For an experienced recruiter like me, this remains a sore spot; after all, this is what I do, and I’ve been doing it for years. You don’t need to be a total jerk – just understand we’re on the same side.  Really.

But when you openly antagonize me, go around my back, and question my ability to do what you’re paying me to do, you’re not working with me – you’re working against me. In a cutthroat, competitive market for talent, hiring managers are an enemy no recruiter needs.

We’ve got enough of those as it is.

There are days that every recruiter has to bite their tongue from yelling back and telling hiring managers where to stick it. That’s professional suicide, but more importantly, we are professionals, and have pride in the important work that we do – and that we do it with some integrity. Nothing good comes from retaliating as a recruiter, firing off your mouth or an e-mail. But hiring managers, on the other hand, have no compunction, as a class, about being absolutely classless sometimes.

I’m not sure what it is that makes these hiring managers feel such a sense of entitlement. I guess they’ve likely been jaded, burned or let down by crappy recruiters and group those of us who know what they’re doing with those people dragging those of us in our industry down.  Sure, some “recruiters” are mouth breathing morons who are nothing more than dialing for dollars or sending idiotic InMails. But I – and most of the recruiting colleagues I’ve had the privilege of working with over the years are smart, savvy and strategic. It just takes overcoming the cognitive bias that often accompanies entering any recruiting organization.

Perception and Reality: Overcoming Stupid Recruiter Syndrome

I’ve spent most of my career coming into organizations suffering from stupid recruiter syndrome and turning disengaged, dissatisfied managers into happy, confident customers. I’ve consistently been able to turn around organizations quickly, and the way they attract, engage and hire top talent. Why? If I can’t deliver on your expectations for hiring, or the level of service your requisitions require, than I’ve really got no business recruiting in the first place. The fact of the matter is, I’ve filled some of the most challenging requisitions with the best talent available in markets all around the world, and have a track record of kicking butt and sourcing names, as it were. But you wouldn’t know it from most initial encounters I continue to have with hiring managers. So, if you’re about to work with a recruiter, here’s a few words of advice I’d like to impart to hiring managers everywhere.

Let’s start simple. Stop being a dick and sabotaging the process. Just because you’re not happy with how things are going doesn’t give you a license to start popping off your mouth or blaming me – I promise I’m doing what I know how to do, and what needs to get done to get your open positions filled. True story. If you don’t hear from me, it means I’m likely busy sourcing and screening the candidates you’re seeing, so please, stop pestering me with e-mails about how I’m supposed to recruit or how to successfully do the job I’ve been doing for years.  I know we’ve scheduled updates, and you’re high on my list of things to do and people to please. I promise.

I’ve always been a professional, and acted accordingly – why can’t you reciprocate respect instead of inciting me with invectives?

Recruiter Requirements: Managing Unmanageable Hiring Managers

MjAxMy03ZTdkYTZkYzY1NDgxODI3Of course, what do I know? I’m just a recruiter. There’s some stuff that, no matter how much I wish I could, I just can’t control. Don’t shoot the messenger – I’m just an intermediary for your messaging, a control in a much more complicated, complex process.

That process of hiring involves, at its core, dealing with people, and it shouldn’t come as news that the human element is an element that’s, if anything, completely unpredictable. We’re not selling software, after all – we’re matching the right candidates to the right jobs, and there’s no commodity more precious, professionally speaking, than someone’s career.

The truth is, you can’t control (nor should you try too hard) people’s motivations or emotions; it’s the candidates, ultimately, who control the process, and a candidate is a consumer.

As a consumer, they get the rights to choose other companies or opportunities, turn us down, make (sometimes unreasonable) demands, change their minds and be fakers or flakes. I don’t control their minds, and I don’t control the rules of recruiting. I’m governed by internal processes as well as external rules, and the list of acronyms, like EEOC or OFCCP, that govern what we as recruiters can or cannot do is a lengthy one.

Recruiters can’t control compliance – we can only help you to minimize risk, but you’ve got to trust the fact that we understand these rules better than you do, and that breaking them creates legal liability for both recruiters and hiring managers. Kowtowing to ridiculous demands would be detrimental to not only both the recruiter and hiring manager, but to the business as well. And helping the business succeed today – and tomorrow – is what talent acquisition is really all about.

Of course, most of the blame directed at recruiters really stems from the inability or incapacity of the hiring manager to make decisions, communicate closely or do the work that you’ve got to do to make a hire, no matter how much of the work that recruiters do for you. We’re still reliant on your feedback, your insights and your wanting to close a req as much as we do if we’re going to be true partners – and truly succeed. Don’t blame your recruiters on your lack of commitment or focus on filling your job.

At the end of the day, it’s really all up to you. We’re just here to help.

If you’re a recruiter for a while, you know what I’m talking about – most of us continually deal with disgruntled hiring managers. Our reputation as recruiters and as an industry seems to be eroding along with the confidence of our customers and clients, and we’ve got to change the tide by continuing to educate, inform and prove to our hiring managers that we’re capable of doing our jobs in the process. The question is: are they? The answer might well determine the continued viability of recruiting as a specialized profession, as well as the careers of the candidates whose hopes and dreams we deal with daily. We’ve put up with it since recruiting began as a profession, but please, stop making staffing harder than it has to be. This is a hard enough job as it is.

I apologize for the rant, but there’s no better venue for venting than right here. If you’re a recruiter, weigh in with your thoughts in the comment section below. This is a safe place, so please share what you’ve done to manage unmanageable managers and any advice you have to wake up a nightmare hiring manager.

Because, even though you’re “just” a recruiter, you have a voice. It’s up to you to make sure it’s heard.

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Director of Staffing Solutions at Engage Talent

Derek Zeller draws from over 20 years in the recruiting industry, and he currently is the Director of Recruiting Solutions and Channels with Engage Talent. The last 16 years he has been involved with federal government recruiting specializing within the cleared IT space under OFCCP compliancy. He has experience with both third party agency and in-house recruiting for multiple disciplines. Using out-of-the-box tactics and strategies to identify and engage talent, he has had significant experience in building referral and social media programs, the implementation of Applicant Tracking Systems, technology evaluation, and the development of sourcing, employment branding, and military and college recruiting strategies. Derek currently lives in the Portland, Oregon area. Follow Derek on Twitter @Derdiver or connect with him on LinkedIn.




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Derek Zeller draws from over 20 years in the recruiting industry, and he currently is the Director of Recruiting Solutions and Channels with Engage Talent. The last 16 years he has been involved with federal government recruiting specializing within the cleared IT space under OFCCP compliancy. He has experience with both third party agency and in-house recruiting for multiple disciplines. Using out-of-the-box tactics and strategies to identify and engage talent, he has had significant experience in building referral and social media programs, the implementation of Applicant Tracking Systems, technology evaluation, and the development of sourcing, employment branding, and military and college recruiting strategies. Derek currently lives in the Portland, Oregon area. Follow Derek on Twitter @Derdiver or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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