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Sep 12, 2014

What’s your biggest recruiting challenge?

That’s one of the questions we asked 570 HR professionals in our Global Talent Recruitment Survey and the answer we got back wasn’t what we expected. Getting hiring managers to participate in the recruiting process came back as the No. 1 challenge.

Here are the top responses:

  1. Finding qualified candidates — 53 percent;
  2. Finding the right technical skills — 41 percent;
  3. Getting hiring managers to make time for interviews — 33 percent;
  4. Lack of time — 21 percent;
  5. Gaining agreement from the hiring managers and stakeholders — 20 percent;
  6. Getting responses to my job postings — 19 percent;
  7. Keeping on top of market trends and best practices in recruiting — 15 percent;
  8. Making a decision on a candidate — 15 percent.

Getting hiring managers involved is problem No. 1

You’re thinking, “wait a minute, I thought you said hiring managers were the biggest challenge?” I did, and bear with me for a minute while I explain.

On the surface, there’s no real surprise with the top two responses, but No. 3, “getting hiring managers to make time for interviews,” peaked my interest so I dug a little deeper into the results.

It turns out, when we combine the three responses that relate to hiring managers, collectively, they take the No. 1  spot:

3. Getting hiring managers to make time for interviews — 33 percent;

5. Gaining agreement from the hiring managers and stakeholders — 20 percent;

8. Making a decision on a candidate — 15 percent.

Total — 68 percent

Together, 68 percent of HR professionals identified issues with hiring managers as a top challenge.

Skills aren’t the problem when new hires don’t work

Wow, HR is focused on bringing the right talent into their organizations, and the single biggest obstacle is not skills shortages, candidate supply or qualifications — it’s their internal business partners.

This challenge is hurting recruiting efforts. Respondents told us that 10 percent of new hires don’t complete their first year. And it’s at the nine-month mark that employees begin to feel disenchanted with their new role.

Think about that for a moment: Three months before their first annual review and they’re already losing interest.

They also told us that, nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of the time, when a new hire doesn’t work out, skills are not the cause. So what is the cause? Unfortunately, we didn’t ask that specific question; however, if you consider the commonly held belief that two-thirds of people quit their boss and not their job or company, evidence starts to build.

What’s the problem?

Why are hiring managers the number one obstacle to effective recruiting, and potentially retention as well? Let’s unpack some of those responses and find out, and then offer some suggestions for solving these issues.

So, hiring managers aren’t making time for interviews. That’s not an unusual complaint. And it makes sense.

Hiring managers are busy. Very busy. A friend of mine, who is a senior manager in one of the world’s largest beverage companies, told me that he receives an average of 500 emails per day. And that’s just his emails! It’s an outcome of the do-more-with-less focus in business that has been building for decades and gained renewed focus in the last recession.

Here’s another result from the survey that may help explain that lack of involvement:

  • Nearly half (45 percent) said their hiring managers are not strong interviewers; and,
  • At large companies, it was 65 percent.

When hiring managers won’t interview

Most managers have had no formal interview training and it’s not something they do often enough to learn through practice. If they’re already spread too thin, is it that surprising they don’t want to make time for something they’re not good at?

The problem is, when hiring managers don’t make time for interviews, it slows down the whole recruitment process.

A slow recruitment process hurts a company’s brand. If you leave me hanging between interviews with no contact for weeks, that paints a picture of the value you place on me. I’m going to tell my friends about it. And if I’m A-level talent, you’re not the only person chasing me. I’m not going to wait around for you.

The challenge of “getting agreement from hiring managers and other stakeholders” refers to this group determining what’s needed in the role. This is critical, because if you don’t have a clear target it’s impossible to measure candidates for fit.

If hiring managers don’t want to make time at this stage, it means a whole lot more time spent farther along in the recruitment cycle. That’ a message hiring managers need to hear.

What can HR do about it?

That all sounds pretty bleak – and probably pretty familiar – but all is not lost.

There are some steps that HR can take to better engage hiring managers in the recruitment process and that will lead to better outcomes and less friction.

1. Hire for more than skills

If two-thirds of new hire failures have nothing to do with inadequate skills, it’s time to stop putting so much emphasis on them. Instead, create a 3-dimensional job description.

In addition to the skills required, a 3-D job description considers:

  • The behavioral or personality attributes required for success in the role;
  • It considers who they will interact with;
  • The manager’s style; and,
  • The corporate culture.

Understanding these traits will help you paint a picture of the ideal candidate as a whole person.

You can make it easy by creating a questionnaire to capture these attributes and give it to hiring managers. Create the 3-D job description based on what you get back.

2. Making hiring managers better interviewers

Most hiring managers have had no formal interview training. Because of this, they don’t want to do them and, frankly, the information they glean from them is typically very subjective. Here are a few things you can do to improve that:

  • Get managers interview training. If you have the budget, find a reputable provider and get them training in how to conduct behavioral interviews.
  • Create a standard interview format and process to follow. This can help managers gain more comfort in their interviewing involvement and limit the impact lack of skill may have on outcomes.
  • Use your 3-D job description and insights from your own screening interviews to create scripted behavioral interview questions.
  • Teach them how to probe properly. Asking a behavioral interview question is not enough. You have to know how to properly probe to get a candidate to provide a useful answer. This topic is an article in itself, but, basically, teach them to get a specific situation, the action taken and the result achieved.

If you can take these steps, you’ll make it easier for hiring managers to get involved and use their time more efficiently. And that can turn your biggest challenge into your biggest asset.