Hiring Manager of Mine – You Just Want to See Who Else is Out There?

Jessica Lee Candidate Pool, Interviewing, Jessica Lee

“I really liked him. He’s qualified, he’d be a good fit for the team. We all like him. But who else is out there? I just want to see who else is out there.”

As a recruiter, you’ve heard this before. And I’ve been on the other side of this equation as a job seeker too. When I was looking to leave my first HR gig, I was making the rounds about town talking to prospective employers. There was a specific gig I wanted – and I thought I had aced the interviews. I was pretty sure the team loved me. Three rounds of  interviews later, after having played every single step perfectly, my would-be manager called me. “We really like you… but…” And then that big, fat, BUT. “But, we want to see who else is out there. I want to be clear that this isn’t to say that we didn’t like you. You’re still our top candidate. But we just want to re-recruit and see who else is out there so you’ll hear from us in a bit.” With that, she pretty much stabbed me in the heart and then twisted the knife swiftly 180 degrees – because if I really was number one, the top candidate as she said, if they really liked me, why look elsewhere? Why prolong the search?

I didn’t hear from them for almost two months. I pretty much assumed the job wasn’t mine and moved on. But then they happened to call me with the “good news” – two months later – that the job was mine. They looked around for others, they did some more interviews… but I was still their top candidate. Hooray! It took everything in me to not say… yeah, I could have told you I was your top candidate months ago – instead, I said I’d take the job and gave my two weeks notice. I’ll never forget that feeling though – of being number one, but not really.

Here’s what happens so very often. As a recruiter, you introduce a handful of candidates. Maybe you’ve done a majority of the legwork already and present your hiring manager with the top two or three. You know one of them is “the one.” You know it deep down in your gut. Said candidate goes through interviews with some potential peers and the hiring manager. They knock a whole bunch of socks off. And then the hiring manager says it. “I liked him – but who else is out there? I just don’t want to make a decision off of meeting only a few folks. I need to see more.”

So, what’s a recruiter to do?

It’s a tough call. On the one hand, you might have some backup candidates lined up. But if you and the hiring manager both know that you probably have “the one,” why bring more candidates through just for the sake of interviewing more? Especially if it’s at the risk of losing “the one.” It’s difficult after all to tell someone that they’re the one, but not really – and I know first hand. You run the risk of sending mixed messages. And let’s not forget about that pang of guilt you’ll feel when you know you may just be literally parading around a few candidates through your offices who don’t even really have a chance.

But in not bringing more candidates through, is there an alternate risk? Maybe there is someone else out there who is the “true one.” Then potentially there’s an issue with skewed comparisons based on a small sample size. I liked this piece from Trizle recently which illustrates the example perfectly. But at what point do you have the right sample size? Who decided interviewing at least four, or at least five, or fill-in-the-blank with your number of choice, was best practice?

The scenarios can vary, I know. But here are my two cents. If both your gut and your hiring manager’s gut tell you this person is “the one” – go for it. Even if you’ve only interviewed two. Even if you normally interview five candidates per position before making a selection. And especially if you recruit for and hire for this particular position semi-often. You know what an A-player looks like when you see her. So pull the trigger and make things happen. Otherwise… well, it’s a tough message to get across. I like you, but I just want to see who else is out there. You’ve gotta push back on your hiring manager, ever so gently, and remind them of the risk you run of losing said A-player.

And as for you? I say it all the time. Just remember – recruiting is just like dating. You’re our top candidate, but we still want to see who else is out there = I like you – but I’m just not that into you.