6 Unorthodox Questions Recruiters Should Ask Hiring Managers

August 6, 2015

As recruiters, we often feel like order takers when we meet with a hiring manager about an open position. In an effort to get the job requirements as quickly as possible, it’s easy to fall into a rut and ask the same questions. Things like:

  • What do you want to pay?
  • What are the major responsibilities?
  • What kind of education does it require?
  • What technology does the candidate need to be proficient in?

Yes, we need to know the nuts-and-bolts of the job duties, but only asking these types of questions results in boring job descriptions. Studies show the sophisticated job seeker (a.k.a passive candidates), want more than just a job description - they want the inside scoop on what it will take to stand out and get hired.

The solution lies in getting unconventional with the questions you ask hiring managers.

Use These Questions to Re-shape a Hiring Manager’s Mindset

When you’re taking down job requirements from hiring managers, you actually have an opportunity to re-shape their mindset about what the ideal candidate for the job looks like. Often, a hiring manager will ask for a “purple squirrel” without even realizing it. The long list of requirements can make it next-to-impossible for us to find even a handful of candidates that match the description. But, if we can use targeted questions to drive a discussion with the hiring manager around the realities of the market and the power of simplifying job requirements, the matching process can be made easier.

TIP: Frame questions in a way that force the hiring manager to justify their requests and simplify their demands.

With the above in mind, try asking these six questions to a hiring manager when taking down the job requirements for their open position:

1. What three adjectives immediately come to mind to describe the candidate who will be hugely successful in this role?

Force the hiring manager to articulate the soft skills they’re looking for in a candidate. Then, ask them to validate why they chose each one by giving an example of how that adjective would support them being successful in the role.

2. What three qualities would immediately get a person fired from this job and why?

Fear of getting the wrong person in the role is always in a hiring manager’s mind. Let them voice their concerns and get clear about who would fail in the position so you can share with candidates who won’t succeed at this job.

3. What worries you the most about having to hire someone for this job?

Different than who will fail in the role, this question is around the concerns the hiring manager may have around the process of finding the right person. If you can manage to their expectations, they will find the process less stressful. Keeping in mind, most hiring managers have never been formally (or properly!), trained in how to hire staff.

4. If you had to hire someone without any prior experience for this job, what kind of personality and aptitude would they need to quickly get themselves up-to-speed?

While every candidate needs some experience to hit-the-ground-running in a new job, we all know personality and aptitude play a much bigger role in the long-term success of a candidate. This question forces the hiring manager to think about those qualities and actively look for them in all candidates which can really improve the likelihood of them making a quality hire – even if they don’t have all the experience the hiring manager wanted.

5. In order to be considered for the job, what are three non-negotiable must-haves for the candidate?

Limiting the must-haves to three forces the hiring manager to shorten the qualifications and manages their expectations. It’s important to be up front with them and explain there is no such thing as a “prefect” candidate. The best way to do that is by getting them to be realistic about non-negotiables. Explain to them how much the candidate pool will deplete with each must-have.

6. What top three personas should the ideal candidate bring to the job?

One of the hottest new trends in hiring is persona-based recruitment. This allows recruiters and hiring managers to speak the same language when it comes to the talent needed for the job. This simple, free Career Decoder Quiz is a great tool to give to your hiring manager. Have them take the quiz to understand what their top three personas are. Then, using the explanations of all eight major personas in the workplace, the hiring manager can select the top three they feel are needed for the job. This simple process helps the hiring manager visualize the strengths needed to execute the job – making it easier for you to do the same!

If You Ask What You Always Ask, You’ll Get What You’ve Always Gotten

The real takeaway from this is you must be more thoughtful and creative with the questions you ask hiring managers. As mentioned above, most of them are not trained in how to recruit and hire. They have full-time jobs to do already. Since they often don’t know what to tell us about the job and the ideal candidate, we must get creative and ask questions in a way that will allow us to draw critical information out of them. From there, we can create job stories that attract better candidates. The more valuable information we get out of them prior to posting the job, the easier it will be to get them the talent they need!

P.S. – If you liked the post, I invite you to join me over at CAREERALISM to learn more about recruiter branding and how you can personally stand out and attract top talent.