Published September 19, 2023

How to Effectively Work with a Recruiter

Whether you are collaborating with an internal recruiter or have opted for the services of an external recruiting or search firm, there is an optimal way to work with recruiters of any type. The recruiting process can be broken down into several phases:

1. Defining the Need

Before reaching out to a recruiter for assistance, as the hiring manager, you need to determine the business problem you aim to solve. Clearly articulate how and why hiring a person will help you address that problem. Do you need someone to manage a team? Does your company lack specific expertise? Is your workload exceeding your current team’s capacity? Consider whether your needs are strategic, functional/operational, related to volume, or expertise. Once you’ve identified the business need, contact your recruiter.

2. Determining the Profile

With the business need defined, you can meet with your recruiter to establish the profile. This profile consists of the necessary combination of professional experience, education, training, credentials, and skills required to fulfill the role that addresses your business need. Most recruiters, both internal and external, can guide you through this process. Be prepared to make compromises, as not every requirement combination may be available in the job market. In cases where the business need cannot be met with a single hire but your budget is limited, prioritize the most critical aspect of your business need for the initial hire. Additionally, consider what skills can be trained and what cannot. While technical skills can often be taught, behavioral skills are harder to develop. Are there skills that could expedite the learning curve, such as proficiency in a similar programming language?

3. Calibration

Once you and your recruiter have agreed on a profile, it’s time to evaluate the market to identify candidates who match it. This is a valuable step where the recruiter can present ten to fifteen LinkedIn profiles that align with the agreed-upon profile. Discuss what works, what doesn’t, what’s present, what’s missing, and any unexpected qualifications you’d like to add to the profile. Modify the profile as needed and proceed to the next step in the recruiting process.

4. Sourcing

Sourcing involves identifying candidates who match the profile through research and outreach. While the recruiter typically handles research, as a hiring manager, you can also suggest places to look for candidates. Think of trade associations, online communities, conferences, meetup groups, and other places where potential candidates might be active, both online and offline. While LinkedIn is a valuable resource for identifying professionals, not everyone is present there. This is an opportunity for both you and your recruiter to get creative in finding candidates. Once the recruiter has identified several candidates, outreach begins, typically through email, phone calls, or LinkedIn messages, to spark initial interest from candidates in having a conversation with either the recruiter or the hiring manager. It often takes multiple outreach attempts, sometimes up to seven, to engage even interested parties. While this process unfolds, and if you’re fortunate, you may also receive applications for the publicly posted job. The recruiter will review these applications and proceed with those who meet the qualifications for the next step in the process: Screening and Interviewing.

5. Screening & Interviewing

You might be wondering about the difference between screening and interviewing. Screening is a brief conversation with a potential candidate conducted by either the recruiter or you, the hiring manager, sometimes by both. Its purpose is to determine whether the candidate meets the minimum qualifications and is a reasonable fit for the company culture. The goal is to filter out candidates who, in the opinion of the recruiter and the hiring manager, are unlikely to resolve the business need. Candidates who pass the screening can advance to the interview process. While screening is designed to disqualify candidates, interviews are meant to qualify them. The interviews should occur promptly, with interview panels consisting of no more than five interviewers. When you met with your recruiter to determine the profile, you identified must-have qualifications and behaviors. These qualifications and behaviors should guide your interviews and selection criteria (more on the selection process in the next section). You can assign one theme to each interviewer or have each interviewer explore all themes. The interview panel should be composed carefully, balancing the task of qualifying candidates with promoting the position and the company. Keep in mind that you ultimately want a candidate who is both qualified and interested. A typical interview panel includes 1) the hiring manager, 2) a peer of the hiring manager, 3) the hiring manager’s manager, 4) a potential peer of the candidate, and 5) a stakeholder. If you’ve already interviewed the candidate, there’s no need to repeat the interview, but be available to answer the candidate’s questions and serve as their guide through the interview process. Plan the interviewers in advance, schedule the interviews efficiently, and inform candidates upfront about the entire process and time commitment. This approach encourages maximum engagement from candidates. Once you’ve completed the final interviews, it’s time to select a candidate and make an offer.

6. Selection & Offer

As you schedule interviews, plan for an interviewer debrief, preferably immediately following the last interview. During this debrief, you, the recruiter, and the interviewers will discuss all candidates and their alignment with the qualifications and behaviors that interviewers were exploring during their meetings with candidates. It’s helpful to maintain a scorecard indicating whether a candidate demonstrated or did not demonstrate the required capabilities. Based on this, candidates can be ranked according to their alignment with requirements and their potential to address your business needs. Select the candidate everyone is most confident in and proceed to make an offer. The candidate’s compensation expectation should have been determined during the screening step, and the offer should reflect that expectation, provided it is reasonable. The recruiter will present the offer, and as the hiring manager, you should call the candidate immediately to express your excitement about having them join the team. Maintaining momentum and excitement at this stage is crucial. If the candidate declines, move on to the next candidate if available; otherwise, you’ll need to develop another candidate. If the candidate accepts, you can move on to the final step in the recruiting process: Onboarding.

7. Onboarding

Once the candidate accepts, it’s vital that you and the recruiter keep the candidate engaged until their start date. Many factors can come into play between acceptance and the start date, such as competing opportunities/offers, counteroffers from their current company, or changes in their life circumstances. To prevent surprises and maintain the candidate’s engagement and excitement, stay in touch once a week until they start. Build rapport to ensure an effective start.


The partnership between a hiring manager and a recruiter is crucial to the success of each stage of the recruiting process, starting with defining the need. This partnership guides you toward successfully onboarding the ideal hire to solve your business problem.

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