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Recruiting Hiring Managers as Partners, Part 3

By Jay Barnett, Founder and Chief Technology Officer
With Tom Brennan, Senior Writer


Part 3 – Helping Hiring Managers Leave Room for Learning

In my last two posts I’ve been making a case that hiring managers (HMs) should actively engage in any search as a partner with the recruiter. This will ensure the recruiter goes to market with the ability not only to screen out the wrong candidates but also, and more importantly, to attract the right ones. I also covered how it will benefit HMs to be flexible with requirements. Here I want to take that one step further: HMs should offer candidates the opportunity to learn, and to learn something valuable.

If you’re a recruiter you’re probably on board with all these points — the tricky part is convincing your HMs. The most compelling reason is also the simplest and most straightforward: when it comes to attracting and hiring the best talent, the hiring manager has, by far, the most skin in the game. But let’s also look at some other reasons.

Loving Learning

I doubt many will disagree with the contention that the best employees tend to exhibit an ongoing hunger to learn and grow. In fact, several recent surveys indicate that the number one factor that keeps employees engaged in a job is the opportunity to learn something new. This is especially true for IT and other technical positions, but it applies across the board.

Of course, HMs often want a candidate to walk through the door with ALL the knowledge and experience associated with the job — the mantra is, “I want a candidate who can hit the ground running.” But if you want to hire and retain those top caliber employees, doesn’t it make more sense to attract them based on what they can learn and grow into?

Just Passing Through?

Once an employee masters a job, he or she should be ready to move up, and if the HM only hires people who have already mastered the job, that job could become a revolving door. If you want to hire long-term employees, find candidates and engage them. In fact, to the extent that the skill sets on the HM’s team are in high demand, the HM has to assume that team members are being courted by other employers . . . and if they are not learning and growing in their current role, the HM is vulnerable. Learn ’em or lose ’em!

Turn Requirements into Selling Points

I’m not suggesting that you hire someone totally green and invest hours and hours in training that person. I AM suggesting that it is in the best interests of the hiring manager to consider which skills and experiences are absolutely essential, and where there is wiggle room for the candidate to learn and grow. Take knowledge, skills and abilities (KSA) and flip the emphasis to abilities, skills and knowledge: ASK and you shall receive.

Suppose the HM’s requirements include (1) At least five years of SQL programming, (2) At least two years of experience with data warehousing, and (3) familiarity with electronic data interchange. Now picture a Venn diagram of the requirements. The candidate pool represented by each circle may be deep (but not always!), but when you overlap two and then three, the candidate pool has become very, very shallow. Consider this alternative approach: “As long as you have at least two of these areas and a demonstrated ability to learn quickly, this is your opportunity to learn the third.” To take it a step further, I will pose this question: even if you can hire someone who meets every requirement, should you? Is that necessarily in your best interest?

Hopefully this will help you convince HMs to intentionally leave room for candidates to learn. This is consistent with one of Decision Toolbox’s guiding philosophies: “design what you want or deal with what you get.”

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2 Responses to “Recruiting Hiring Managers as Partners, Part 3”

  1. March 29, 2013 at 6:19 pm, Recruiting Hiring Managers as Partners Part 2 | Blog | Decision Toolbox said:

    […] Next up: Part 3 – Helping Hiring Managers Leave Room for Learning Tags: @decisiontoolbox, Decision Toolbox,, employment, hiring, hiring by design, Jay Barnett, recruiting, recruiting practices, Recruiting Tips, recruitment services, sourcing, staffing, talent acquisition, Tom Brennan Comment (RSS)  |  Trackback […]


  2. April 16, 2013 at 7:35 am, Shaping Perception in the Art of Communication, Part 4 | Blog | Decision Toolbox said:

    […] talking about and (2) have good ideas to help them achieve their goals. Borrowing from a recent post by Decision Toolbox (DT) Founder Jay Barnett, you might even turn the negative into a selling […]


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