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The Hiring Manager Has No Clothes

When swapping stories with fellow talent acquisition professionals on assignments that yielded less-than-satisfactory outcomes, the question usually comes up as to when the search went awry.  The answer almost invariably is that it went wrong from the start.  Whether it was the position not being filled or the placed candidate ultimately failing in his or her new role, if you trace back through the steps in the process, there was something that happened early on in the search that spawned a problem.  Often it’s the Hiring Manager to blame, with a view of the position – or himself – that is divorced from reality and no other stakeholder can muster the managerial courage to confront and correct the problem.

It is not unusual for a Hiring Manager to have a different view of a role’s ideal candidate profile than might a peer, partner or subordinate.  When a healthy debate is facilitated among these stakeholders, most often a clear and accurate view of the requirements for success in the open position are identified and incorporated into the search strategy.  However, as you move higher up in the organization, occasionally you will encounter a few archetypical hiring managers whose orientations can reduce the likelihood of a successful outcome.  Here are a few “types” I’ve encountered during my career and some suggestions on how to deal with them.

The “This Is My Hire” Hiring Manager

This Hiring Manager doesn’t want you to talk to anyone but her about the position to be filled.  She feels the hiring of an executive on her team is her responsibility alone and her input is all that’s required to understand the position and the profile of the successful candidate.  She often discourages her talent acquisition partner from speaking with other stakeholders who will end up working closely with the placed executive.

How to Deal:  This type of Hiring Manager, in my experience, is the most difficult with whom to deal.  Usually it’s best to inform this person that best practice in assessing a position is to gather a 360 degree view of the role if possible, or at least a 180.  Your human resources partner can often be a great ally to you in this process.

The Oblivious Hiring Manager

This Hiring Manager thinks he’s a great guy who empowers his people and is generally a magnet for talent.  In reality, he’s a micromanager who disempowers and suffocates his direct reports.  He will invite his direct reports to participate in the assessment process but they often are reluctant to provide any input; instead, they defer to the Hiring Manager’s perspective, even when they disagree with him.

How to Deal:  If you’re doing an intake session in a group, see if the behavior of the Hiring Manager’s team matches up with how he describes his leadership style.  If it doesn’t, ask for individual follow-up sessions with team members to give them a more comfortable setting in which to express their views.

The “Just Fill the Job” Hiring Manager

This Hiring Manager has more important priorities on his plate than filling the position at hand.  He is difficult to pin down to get his input on a candidate profile and, as the search progresses, his feedback on potential candidates on paper or after interviews is just as challenging to obtain.  He just wants the job to be filled.

How to Deal:  In my experience, the best way to get this type of Hiring Manager engaged is to set a firm schedule on his calendar for updates with a specific set of deliverables for each meeting.  Prepare for these meetings with an agenda and hold to it.  Short and to the point is generally what this type responds to best.

Of course, in most cases, your Hiring Manager is eager to do anything he or she can to increase the likelihood of success in finding a successful new member for their team.  However, on those occasions when you know from experience that the Hiring Manager’s preferences can have a negative impact on the search, it is incumbent on the talent acquisition professional to guide the process in a manner which increases the chances for success.  If the Hiring Manager has no clothes and you don’t inform them of that fact, more often than not you will find yourself needing to repeat the search process in short order when a placed executive fails.

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