Published: Sep 25, 2017Time to read: 5mins Category: Recruitment

How Becoming a “Consultative Recruiter” Can Help With Your Most Difficult Hiring Managers

As I’ve shared consultative recruiting techniques with recruiters, it turns out that hiring managers really liked the additional input those recruiters were starting to share. I have spent the last 27 years as a talent strategist working with large companies such as The Cheesecake Factory, The Walt Disney Company and Fox Entertainment to name a few, and I have found that hiring managers welcome the concept of a consultative recruiter.

I suspect those hiring managers have always wanted your expertise and perspective, but either couldn’t bring themselves to ask, or didn’t know the value you could add to their hiring success. What’s the lesson learned? Start to provide your perspective and advice even though your hiring managers may not have asked!

The easiest way to do this is to ask questions that point out the issues, challenges, and solution options. This way the hiring manager is more likely to come to the same conclusion themselves. Rather than telling the hiring manager that their assumptions are wrong, asking questions is a powerful, effective tool for consultative recruiting.

Rather than telling the hiring manager that their assumptions are wrong, asking questions that point out the issues, challenges and solution options is a powerful, effective tool for consultative recruiting.

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Recently a recruiter with whom I was working shared a challenging situation with one of her hiring managers. See if this sounds familiar to you:

The Recruitment Scenario

The search was for a manager title. The hiring manager had set out requirements for 10+ years supervisory experience and 8+ years of project/product management experience. However, the position they had open was for an individual contributor.

Not only was their salary range too low for someone with this much experience, but someone who actually met the requirements was not likely to be interested in a role that would be a backward step in their career.

As a result, much of the recruiter’s sourcing efforts had been wasted and would continue to be so. As the days on their ‘time to fill clock’ kept adding up, the recruiter came to terms with the fact that this was going to be an impossible search.

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The Recruitment Fix

Few people like to be told they're being unreasonable or asking for the impossible—and hiring managers are no exception. As a consultant, a recruiter’s job is to educate their hiring mangers on the talent market. However, they're also your internal customer. That means the approach must be softer. To help them understand the realities, you can use questions to help them discover on their own what you already know.

The recruiter and I created a list of questions to guide the hiring manager to the reality of his situation.

As a consultant, a recruiter’s job is to educate their hiring mangers on the talent market. However, they're also your internal customer. That means the approach must be softer.

Here are a few examples of what she asked:

  • How much supervisory experience do your current high-performing individual contributors have?
  • Is there potential for the person in this role to lead a team in the near term?
  • Can you walk me through what will make this candidate successful in the role?
  • Have you had people step down from a management role to an individual contributor role? How do you see that working?
  • How much more do you typically pay managers versus individual contributors?

By deconstructing her argument into questions, she was able to help the hiring manager come to terms with the fact that some of the requirements were unreasonable.

Her probing questions helped the hiring manager discover on his own that some of the requirements he wanted simply wouldn’t exist—at least not in a candidate who fit their compensation range. Moreover, the entire set of requirements was not likely to be found in anyone who might be interested in the position.

Without this conversation, the hiring manager was unlikely to find a candidate to fill his opening. Even if he eventually hired someone, he would probably feel disappointed in the process, the results, and the recruiter.

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Becoming a Trusted Advisor to Hiring Managers

Often recruiters feel like they're in a no-win situation. Hiring managers may ask for the unreasonable and recruiters take the blame for not making the impossible—well, possible. To bridge this divide, we recruiters need to share our expertise in a way that makes us a trusted advisor to our hiring managers.

You know the conclusion you want your hiring managers to come to. Just keep asking gentle questions that will lead them to the conclusion you knew was there all the time. In short, lead—don’t lecture.

You’ll love the results, and it feels so good to take this kind of control. I promise that you’ll love your job more and hiring managers will seek out your advice earlier in the process.

Related reading: 'How to Create the Right Talent Personas for Your Recruiting Strategy'

Often recruiters feel like they're in a no-win situation. Hiring managers may ask for the unreasonable and recruiters take the blame for not making the impossible—well, possible.

About the author
Katherine Moody is the author of The Consultative Recruiter and How to Do Small Talk Fearlessly. For the past 27 years, she has been helping companies find great talent and job seekers to find their ideal roles. In addition to managing large virtual recruiting teams, she has worked with companies such as The Cheesecake Factory, The Walt Disney Company, St. Joseph Healthcare, P.F. Changs, Fox Entertainment, and Yahoo. She has an MBA from the University of Southern California and an Executive MBA from the Peter Drucker Management Center of Claremont University

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