10 Eyebrow-Raising Things Hiring Managers Say (and How to Respond)

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Throughout my career in recruiting I’ve encountered hiring managers across the spectrum, from the incredible to the “who on earth made you a hiring manager?!” In this article, I’d like to focus on the latter.

But, every cloud has a silver lining and there’s always so much to learn from the not so great hiring managers. Below are some quotes I’ve personally experienced and how best to respond if you’re in one of these situations.

1. “This candidate looks perfect on paper, let’s just hire them and avoid the hassle of an interview process.”

Response: Sure, the interview process is slower than just giving a candidate an offer straight from application review, but the interview process is there for a reason. A bad hire (a false positive) is a much larger cost on time, money and morale than missing out on a good hire (a false negative). But, do set up a fast track process with hiring managers and interview coordinators so that the best talent can move through all interview stages swiftly.

2. “The 2 finalists were amazing! But I like having 3 finalists to make a decision.”

Response: You need to gather as much information you can and engage your sales skills. Why is the hiring manager hesitating to make an offer? Are the two finalists not hitting the mark? Or perhaps they are and the hiring manager doesn’t see it? What does the rest of the talent pipeline look like? Do they have a realistic idea of the talent market? If the two finalists are great matches for the role, give the hiring manager a reality check and help them make a decision.

3. “I’ve hired before. I don’t need interview training.”

Response: when it comes to interviewing best practices, you can always improve. Especially if the hiring manager hasn’t hired in a while, it’s a new type of role or the interview process has changed. Offer to shadow an interview with the hiring manager, and let them shadow yours in return. Objective feedback is often the best way to learn.

4. “If they’re after the ‘lead’ title, just give it to them. We can find them some people to lead from somewhere.”

Response: If a management position hasn’t been well thought through and communicated internally it can lead to a lot of trouble down the line. Who will they lead? And are those people happy to be lead by this person? Were they be involved in the interview process?

Before hiring leadership externally, you should always look within the business first to see if anyone could step up to do the role. Employees who are regularly challenged and promoted are more likely to stay. On the positive side, it’s great to see flexibility from a hiring manager to offer a candidate a lead role where it’s due.

5. “I’m rejecting this candidate’s application. Their cover letter is in caps and Comics Sans. They also have an aol.com email address.”

Response: OK, that’s fair.

6. “Awesome candidate, I would make them an offer but I was looking for somebody that can start sooner. Let’s keep interviewing.”

Response: The scenario here was that we had been looking for 6 months to find someone. The skills set is niche and the market is competitive. Probably why the candidate had a 3 month notice period. In this case, I explained to the hiring manager that realistically it could take another 6 months to find someone else, and they might also have a long notice period. If the candidate accepts, it means that the hiring manager can stop spending time on hiring and start planning for when the new recruit arrives.

7. “I don’t have time to update the job description, let’s just use the one from last time…2 years ago.”

Response: “No worries. I’ll have a go at updating it and you make the corrections.” We get it, hiring managers are busy so there’s no harm in making their lives a little easier. But you should remind them that to attract the best you at least need to start off with an appealing, and accurate, job description. Surely the product, team or business has changed in the last 2 years and the hiring manager should have examples of work recently completed by the team. This is all information that will interest potential applicants.

8. “[An exceptional employee] handed in their notice 3 weeks ago and we need to replace them ASAP!”

Response: This is a communication problem that can (usually) be easily solved. Work with HR and managers to ensure there’s a process in place to notify talent attraction teams when someone leaves the business. Giving a recruiter a few weeks heads start on a replacement hire can make a difference on the bottom line. Even better if you can hire someone before the leavers notice finishes to allow for a hand over.

9. “I don’t have time to be involved in the process.”

Response: “Then I won’t be spending any time on this hire.” The recruiter and hiring manager relationship needs to be a partnership, you’re helping each other to build teams and be successful. If they’re not willing to invest their time, neither should you.

From a candidate’s point of view, it would be strange to go through an interview process without meeting their manager. On a positive note, this quote could mean the hiring manager trusts you to make a great hire without their input. If so, then that’s awesome (but they still need to be involved).

10. “We need someone with [a really long list of requirements]”. Upon presenting a candidate with the long list of requirements, “This candidate is over qualified.”

Response: In this situation, bring up your notes from the hiring brief conversation you had and repeat back what they told you while referencing the “overqualified candidate.” It may be the case that they are overqualified and it comes to light that you don’t need to find a candidate with everything on the job description. This is a great chance to dig deeper again on the role and find out what’s truly needed.

*Image from Be Cool

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