Get smarter about your job search. Visit my YouTube channel.

How Do Hiring Managers Hire?

The mind of the hiring manager is a strange and wonderful thing. A little knowledge of this is helpful when you’re looking for work. 

Let’s say I’m a typical hiring manager. As a headhunter and corporate recruiter, I worked with hundreds of them, and have been one myself, typical or not. 

The only reason I hire is to solve a problem. If I don’t have a problem, I’m sure not hiring someone, because then I WILL have a problem! If you’re thinking that hiring situations are opportunities, you’re thinking from the standpoint of the candidate, not the manager. While, strictly speaking, hiring IS an opportunity, there are precious few managers who see it that way. Hiring comes second only to firing as the worst aspect of management in the mind of the typical manager. 

I don’t like problems, especially having to go through the hiring process, which is an additional problem! I’m at risk when I hire! If I make a bad hiring decision, it will be costly to my employer and probably me and my career. So, when I’m hiring do I think, “I’m going to find Superman for this job!”? 

No. I think, “Circle the wagons! Kill’em all and let God sort it out. I’ll hire the survivor!” 


Three things go sequentially through the mind of the manager who needs to hire:

“Who do I know or have worked with in the past, who can do this work?”

If you are one of those friends and acquaintances, you’re going to get a phone call from me. Why? I want the warm fuzzies of hiring someone I know, like, and trust, because this negates my risk. I’m personally familiar with your track record. What’s more, you will get that call before I write a position description. I can take advantage of skills you have outside of this particular role, and write them into the position description. Additionally, I’m not concerned by what you may lack in terms of knowledge, because I’ve seen you at work, and I know your capabilities. Once they’re written into the position description, who do you think will get this job? It may look like a vacancy, but it’s not. 

Only if the answer to thought #1 is, “No one,” do I move on to thought #2.

"Who do I know who would know someone who can do this work?”

This is not a happy thought, because it means I can’t hire someone I know, like, and trust, but my increased risk is mitigated by the fact that you are referred to me by someone I know, like, and trust. I trust the referral source because we have history together. S/he knows me, knows how I work, knows my likes and dislikes, and wouldn’t refer an idiot or a jerk to me. 

Only if the answer to thought #2 is, “No one,” do I move on to thought #3.

 “I guess we’ll have to advertise the job. Arrggh!”

Now I’ve totally lost control of the situation. If I’m in a large company, I have to depend on HR to find someone. HR doesn’t really understand me, my work, or what I need, and they’ll hold me to whatever I write in the position description. If I work for a small company, I have to do all the hiring admin myself, and I don’t have time for that! 

If your resume gets to me, I’ll spend maybe 10 seconds to check it out. If I like what I see, I’ll spend another 20 seconds on it. If I still like what I see, your resume goes into the small pile—the people I’ll interview. But my risk relative to you is mitigated by … nothing! You could be Goober Smokebreak (a not quite with-it character in my job search book, When Can You Start?)! 

Is it any wonder that the interview, if you get one, won’t be fun? This is complicated by the fact that I, as hiring manager, have most likely had either no or really bad training in how to hire, or I’ve been given a set of questions by HR and told to ask these questions, and ONLY these questions, or both. Note the fact that the hiring manager is trying to get rid of you when s/he needs to hire makes no logical sense whatsoever. But it makes perfect human nature sense! 

This should demonstrate the value of networking for you. I believe, through experience, that only about one third of jobs can be found online. Another third is vacancies that aren’t being advertised, and the most important third is not vacancies, but problems. Many is the time that, as a corporate recruiter, I was simultaneously handed a position description and a resume by a manager who said, “Hire this guy!” 

In talking with someone when hiring isn’t on the table, you have a good chance of being thought of when I go through the above three-part thought process. 

Make sense?