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Hiring Process, the truth behind the scenes

Hiring Process

Where are the Candidates?

Hiring Process

A few years ago, I wrote a post on the hiring process titled When do recruiters call back? The premise was that it is easy to get frustrated when it takes so long time to hear back from a recruiter once the interview process started. I wanted to shed some light on what is happening behind the scenes and why it can take so long to hear back. A good friend Lewis Linsent me a short essay of observations below. He is an ex-hiring manager at Google and has written a couple of great books for Product Managers who are interviewing at Google. I read his observations and couldn’t help but bust out laughing at times, and crack a slight smile at others. I could see his frustration. As an executive with a budget, a hiring manager looking at candidates and as a guy that does a fair share of recruiting of both individual contributors and executives, I could see exactly the disconnect was taking place. I could literally see the strategy behind the recruiter he was working with. I thought it would be a really interesting post if we could approach it as a tag team and he agreed. Lewis is asking questions from a hiring manager standpoint and I am answering questions from a recruiting standpoint. I think that both hiring managers AND candidates would gain a lot of insight from the points of view in their quest to fill positions and to land job offers.

Where the earlier post was for candidates wondering, “When do recruiters call back?” this post is for both hiring managers and candidates wondering “Why is the hiring process so F’d up?”

  • Lewis Lin is represented in Blue standing for freedom, justice, and the American way. A place that “anyone can make it”.
  • HRNasty is represent’n in Black, standing for the all-evil HR department, it’s red tape and political correctness cept’n I won’t be very pc.

LL: As a hiring manager, here are my biggest pain points:

HRN: Bring it dude

LL: (Hiring), It’s Not Shopping Mall Easy

If I need a computer, I go to Best Buy. If I need something to eat, I go to McDonald’s. Even if I need to buy a house, I can go to Redfin and see houses, either in-person or virtually, in less than 24 hours.

That’s not the case if I have an open role on my team. I have to lobby my boss to get my open head approved. This takes somewhere between 3-6 months and never.

HRN: I hear you. Especially with larger companies where financial planning can be taking place 1 – 3 years out, and in some cases 5 years out. With these timeframes, there are a lot of variables in the hiring process. Although headcount is based on the department’s needs, the hiring process is ultimately based on budget. If revenue doesn’t come in, or projects are cut, getting headcount can be an endeavor in itself.

LL: Once the open head gets approved, I need to write the job description. I’m busy. But nobody on my team can do it for me. They’re either not experienced enough, or it’s a sensitive topic. My recruiter can’t do it for me either. They’re either too busy, or they’re just not a mind reader. What ends up happening is this: if I have two hours, I’ll be thinking about writing the job description. If I don’t have two hours, I’ll probably cut and paste a job description that I find either internally or on the world-wide web. Once a job description is created, it gets reviewed by the recruiter. That takes at least 24-48 hours. Then it gets posted to the external website. This could take 3-4 days. All in all, just get a job description posted takes 1-2 weeks.

HRN: You are not going to like this, but there are plenty of times where recruiters do not have the expertise needed to write the job description. We haven’t done the job and we don’t have your experience. If we had that level of expertise, we would be applying for the job instead of sifting through a pile of chaff. I completely agree the hiring manager and employee that just left the position to be filled are probably the only folks qualified. FWIW, if you asked me to write the job description, unless it is for an account manager that I know intimately because we hire them by the dozen, I will probably go to existing job descriptions and cut and paste bullets from other job descriptions. This is why so many job descriptions read the same.  

LL: Then, I wait for resumes. Days and sometimes weeks go by, and I don’t get a single resume. Sometimes there’s a bug in the posting process. Other times, my recruiter insists on reviewing resumes with me. But my calendar is jam-packed. The earliest my admin can schedule a meeting for the two of us is sometime next week. Another week passes.

HRN: As a recruiter, I don’t want to hit you up every time I get a single resume worth talking about. Unless the candidate is SUPER qualified and I am excited, you probably won’t hear from me till I have a few candidates worth discussing. Don’t worry, in the meantime, I am moving the forward with these candidates and keeping the hiring process active. I am also moving forward on 15 other unrelated positions, but you are getting some love.

LL: When we have the meeting, I get only 5-7 resumes to look at. That’s it?!?  I was expecting somewhere between 100-150. And why does it take a one-hour meeting to look at 5-7 resumes? I can eyeball each one and decide whether they’re a fit or not in 6 seconds, sometimes 3 if need be. It’s been three weeks since we started the process. And yes, somewhere between 90-100% of them are duds. My recruiter tells me that our meeting is helpful, which I don’t understand because we’ve wasted three weeks already. The recruiter promises me that there will be more (and more qualified) resumes next week. The recruiter will try new things: post on job boards, do more LinkedIn outreach and do a special employee referral program for me. And to help the recruiter understand my needs, the recruiter suggests sitting in on my staff meetings.

