Secret Recipe For Great Hiring: Make Leaders Finger Lickin’ Good, Y’all

“Just give him some wood and he’ll build you a cabinet.”

Beastie Boys, Finger Lickin’ Good.

Talent Acquisition Specialists, time to look in the mirror for 2017. How do you make your recruiting efforts sky-rocket? Let your hiring managers run the show.

Wait WHHHAAAT? Yeah, that scared me too. But it shouldn’t scare us because it is intuitive.

Here are some of my fundamental beliefs:

  • Leaders fundamentally believe, due to the nature of their job or their job title or their role, that they are intuitively experts in people.
  • HR Pros fundamentally believe, due to the nature of their job or their job title or their role, that they are intuitively experts in people.
  • HR should not own a vast majority of HR functions nor should HR be measured in isolation for most corporate outcomes.
  • People want to do good work.
  • HR pros will never and should never know more about a position than the hiring manager.

So what does that mean for recruiters?

For some, it means shifting the philosophy and very value proposition of the talent acquisition function. For years many recruiting teams have believed that they are failures if something goes wonky in the recruiting process. And when I say process, I mean from soup-to-nuts, including sourcing to interviewing to selection. Why? Because that is our gig. Protect and preserve, a very human instinct.

But it’s not your gig anymore. It’s “our” gig. You and the hiring manager. You and the company. You and marketing if they are helping you source.

But aren’t recruiters the Subject Matter Experts?  

You better believe it baby. You need to know enough about recruiting to teach anyone involved in the process, everything they need to know about recruiting. However (and this is big) you have no authority at all over the hiring decision maker. So quit trying to have it. No matter how much more you know, no matter how much “sales guy” you have in you, no matter how you are incentivized, it is a losing battle.  And it is not your job to make that decision.

So what is your role? You teach a man to fish. Or as Adam Yauch said, “Give him some wood and he’ll build you a cabinet.” Yes you. The successful hiring manager will help you build credibility, trust, and a successful recruiting function.

So here are some quick things talent teams can do to make their hiring managers finger lickin’ good, y’all.

  • Before you get into what the “job requirements” are or what the “interview process” is, ask ONE question. This one question will help you determine so many, many things regarding next steps. The question is, “What can the talent acquisition team do to make YOU successful in filling this job?”
  • Do not believe you are smarter than hiring managers. The entire USA learned this during our last election. It is a gross misstep to generalize all hiring managers as the stupid ones and recruiters as the ones who get it. All involved are smart and trying to do the right thing.
  • Assume leaders are time-strapped. This can lead to fuzzy thinking. Not because of lack of cognitive ability, just time to make a thoughtful decision. Go into this knowing it is your job to provide tools to mitigate time issues.
  • Consider changing recruiting incentive programs. If this is a true partnership then the recruiter and hiring manager need to be incentivized together. If any of you have done this I’d LOVE to learn more.

There are many more steps to creating a successful recruiter/hiring manager team. And I am not suggesting it is easy. However, creating anything finger lickin’ good is never easy. But, just like the Colonel’s 11 herbs-and-spices, once you get the mix right, there is enough success to go around for everyone.

This post is sponsored by the recruiting pros at Jobvite, who, each month, let FOT write about a topic that will help recruiters raise their games via continuing education. Be on the lookout later this month for the FOT video series called “No Scrubs”—also brought to you by

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Dawn Burke
Dawn Burke is an HR Leader, speaker and writer, specializing in new HR practices, engagement and workplace culture.  Her HR career has spanned the last 20 years, most recently serving as VP of People for Birmingham, Alabama's award-winning technology company, Daxko. That’s right – the very DAXKO that our very own KD is an alum of, because there are only so many people in the big B’ham who are worthy of a VP of People title. A true Generalist, she’s done a little bit of everything, but recruiting and training is where she gets her mojo. She’s based in the good ol' blogging capitol of the south, Birmingham, Alabama, where you can frequently find her listening to the Beatles and REM, watching Breaking Bad reruns (and Snapped and Dateline), enjoying serious amounts of coffee (and cheese, but not together!), dreaming of where she will travel next, and wondering how in the world this theatre grad ever got into football or HR…Check out her blog at or talk to Dawn via emailLinkedIn, Instagram or Twitter


  1. KD says:

    advantage of your approach – not everyone wants or needs full service, so save your cycles for the people who need them most!


  2. Sam says:

    Great post Dawn. I’ve seen many different departments offer “advice” to hiring managers. Hiring managers have a very specific role and we just need to trust their decisions!

  3. Dawn Burke says:

    @KD — true that. It’s efficient because it’s customizable. Where else does “customization” SAVE time? Not in many places.

    Also, thought you’d appreciate the Beasties throwback..

  4. Dawn Burke says:

    @sam — it’s never a good practice to continually second guess managers decisions. However, it is much easier to not second guess if indeed, ultimately, the hiring manager owns 1/2 the result WITH HR. When it is not a shared win (HR and Hiring Manager) that’s when finger pointing begins.

  5. Richard Lum says:

    A good recruiter is a rarity, some recruiters can not even hire students after graduation.

  6. Dawn Burke says:

    @richard– I’d love a little more clarity on your comment. Do you mean some recruiters don’t have the ability to “land” new grads?

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