The Trick in Managing Hiring Managers Who Just Won’t Hire From a “Pile of One”

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Oct 9, 2015
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

Almost every single week of my life for the last 20 years, I’ve had to deal with an issue that just seems to never go away.

It didn’t matter if I was in an HR or Talent Acquisition role, because I was always involved with working with hiring managers who always had some sort of opening, even in bad economic times.

The scenario went something like this:

  1. Hiring Manager has an opening. We find this hiring manager a really good candidate. They’re not perfect, but probably better than many we have already hired in the same position.
  2. Hiring Manager interviews candidate — likes candidate.
  3. I go to speak with the Hiring Manager.
  4. You know what happens next
  5. Hiring Manager says she really liked the candidate, but … (wait for it) … she would like to see other candidates to compare.
  6. I put a gun in my mouth and pull the trigger.

Why is the only option automatically a bad option?

This same scenario has happened weekly for 20 years across multiple companies, multiple industries, and multiple states. It’s an epidemic of enormous proportion across the world.

Here’s the real problem that we face with hiring managers, and it’s completely psychological: The Hiring Manager always assumes that the “last” option, or “only” option, is a bad option.

It’s pretty simple, because we all do this.

For example, you go to a farmers market and you pick out some produce, let’s say a head of lettuce, and the farmer only has one head of lettuce left on the stand. We assume something must be wrong with that one head of lettuce! If the farmer puts three other heads around that one, you would gladly pick up the original head now believing you “picked” the best head of lettuce.

Yes, candidates are like heads of lettuce!

When you show a hiring manager one candidate, they assume that one is not as good as the others they are not seeing.

What’s wrong with first in, first out?

This is actually pretty easy to solve, but very hard to do — never present a hiring manager with just one candidate. HR and TA are classic economists when it comes to candidate generation. We are FIFOs!

Do you remember your Econ class from college? Remember First In, First Out? The first candidate we find, we immediately send out to the hiring manager.

This starts the problem.

The hiring managers seeing just one candidate will discount this candidate and think they’re bad. If you just wait a few days, put one or two other candidates with this candidate, now the hiring manager will “pick” the best one.

This works pretty well most of the time. But, it’s hard to do because we get so excited about finding a good candidate that we want to show it the hiring manager as quickly as possible.

Stop that!

Don’t let them pick from a pile of one

Be patient. Find a good “slate” of candidates to present all at the same time. Then, reap the benefits.

The only candidate available will always be like that lonely head of lettuce on the farmers stand. Find more heads, and present them together. No one likes to pick from a pile of one!

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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