HRN: This is where I started to crack a smile. I saw the strategy the recruiter was using. As a recruiter, I do want to keep the reins on the hiring process. If I don’t, then I can have a wild horse on my hands and I don’t want to play rodeo rider on a bull named Hiring Manager. FWIW, we did get 100 – 150 resumes, but of these, only 5-7 are in the ballpark and of that, probably only 2-3 are R-E-A-L-L-Y qualified. I don’t want to waste your time and I really don’t want to sit in the same room as you while you get frustrated throwing out 143 of the 150 resumes I already disqualified and taking your frustrations out on me. Yes, I am serious. Over qualified, under qualified and frankly, a good percentage are just applying so they can qualify for unemployment so they don’t care where or what they are applying for. They just want to say they applied and were declined to qualify for benefits. There are a number of applications that are purposeful about not being qualified.

When I consider a candidate, I don’t want under qualified and I don’t want over qualified. I am the hot blond Goldilocks and I want “just right”, because as the hiring manager YOU want “just right” as well. I only want what is best for you of course! If I were to send the hiring manager 100 resumes, I would probably be asked to call on 15- 20 of the candidates. It is very easy for the hiring manager to ask for 15- 20 phone screens because they are not doing the work. They are not sending the emails, they are not setting up the times, they are not getting declined or stood up, and they are not taking the notes and organizing everything into an Applicant Tracking System. They are definitely not working this process for the other 15 – 20 open positions I am working on. At the end of the day, we are ONLY going to hire 1 person. And it is very easy to go through 100 resumes and not see a single candidate that is eligible to go the distance. The hiring manager may like the candidate but based on experience, I know that another person in the interview loop will:

  • Give me a hard time about the college attended. (Not prestigious enough or to prestigious)
  • Will want more big company experience or less big company experience.
  • Look at the LinkedIn picture and give me the second degree because they look like a slob.

Very little of the above “feedback” will come off as “suggestions”. The feedback will come off as an “accusations”. “Are you serious? No more party schools please” with more than a hint of “What a dumbass, how hard can it be to find some resumes?” and a rolling of the eyes for good measure.  

When looking for a single candidate, I am not just taking into account the hiring managers opinion. If that were the case, this job would be a piece of strawberry short-cake. Finding a candidate for a single person is easy. I am taking into account the entire interview loop including the hiring managers boss. The more folks involved in the interviews, exponentially, the more complexity is introduced because we have schedules, personalities and frankly, every interviewer has their own personal goal with this hire.

  • The guy doing the on-boarding wants someone who will be easy to train. He won’t endorse someone who comes across like a “know-it-all”.
  • The candidate who is single will want a candidate that “cute” and a lot of fun.
  • There will be an interviewer who doesn’t want to be involved in the interview process. Getting buy-in from this interviewer IS pulling teeth.
  • There will be a fashionista involved who will want to see someone presentable. The most highly qualified candidate coming in with last years jeans will get me the neck roll from Mr. Shiny Shoes.
  • There will be a really smart interviewer with years of seniority and very little Emotional Intelligence. There is no way a junior candidate with very few interviews under their belt will measure up to this interviewer.

I am not taking a chance of the hiring manager liking the candidate and 3 interviewers thinking otherwise. When that happens I am playing middle man to both the hiring manager and the interviewing loop. I need to say it in a way that doesn’t sound like any of the following:

  • “Personally, I liked them a lot, talk to your hiring manager”.
  • “Who am I, I don’t understand how being well dressed makes a difference for this position”
  • “Well if your buddy could get his own dates and wasn’t using the HR department as his on personal SnapChat / Tinder, we might move this process forward.”

I need to be politically correct and am not going to throw any interviewer under the bus. That is heartache, and as much as it is heartache for the hiring manager, it is really all about me. I don’t want heartache so I am going with a candidate that I think can go the distance. This is not a battle of getting singles and doubles. This is a game of home runs. Getting to first base in this game isn’t going to cut it. Getting 3 candidates that make it half way through the interview process is a worthless and a waste of everyone’s time. I am swinging for home runs and I will strike out.  

For the candidate, this isn’t so much about being qualified to do the job. This is about NOT PISSING OFF THE INTERVIEWERS.

LL: I give up. 6 weeks have passed, and I’m more discouraged than ever. And it’s not due to a lack of trying. I spend 50% of my time trying to figure out how to fill an open position on my team. Time is ticking. If I don’t get the open head filled, my boss is going to assign the open head to someone else. So I start sourcing my own candidates. Emailing old co-workers. Going over LinkedIn over and over again. Trying to figure out whom I know that might be interested in joining.

HRN: LOL. It is about this time that I start getting emails from the hiring manager with a cc to my boss. “Hey, 5 weeks and only 3 candidates? What gives? Can we open this up to more recruiters? Can we post this on (Oh goddd!) Where are you posting this? How many candidates have you talked with? I want to see some reports.” More reports means more time spent on creating reports and less time sourcing candidates.

LL: The wine-and-dine process begins. If it’s a personal contact, I have to sell, sell, sell. If it’s someone I don’t know, I have to interview. The interview is such an inconsistent process. Rockstars on the phone interview are duds in-person. And everyone gets a different vibe about each person. There are no unanimous decisions. . Every candidate seems be split 4-3, 4 in favor and 3 against.

