The Intimidating Hiring Manager and The Bad Candidate Experience That Results

I have had a few of these types of managers in the past - the types that for some reason intimidate and belittle the candidate even before the interview begins OR within the interview goes so far south in the way they question the candidate. Where the interview becomes more like a Sopranos Mob Inquisition, or almost like an FBI interrogation that the candidate is ready to throw in the towel before the interview even completes. 

Let me warn you now - I will say this with all due respect - but if you are a manager and you can't make the candidate feel at ease, you are missing out on a whole bunch of information that would be very valuable to you.  This is the hiring manager whom will reject a candidate because the manager might be intimidated, or didn't pull out enough information, or gasp - the candidate didn't meet your high standards of perfection - there are times when a hiring manager needs a little reality check.  Admit it recruiters - you have sometimes wanted to reach through the phone and take a recruiting text book and bop your manager on the head.

I feel for my hiring managers, I really do - but there are times when we are going to have to be candid and nail them with a reality check.  That hiring manager whom hires someone, then loses them after 6 months to a year and then wonders why - oh gasp - that this person left for a better opportunity?  Here is the thing all managers need recruiting TLC - but let me tell you a bad interviewing manager is almost as bad as a bad hire.  Why? Because intimidating a candidate will make your search drag on and on, and even worse when you finally hire because you were worn down and settled (your manager feels they have settled, because they didn't ease the candidate into opening up to get the key and core information) then you lose that person.  If a candidate has a bad hiring manager experience it is the recruiter's wonderful opportunity to help your company save face, to build that candidate's ego back up.  If you have a key skill set and Mr. Hiring Manager doesn't have the common decency or the common professionalism to set a candidate at professional ease well then Mr. Hiring Manager you have failed in your number one duty and perhaps are not fit as a manager in the first place.  The number one key skill every manager should have is interviewing.

Along the way we will have opportunities as front line staffing professionals to consult and provide some guidance to hiring managers, this is where the partnership with HR is so critical - once again they are tied at the hip - to train hiring managers on how to interview and how to do the interview in such a way that can pull out shining nuggets of information is as vital to the hiring process as say - water is to the thirsty traveler in a dessert.

I can't say how many times I have seen bad managers interview and it makes me want to pull my hair out.  When candidate after candidate - golden and then some goes before the kiss of death manager, it is then you may have to give that candidate a caveat.  You may have to say look Mr. Candidate, Mr. Manager is a little awkward at times, but because your skill set is an amazing one we must have you interview.  Many times it is the recruiter who puts forth the ultimate interview test and can remind that hiring manager what is the best practices to success in filtering through an interview.  A good recruiter will weed out about 95% of all candidates and get the top talent and most diverse talent in front of the hiring manager to review.  A hiring manager who needs some reminding about how long and important the hiring process is, can be given the sense of urgency and knowledge needed to be successful.

Nothing is more beautiful then hiring a new manager and being that manager's "recruiter".  Having that new blood can change another "set in their ways" manager quickly and through your efforts you can build rapport and remind that new manager how the onboarding process should work - treat them well and model the right behavior.  Soon a new manager will be in the environment with the "set in their ways" manager and will change the dynamic quickly.  Sometimes more seasoned managers whom have been with the organization a long time may need some more interview refreshers, especially if candidate feedback is mixed, and consistently showing some candidate concerns.  In that instance getting that manager's boss involved and providing proactive feedback that limits defensiveness is as powerful a game changer as any.  I can tell you many times that I have found that a recruiter can take enormous action and focus on the good outcomes, model an incredible outcome of culture change one hire at a time.

Internal Hires - these are the most interesting of the ones we may be involved with - a situation where someone is promoted from within, or a situation where guidelines exist about the internal population and how they interect must be watched carefully.  In the intake session it is wise to lay the groundwork with a hiring manager and tell them that limiting the political landscape by making the internal steps reasonable, and not showing favoritism is as vital to success internally as sourcing is to external recruiting.

Many times your client hiring managers may need a reminder.  Remember candidate experience is really up to the recruiter to model good experience behaviors and build successful outcomes based on sure methodologies that illicit open and honest coaching opportunities.  Staffing must be a central partner sometimes in ongoing managerial interviewing education.

Disclaimer - This post is of my own creation and does not reflect the views and opinions of ADP, it's subsidiaries or clients - I am solely responsible for it's content.

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Comment by Gerry Crispin on July 3, 2013 at 8:57am

A great post that digs into one of the facets of how we treat candidates who get to that finalist stage.

One of the few academic studies on this subject notes that the focus of a candidate's interest/trust shifts at this stage from the recruiter to the hiring manager...unless of course the hiring manager is a *dumbass*.

Unfortunately, we'll never 'require' managers to train and demonstrate adequate skills in order to use the title of 'manager'...just not practical. And you are probably not going to be in the interview observing the manager do his/her thing anyway. So good prep of a manager is your best bet. But only a careful debriefing of candidate about the details of the his/her experience with the manager will give you the real clue that the manager is taking your advice and guidance. Two practices [prep and debrief] that should not be shortchanged by any recruiter.

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