The Unsophisticated Hiring Manager

RJ Morris Coaching, Communication, Hiring Managers, HR, Interviewing, Recruiting, RJ Morris

We spend a fair bit of time in our little shop talking about how to work with sophisticated hiring managers vs. unsophisticated managers. This has nothing to do with liking caviar vs. Cheez Whiz. It has more to do with Sean Penn thinking he’s a journalist.

Sophisticated hiring managers have enough reps under their belt to know how to play the game. They have experience and exposure to leveraging partners in talent acquisition, and they have the confidence to do it right.

Unsophisticated hiring managers are not sitting around wearing Duck Dynasty shirts. They just have not done this hiring thing very much. They’re inexperienced, and because of that, they are very difficult to work with to get good hiring decisions made quickly.

Here’s how tell if you’re dealing with the hiring version of the “Dennis Rodman Diplomat.

  • She wants a Silver Bullet Question: Ask a perfect question and you get a perfect predictor of success, right? Alas, just like a football team in my beloved St. Louis that doesn’t exist.
  • He’s unable to articulate perfect: Ah, the old, “I’ll know it when I see it.” Brutal, because you don’t know what target you are trying to hit. Get ready for multiple rejections with vague feedback.
  • She will bulletproof decisions: Scared to death of failure, the unsophisticated hiring manger will order up 18 interviews and try to get her boss to sign off on all decisions.
  • Which makes her ask to see more candidates: Because she can’t tell you what she wants and is afraid to hire when she thinks she sees it, she’ll always ask for more options.

Simple problem, right? The unsophisticated hiring manager is flat out terrified of making a mistake. What to do when faced with this type of manager? Sell your skills, FOT readership.

  • Sell your expertise as a coach: Position yourself as the adviser, not the recruiter. Your job is to advise, consult, and make Suzy New Manager successful, not just fill the req. “We’re in this together.”
  • Use market comparables and peer viewpoints to provide perspective: “I gotta tell ya, boss… a candidate with this expertise level, leadership skills and competency set is a good hire at this price point in today’s market. I know (your peers) Tom and Harry would agree.”
  • Loop in the boss. Over-communicate to the manager’s manager and have them provide some oversight. Invite them to candidate debriefs and status-update meetings.

In this case, it is the talent acquisitions pro’s job to shepherd the hiring manager through the process with as much data and hard evidence as possible. An unsophisticated manager will want to rely on gut feel, since he doesn’t know how to really dig into a candidate. Take away the fear of making a huge mistake, and the process will get better for all of you.

RJ Morris
I have spent the last 20 years of my professional life advising leaders to make great talent decisions to drive business results. In my current gig, I lead talent acquisition and management for a multi-billion-dollar, 100% employee-owned construction company. I geek out on analytics, succession planning, etc. and love it when we position folks to do their best work. That’s fun stuff. I tease bad HR people, because I think we can all do better, myself included. That’s fun, too.