When You Should Never Tell Your Hiring Managers “OK”

Over the last few months I’ve been doing a lot of searches (so obviously it means working with a lot of hiring managers) and managing a team of recruiters. We were working on a multi-position recruiting project for mid level managers for a large entertainment company. So it was a great learning lab for refining and testing techniques for creating trusted advisor relationships with hiring managers—none of whom did we ever meet in person. 

One thing I noticed is how easily, accidently and inadvertently we as recruiters do things that reinforce the totally undeserved image of an order taker. These actions come from a good intention—to make things easier for the hiring manager, to be a team player, etc. But they sure backfire if we’re trying to build credible business partnership relationships. 

Here is an example. A recruiter told me the feedback from her hiring manager on a candidate she had presented was “He didn’t knock my socks off.” Her response? “OK.” And then her plan? To try harder in her sourcing to find someone who would knock off those socks. But how would she recognize someone who could do that? She had no idea what the hiring manager meant by that statement. 

In what way did the candidate fail to impress the hiring manager? What would it have taken for the candidate to knock off the hiring manager’s socks? What did he like about the candidate? Was there anything in the resume or background that could have alerted us that he would not be doing anything to the manager’s socks? 

You get the idea. Consultants, advisors, and business partners ask questions; order takers say OK when they hear these kinds of statements. 

The key to get the information you really need, and to begin to shed that old order taker image is to ask more questions.  I know it can take some courage to do what may seem like questioning your hiring manager, but that’s what trusted advisors do. You’ll really like the result—more information and a trusted advisor image. 

The only way you can know what the hiring manager really means is to ask more questions. Ask in a conversational way so it won’t seem like you’re arguing with the hiring manager or trying to get them to change their mind.  

OK should not be your answer to comments like:

  • Doesn’t seem to be a culture fit.
  • I think he would get bored in this job very quickly.
  • Don’t know what it was, but we just didn’t click.
  • This resume isn’t impressive. 

On the surface, these are often statements that seem to be so simple anyone would understand what they mean. But just because we’ve all heard some of these things a million times, it doesn’t mean we know what they are really saying. You may also be surprised to see the hiring manager has trouble articulating what they mean. Your questions will help both of you get to the relevant information. 

You get the idea. The next time you hear a vague statement disguised as real feedback, stifle the OK and start asking questions.

For more "results right away" tips for working with your hiring managers, please visit:



Just a few minutes ago I got this email from a recruiter I've been coaching:

I HAVE to share an email I got from a Sr. HR Manager today who has been a "challenge" to work with!

"Erin, First, the fact that you are asking and pushing back and challenging us to think about our metrics is nothing short of awesome!!! Keep it up!” 

And it only happened after taking your advice and not saying "Ok" but instead responding with some questions and suggestions! And I'll add that this particular person is the ONLY person who has ever had me in tears before b/c I thought he was questioning my every move!

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