The corporate talent acquisition (TA) landscape has long been seen as a reactive yet necessary cost of doing business. In the past, recruiters posted positions and then simply forwarded resumes of candidates to hiring managers in hopes of a match. This model worked because many organizations simply did not know of a better way to go about hiring. Today, however, many organizations are embracing a more strategic TA approach that is better suited to the increasing expectations of candidates, tighter labor markets, and the organizational transparency afforded by social media.
Our research found the most influential predictor of TA performance outcomes is a strong relationship between the recruiter and the hiring manager; in fact, this relationship is four times more influential than other TA performance drivers. In the same study, we found a staggering 97 percent of mature TA functions report they have strong relationships with hiring managers, compared to only 56 percent at the lowest level of TA maturity. And our interviews found that the majority of TA leaders agree that recruiters who have the closest relationships with hiring managers outperform recruiters who do not have such close relationships.
While such relationships may seem commonplace, they do not always exist because the contemporary work environment is competitive and resource challenged. Hiring managers are eager to staff quickly to ensure their businesses can deliver results while maintaining positive working conditions for their team members—but they often don’t understand all the legwork required to fill a position. Recruiters, in turn, are incented to provide top talent for their organizations and are oftentimes measured on key metrics such as time to fill and hiring manager satisfaction—but they have no control over how fast a hiring manager responds to their requests to review resumes or set up interviews.
Fostering a positive relationship with a hiring manager is a journey that requires both patience and an honest assessment of the current state of the relationship. Many TA leaders believe their recruiters are perceived with high regard by hiring managers and company leadership; however, a 2014 study by ERE Media found that while recruiters and hiring managers have different views of recruiter performance—with recruiters giving themselves an average performance grade of B and hiring managers giving recruiters an average grade of C-plus—everyone agrees there is room for improvement.
As recruiters move toward building more productive relationships with hiring managers, the TA function will shift from reactive or tactical recruiting to more strategic recruiting. We believe there are five steps TA leaders and recruiters can take to begin collaborating more effectively with hiring managers:
· Assess the current maturity of relationships with hiring managers: To understand the evolution of their relationships with hiring managers, we suggest TA leaders and recruiters start by assessing their current capabilities, evaluating the maturity of the hiring manager / recruiter relationship.
· Develop a strategy for open positions: When establishing the parameters for a new role, recruiters should develop a plan to address the needs of the hiring manager, the open role, and the larger talent concerns across the business.
· Conduct recruiting strategy kick-off meetings: During the recruiting strategy kick-off meeting, recruiters should present potential candidates from their existing networks in an effort to calibrate their understanding of the role and more clearly define specific candidate attributes that will impress the hiring manager.
· Align expectations with service-level agreements (SLAs): Recruiters can deploy service-level agreements (SLAs) to make sure hiring managers’ expectations are properly aligned. SLAs define the roles and responsibilities for both hiring managers and recruiters during the recruiting process, as well as set realistic timelines for communication and other significant deliverables.
· Measure progress: The effectiveness of recruiter / hiring manager relationships is equally as important as more traditional measurements—such as time to fill, cost per hire, or candidate satisfaction metrics—yet it is often overlooked. The key lies in leveraging traditional metrics in tandem with evaluations of hiring manager satisfaction—what matters gets measured.
So what do you think? How else can recruiters better collaborate with hiring managers? As always, I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to add a comment below, connect with me on Twitter @RAEricksonPhD, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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 High-Impact Talent Acquisition: Key Findings and Maturity Model, Bersin by Deloitte / Robin Erickson, Ph.D., Kim Lamoureux, and Denise Moulton, 2014
 Source: “Can This Relationship Be Saved?” Human Resource Executive Online / Andrew R. McIlvaine, June 5, 2014, www.hreonline.com/HRE/print.jhtml?id=534357178
 Partnering with Hiring Managers: How Recruiters Can Improve Talent Acquisition Performance, Bersin by Deloitte / Robin Erickson, Ph.D., and Denise Moulton, 2015.