QUESTION: I am sophomore self- taught solo recruiter. I have a key account that I recently got 2 new assignments and need to retrain a bit in terms of candidate debriefs, realistic expectations, etc. On top of that, a candidate I placed there in 2017 got promoted and now is the hiring manager that I am working with. I feel like they are not crystal clear on their description and what they are looking for, but they will know when they find it. 

How do I in a professional, thoughtful way turn my former candidate, who is inexperienced at interviewing and hiring, into a rock star hiring manager and help him shine? – Colleen

ANSWER: That is a fantastic question. What I really like about this question, Colleen, is the insight you have on the fact that you have already recognized they are not clear versus being a recruiter that is just going throw bodies at them until this individual finds something.  

So one, the process is really diagnostic in nature. A lot of times when you use the word “imagine”, a person will actually look up and to the left, meaning they are kind of going to the part of their brain where images are.  

What I like to say to unclear hiring managers is, “Imagine hiring this individual and you are walking down the hall a year from now, and this individual has just like crushed it. They have had an outstanding first year. Tell me specifically what they have accomplished.”  

The whole key here is to get the hiring manager out of the mode of talking about the background required, because you just said it, he does not know. But he probably knows what needs to get done.  

To coach him into clarity, you can facilitate the conversation in this way, “A year from now, this human being has done a great job. They have met or exceeded all your expectations. Tell me what they have done.”  

From the conversation, you can reverse engineer what they are looking for because then you can test it against the hiring manager’s strengths. You know, where can the hiring manager be a mentor? What has to be there already, meaning batteries included because of his expertise, or lack of expertise, in certain areas? They already have to know how to do x, y, and z, and that is a deal breaker if they do not have it.  

That alone though, will get him a lot clearer on identifying it. I always sum up at the end. The ideal candidate should have these six traits in their background or these six areas of experience and based on your knowledge of the marketplace it should be in alignment with the compensation package, meaning they are not looking for somebody when you get to that point that you know makes $150,000 and this is budgeted at $110,000.  

If he is a new hiring manager, they might have an expectation that they are going to get nine out of ten things they want when we know they are going get maybe six or seven out of ten of the traits that they want. I think that is where you can manage expectations with him by saying the following

Mr. Hiring Manager, one of the things I would challenge you to look at, is in this marketplace my experience is it is really tight. You gave me these ten skill sets. Which ones can you compromise on? Which can be present, but maybe not expert level? You can use things like a scale of 1 to 10. If they say, well, I need them to be 9 in 8 of these. Then I would ask him to define what 9 looks like.  

There is where you get more clarity. Because if you feel it is unrealistic, let us say, what are you going to do, what do you have in your toolbox that is going to blow this candidate away who is probably making really good money working for your competitor? If they say trite things like well, we are a growing company with a great management team and good funding – boring! There are a lot of companies that can say that right now.  

You have got to look for very, very, very specific selling points. One of the ways to get those is to go back to your history with him. You probably know why he joined because you placed him. It has been a year or so since you placed him, so I would say, here are the reasons you joined.  What are the reasons you stay? Which is a really good question, which a lot of times is similar, but different.