HRN: Welcome to my world and multiply that by 15 or 20 additional positions. I am going through the same process you are. I may have a few more tools at my disposal, but at the end of the day, this is a needle in a haystack and 6 different personalities not including the wildcard candidate. The candidate could be:

  • Using us for interview practice so when they get the interview they really want, they are back in fighting form. Like a champion boxer coming out of retirement, they will take a few minor league fights just to get the kinks worked out.
  • Just using us as BATNA so when they have our job offer, they can go to the company they really want to work for and get a higher offer.
  • We move the candidate successfully through 4 or 5 interviews and one of OUR interviewers comes off as the asshole. The candidate decides they don’t want to work on this team. (Trust me, there is an order to who interviews when, and if I think I am going to have a shot, I need this guy who lacks EI to go last. I can’t lead off with this interviewer or I have NO shot)
  • After 4 interviews, the candidate decides they want more money. They are suddenly out of our budget and we are back to square 1.

Remember, we are not just worrying about trying to fix the hiring managers problem, but appeasing the 5 others interviewers in the hiring process. But this isn’t just about appeasing 6 interviewers. I am REALLY worried about how this candidate will look in 6 months. If they are struggling in 6 months, it will be on the recruiter. If they are success in 6 months, the hiring manager will be the hero and they will be asking me to get me one more just like the last one.

LL: 75% of the time, I land a candidate from my own personal networks. That’s right, after all this agony, I could have skipped all this recruiting bureaucracy and found the candidate on my own.


So how can we avoid frustration with the hiring process? We can minimize it when the recruiter sits down with not just the hiring manager but the entire interview loop so both parties can set expectations. Expectations on the process, the number of candidates to be expected, and the priorities of the skill sets to name just a few. Do we really need someone to be not just presentable but with a high maintenance fashion attitude? Getting consensus on the following:

  • “This developer won’t be talking to customers, we don’t care how they are dressed”.
  • “We have a project starting in 6 weeks, if we don’t have a couple of viable candidates in 4 weeks, I recommend we get outside agency recruiters involved.”
  • “Our budget is X, no signing bonus, no relocation bonus, etc.”
  • “Are we looking for a specific amount of education?”

Being able to point back to pre set expectations will open a lot of eyes when the actual candidate is standing in front of interviewers with a price tag hanging around their neck. Setting expectations makes resetting them much easier.  

I wish I had this conversation in my early years:

Hiring Manager: “We want skill sets X, Y, Z and A with large company experience and we want to pay 55K a year. They need to be able to assume a leadership position in the next 6 – 9 months.”

HRNasty: “I can get you 2 of the skill sets you are looking for at 55K a year in 6 weeks. I can get you 3 of the skills at 65K in 6 weeks or at 55K in 8 weeks. I can get you all 4 skill sets but it will cost you 80K which is 45% more than we budgeted. It will probably take 8 weeks. If you want them well dressed, we need to throw in a wardrobe bonus”.

Hopefully the above clarifies not only what happens behind the scenes for Hiring Managers and candidates, but how illusion of miscommunication can be reduced.

What methods are you using get hiring managers and recruiters on the same page in the hiring process?  Please share your secrets as either a hiring manager or a recruiter in the comments below.

See you at the after party,

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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  • gander2112

    Wow, great read, and very very accurate.

    I will add that if you are too picky about what you are asking for (as a hiring manager to a recruiter), the velocity goes way down. Unfortunately, recruiters listen to your exact words, and if you say they need to have a M.Sc. Physics, they will go there (ok, that is a bad example).

    I have had the 200 resumes hit my desk, and the 6 weeks to get 7 candidates, all who sucked (my fault, I put way too many filters on the description).

    You need to add in a section on: You aren’t located in a “hot” city for your technology, so great candidates need to be willing to relocate. When I lived in Tucson, I interviewed some great people, but almost universally they declined because of the relocation from Boston, Austin, or San Francisco. I could hardly blame them.

    • Gander,
      Thanks as always for bringing something up I completely missed. Having a conversation on qualifications of the candidate is important but putting TOO many filters is just as bad as not enough. It’s all about realistic expectations. I also appreciate that you quantified your answer and backed me up with the 200 resume numbers. We need to realize what sort of competition we are up against and strategize our job search accordingly. As always, love your feedback! Thank you, HRN

  • 9flabby8

    Love this as an observer with 24+ years in and around the process. I say to me, “This is must reading for not just some job seekers, but all of them, all stripes?” But is it not too raw, too well done, too long to rivet the attention of job seekers? Let’s hear from you who is visible on the hustings or in stealth mode. Not your first rodeo? Especially you. Poke holes in this premise if you can. Standing by for you to straighten me out. sQs Delray Beach FL aka Village By The Sea

    • 9flabby8
      Thanks for stopping by! Yeah, I was thinking about breaking it up into a couple of posts. It is a lot longer than my usual posts, but once I got going. . . . Yes, I think feedback would help the process and hopefully make it easier on everyone, recruiter, hiring manager and candidates.