Aug 8, 2013

Let’s face it — most of the hiring at the average company isn’t lead by HR.

Sure, HR has an important hand in the pot, but ultimately it’s the hiring manager who does the bulk of the legwork.

This is why hiring managers are more important than the CEO, and is why it’s vital that you prepare your non-expert hiring team for the pivotal task they’re about to take on.

Hiring effectively isn’t rocket science, but it is an art that takes years of practice to perfect. Hiring managers don’t have years; they need to recruit and select the right candidate in just a few short weeks.

So what does it take to be a great hiring manager? It’s all about managing the big picture.

1. Identify the right perspectives

Hiring managers are responsible for getting all of the right people looking at a candidate. Aside from themselves, they’ll want to consider executives, direct reports, supervisors, co-workers, and others. But choosing from among these people is the true challenge.

Is it better to have a large hiring team, or a small one? Do you need to increase the amount of energy in the room, in order to get a particular candidate excited about the role? Should you bring in the most highly skilled engineers to assess the candidate’s technical chops?

Crafting the right combination of perspectives is critical. You need enough variety of perspectives to truly evaluate a candidate, with enough breadth of perspectives that you aren’t accidentally creating bias. For example, you might have a great mix of seniority and experience in your team, but if you assemble a group of extroverts, then introverted candidates may have difficulty identifying with their interpretation of your company’s culture.

Be as thoughtful as possible when assembling your team. You may not be able to avoid every potential bias or imbalance, but careful forethought will improve the quality of your process.

2. Move the process forward

Hiring managers aren’t usually tasked with maintaining a certain Time-to-Fill metric, but that doesn’t mean they should let the hiring process stagnate. The opening needs to be filled, so the hiring manager needs to be able to cut through the red tape and decision-making obstacles that can keep you from hiring top talent before your competitors do.

Most importantly, hiring managers are not recruiters or HR experts. Great hiring managers hire quickly, so that they can get back to their full-time jobs.

As a secondary benefit, moving quickly and decisively demonstrates to your top candidates that you are very interested in them. Dragging out the process is the surest way to turn off candidates.

3. Coach your team

Hiring mangers aren’t a one-man or one-woman team. Once they’ve identified other interviewers, they also need to engage and educate those people.

What are you looking for in this hire? How will the interview work? What’s the plan for assessing the candidate? What’s the salary negotiation strategy?

It’s too easy to assume that everyone on the team knows how to hire. It’s actually up to you, the hiring manager, to ensure that that assumption actually matches reality.

4. Hire for the future

Every time you make a hire, you need to think about how they’ll fit into the team, with respect to both their formal and their informal roles. This sometimes makes more sense if you think about your organization using a sports analogy:

Imagine your company is an ice hockey team. When you make a new hire, you need to consider both what position they’ll play (are they a goalie, or a left winger?), and what skills they bring to the table (puck-handling, speed, and leadership).

Beyond that, though, you also need to consider their informal characteristics (are they a thoughtful playmaker, or are they a fighter?). You may already have too many of one character, and an unbalanced team won’t perform as well.

If you fill your team with goalies and defensemen, you’ll never score a goal. And if you fill your team with fighters, you won’t make any plays. It takes diversity across both your formal and your informal roles to make an effective team.

5. Identify hiring talent

Being a great hiring manager doesn’t only mean making great hires. It also means identifying talent that’s already onboard, and developing those stars to be the great hiring managers of the future.

This point bears repeating: the hiring manager is in the best position to help develop other hiring managers. Don’t take the easy way out and simply rely on HR to fill this role.

Start by finding employees who have the soft skills that are required for the role. Look for people who have the passion to be evangelists of your culture, the personality to be approachable and non-threatening, the strength to advocate for or against prospective hires, and the intelligence to know when they’re wrong.

You might be able to identify future hiring talent from employees who are influential within your company not because of their character or volume, but because of their skills and knowledge. Get them involved in several different hires, and see how it goes!

6. Ask the right questions

This is much easier said than done. Hiring managers who can interview effectively are a rare breed. Check out some of these resources to help your hiring managers refine their selection process: