Understanding Questions Recruiters Ask Hiring Managers

Hiring Managers and Recruiters often have a huge disconnect, largely based on their wants and expectations not aligning. It doesn’t matter how experienced the individuals are; disconnect happens, and it happens often.

To understand this, let’s first look at the differences between Recruiters and Hiring Managers to understand where disconnect comes from:


  • Hires based on candidate’s active interest in organization
  • Finds relevant candidates when needed
  • Relies heavily on candidate’s current skill set
  • Maintains a candidate pipeline on a need-to-hire basis
  • Screens as many candidates as fits current or near-future need


  • Identifies talent early by developing and building an ongoing relationship
  • Creates options for future opportunities and stays ahead of the demand
  • Screens applicants based on candidates’ overall qualifications, assets in their field

Neither of these ways of going about hiring are right or wrong, but oftentimes a recruiter’s and hiring manager’s desires vs. their ‘must haves’ don’t match up.

Some common comments by Recruiters:

  • My Hiring Manager does not understand what I do.
  • My Hiring Manager never knows what he/she wants.
  • My Hiring Manager does not communicate with me – I always need to track him/her down.
  • My Hiring Manager only wants me to email them resumes.

Some common comments by Hiring Managers:

  • My recruiter does not understand my business.
  • My recruiter does not understand what I need/want.
  • My recruiter does not communicate with me – I need to track him/her down.
  • My recruiter just emails me the resumes to review – I make the decision on who to bring in.

The question is: Why do we have this disconnect? There are multiple answers to this question, with much of the responsibility on the recruiter’s end. Hiring Managers are not innocent in this disconnect; however, the recruiter should be the one driving the process to fix the disconnect.

So what can we do fix this disconnect? Here are few points to consider:

  • Become subject matter savvy
  • Communicate often (Good or Bad)
  • Develop the reputation as a problem solver
  • Lead your manager when developing the search strategy
  • Lead your manager when taking the job order

The notion of leading your hiring manager is key to developing an effective relationship with them. Many recruiters take for granted what the manager is looking for and do not ask the right questions, in the right way, to solicit the needed response.
Experienced and junior recruiters alike often forget to ask basic questions or deep follow-up questions to really understand the position and, more importantly, what the Hiring Manager has in mind. For example, most recruiters ask the basic questions that include: What are the minimum position requirements? What does the ideal candidate look like? Is this a replacement or new position? What is the position compensation? When do you need it filled?

Often it’s how we ask the question that makes the real difference.

For example, instead of asking ‘What are the minimum requirements of the role?’

Ask: What specific experience does the candidate need to have? Rank those in order of need.

When asked to define the specific experience and skills needed and to rank them, you will hear your hiring manager rationalize each ‘requirement.’

You are likely to hear things such as, ‘I really need them to able to do XXXXX, however, I could possible train them to do YYYYY. Although they may have started with 8-10 must-haves, usually they will express what is really critical and paint a clear picture of their real needs: often only 4-5 items.

Instead of asking, ‘Why is the position open?’

Ask, ‘Where did the last three people in the role go?’

Understanding the success or failure of the previous candidate is critical to understanding the profile the manager is looking for. If one or two of the previous employees were promoted, ask follow-up questions and have the manager describe what made each person successful and what their previous experience was. This will paint a picture of what the hiring manager has in mind as to the correct profile even though it can differ from the actual job description.

In short, taking the job order the right way by asking the right questions is step one to better understanding the needs of our managers. It is our responsibility as trained recruiters to ask the leading questions that get a manager to properly describe the necessary skills and experience of the candidate. Saying ‘My manager doesn’t know what they need’ is a copout that can be avoided by a more structured approach to job order intake.

A Hiring Manager will often:

  • Give you a list of ‘Gotta Haves’
    • ‘I need someone with at least 10 years of experience in…..
    • ‘I need someone who has managed at least xxxx…


Lead your Manager with frequent discussion and communication.

Your Job as is to:

  • Question, Question, Question
  • Be realistic–Does the perfect candidate exist?
  • Have your manager rank skills/competencies
    • Eliminate ‘Years of Experience’ from list
    • Establish skills in which the candidate must be Proficient
    • Agree on ‘Must Haves’ and ‘Like to Haves’
      • No more than 3-5 ‘Must Haves’
      • No more than 4 ‘Like to Haves’

If the Recruiter and Hiring Manager don’t understand each other, it can be incredibly costly. Anb unclear position leads to a mis-hire and can cost a client up to a third of the new hire’s salary to replace them.

Avoid the disconnect between hiring managers and recruiters to save everyone time and headaches.

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