3 Big Keys for Recruiters Working With Hiring Managers

As recruiters, we don’t work in a vacuum — internally or externally. And while our success is largely predicated on how we communicate with candidates outside of the organization, the conversations we have with internal stakeholders are just as important. Because really, at the end of the day, outreach and recruitment initiatives hinge on effective onboarding conversations with hiring managers. But how can recruiters ensure successful conversations across such a diverse range of personalities, professions, and profiles?


Effective onboarding conversations start with the relationships we build with hiring managers.

Just as important as onboarding conversations are the relationships we build with our hiring managers. Successful relationships with hiring managers are based on two-way communication and collaboration — you’ll get nowhere with one-way conversations. This is true for several reasons:

Collaboration Leads to Clarity

Let’s face it: Hiring managers don’t always know what they want or how to communicate what they need. By structuring your intake conversation, you‘ll ensure that you cover all of the bases regarding the role and candidate profile. Your questions help the hiring manager get clarity on exactly what they need and expect, because, chances are, they haven’t fully thought through it yet (even if they think they have). Don’t be surprised if a hiring manager has to pause and think about the questions you pose. This process helps them AND you dial it in — it’s okay to ask questions and you should.

It Takes Two to Tango (and Create a Job Description)

Hiring managers don’t inherently know how to create a job description that clearly states objectives, necessary work, etc. It’s our job as recruiters to help them distill what they think they’re looking for into clearly stated wants, needs, and requirements, while also being written in a way that inspires candidates to apply.

Conversations Define Hiring Realities

Hiring managers may have no idea what the current state of the talent market is. They may be approaching purple squirrel zone with their expectations of the ideal candidate profile, causing them to ask for everything plus the kitchen sink. The intake conversation is a two-way street, and treating it as such means being able to gently bring internal partners back to reality if they’re expecting too much.

Effective Onboarding Conversations Have Tangible Benefits

After an effective conversation, both parties leave with an accurate, thorough understanding of the role that needs filled and the ideal candidate that needs targeted. If we facilitate the conversation right, we as recruiters will understand why the potential candidate would want this job. That understanding should shape outreach to candidates — it gets to the heart of what incentivizes them. Understanding the role properly also means we’ll be more helpful and accurate when discussing the opportunity with potential candidates.


So, how do we ensure effective intake conversations with hiring managers?

Effective conversations are a product of preparation, planning, and using the right frameworks to create a solid foundation. One such framework is the four steps below:

  1. Review the job description and prepare for the hiring manager conversation.
  2. Structure the conversation.
  3. Applying the contextual interview method to learn all about the new role from them.
  4. Nail down the interview process.

Getting Ready for the Conversation

If you’ve received the job description prior to the meeting, take the time to read through it and have notes and questions prepared. Think about the upcoming outreach messages you’ll write and the conversations you’ll have with potential candidates. Based on this job description as it is, ask yourself whether or not you have enough information to be able to address the following:

  • What are the 1 to 3 key objectives of this role? 
  • What problems will someone in the role solve/what opportunities will they address?
  • What’s one of the projects this role will contribute to?
  • What’s the current tech stack environment for this role, for this company?
  • What skills and experience are needed for this role?
  • How will success be measured?

If you can’t answer these questions on your own, make sure to discuss them in the meeting with the hiring manager. Even if you can pull answers from the job description, make sure to confirm those answers when you meet with them.

Structuring the Conversation

Launch the conversation by laying the groundwork for this role:

  1. Why is this role open?
  2. Who will this role report to?
  3. What’s the salary range for the role?

Applying the Contextual Interview Method

  1. Ask the initial contextual interview question, but aimed at the hiring manager’s point of view.
  • What’s going to be one of the first, or biggest, projects this person will be assigned to?
  • What are the goals of the project and how do you see them tackling it?

2. Follow up with additional questions in the contextual interview format with your hiring manager conversation, using the 5Ws as the basis of you questions:

  • WHO will this person be working with on this project? Who hands work off to them? To whom do they hand off their work to? Who will they report to?
  • WHAT are the goals of the project and how is it supporting the business? What are the expectations of this person in the first three months? The first 6 months? What is the work process you expect this person to take in this particular project? What skills and experiences do you need this candidate to have? What are the nice-to-haves and the must-haves?
  • WHERE within the dev or product team does this role operate?
  • WHY is this role important? Why would the ideal candidate be interested in having this position?
  • WHEN do they generally enter the project flow?
  • HOW will you/they know they’ve been successful in this role?

Nailing Down the Interview Process

Once you’ve got a full understanding of the role you’re trying to fill and the type of candidate you’re looking for, take a few minutes to nail down the interview process. You want this for your own planning, but it’s also something that you’ll share when speaking with potential candidates.

Interview plan:

  1. Who will review resumes?
  2. Who will be involved in the tech interview and what will they focus on?
  3. Who will be involved in the onsite interviews? What will they cover?
  4. Who makes the decision?
  5. What are the criteria for a candidate to be a ‘yes?’

Apply what you’ve learned

Now that you have a cohesive understanding of what the role is, the type of candidate you’re targeting and how the interviews will progress, it’s time to apply what you’ve learned to your recruiting process. Update the job description to reflect the goals of this open position and the work experience sought. Highlight the reasons this role is compelling when crafting your outreach messages.

When interviewing candidates, share what you learned during the contextual interview with the hiring manager to ensure that the candidate has a good understanding of the role and how they will be able to succeed in the role.

The more effective you are with your hiring manager conversations, the more effective you’ll be with your candidate searches.

Continue Your Learning

What we’ve just covered is merely the tip of the iceberg. We’ve created a handy Tech Cheat Sheet to be an additional resource for you. Our Tech Cheat Sheet goes more in depth on what tools engineers are using, definitions you should know, and how to apply your new tech know-how in conversations with candidates. Download our Tech Cheat Sheet and start making better tech placements today.


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