Two Must-Have Traits for First-String Hiring Managers

January 31, 2014 at 6:28 AM by Jordan Taylor


Recruiters will at times have their motives and character in question. The best recruiters out there—those who work hard on being ethical, moral, and studious—consistently have to ward off sharp criticisms and harsh critiques of their profession. But what about hiring managers, why aren’t they examined closely under the microscope?

Hiring managers are essential to the hiring process. When appointing a hiring manager, make sure they’re innovative thinkers and intense collaborators.

Dr. John Sullivan presented an insightful observation in the first part of Develop a Hiring Manager Scorecard…to Make Them More Accountable:

“…hiring managers have a significant impact on hiring. In fact, I estimate their impact to be over 50 percent. But unfortunately, I estimate that less than 5 percent of corporate hiring managers are formally assessed or held accountable for their contribution to the hiring process.”

You may be asking, “Why do you juxtapose collaborative skills with innovative thought?” The answer comes from this candid comment by Francois Dufour in 5 Ways Hiring Managers Fall Short on (Working With) Recruiting:

“In the last few years, corporate recruiters have mastered new tools and disciplines – social sourcing, building online talent communities, talent branding, etc. It’s time for hiring managers to up their game too, contribute more actively to the hiring process and build a true strategic partnership.”

Recruiters have been proactive when it comes to embracing technological changes; they know what it’s like to evolve, to rethink things. The last thing you’ll get from a hiring manager that can’t communicate, or think creatively, is exactly what you sorely need—adaptive change.

So what are the constructive characteristics you’d expect to see in an innovative hiring manager? I'm glad you asked.
Innovative Thinker

A hiring manager who's interested in technology will always be looking for better ways to improve the recruiting process. They’ll be looking to social media channels and seeing how targeted competitors are attracting talent, but they’ll come up with strategies on how to do things differently.

A great hiring manger is also an active problem-solver. They’ll do more than pass along job descriptions—they’ll ditch the romanticized “perfect candidate” notion and think about new ways to outline performance needs and metrics that recruiters and candidates easily understand. And there’s more: they can come up with fresh ideas of how to plan strategies that are less susceptible to change.

This doesn’t mean they have to be magicians, just forward thinkers. Their level of understanding when it comes to the current labor market should have a dash of predictive power. What I mean by this is once they’ve paired with the recruiter and HR partner, they’re able to solidify a plan that outlines potential changes and problems. This is very important because recruiters tend to do most of the intense work within the first month of the recruiting process; if a hiring manager makes key changes after this point, time and effort is wasted.

Intense Collaborator

As Dufour points out, “Sourcing needs to be a team sport. Hiring managers should not delegate all the searching and initial outreach to their recruiter.” Perhaps this is the single greatest reason why most managers, who aren’t engaged in sourcing, are always placing too much emphasis on the importance of time-to-fill. While this is crucial, if hiring managers take the time to engage their networks to find out more about superstar candidates, while truly helping recruiters with outreach measures like phone calls and emails, then you can have shorter placements without sacrificing quality and diversity.

Another advantage to having a collaborative hiring manager is they’ll act more like mentors instead just bosses. You want them providing mentorship to both junior and seasoned recruiters. It’s not particularly hard to spot hiring managers that are open to sharing their knowledge. They’ll have a “here’s another perspective” mentality and not a “what can you do for me?” attitude.


The best way to measure how well a hiring manager communicates is to survey recruiters on a regular basis. Dr. Sullivan provided a great score card example for “Cooperation and Communications”:

Cooperation & communication

Pay attention to their communication rhythms and goals. Realistic goals would be something like weekly update meetings and on-going conversations that are in-depth and recorded. This lays the bedrock foundation for strategic partnerships. Nothing should be ambiguous: a great hiring manager will make everyone’s roles crystal clear; set a strong meeting plan; have a formal process for giving and receiving feedback; and they’ll always be checking in for updates during every stage of the recruiting funnel.


You don’t want a hiring manager who acts like—let’s say for illustrative purpose—a bad politician. They’ll do none of the mentioned above, and here’s what you may get instead:

  • They’ll carry around a “What can you do for me?” attitude
  • Anyone hopes of having your hiring manager act like a mentor will be thrown out the window (don’t expect any knowledge to be transmitted…forget about coaching and advising)
  • They won’t inspire team growth
  • Don’t be surprised if they get people to focus on the wrong things on all fronts
  • They boss recruiters around instead of leading them
  • You will never see them roll their sleeves up and join in on the recruiting process
  • They won’t build employer brand
  • If you’re looking for them to contribute something novel and creative—you’ll be waiting a long time (they’re only going to reuse tactics they learned in the past)
  • You’ll get a lot of rhetoric about acquiring top talent—but no real action

Please share your ideas and experiential knowledge on what constitutes a great hiring manager…and what doesn’t.
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