LinkedIn’s Head of Recruiting Shares His Tips for Setting Realistic Hiring Timelines

February 28, 2019

The need for speed. It’s one of the two things typically driving hiring managers and it can collide, painfully, with the other one: finding a quality candidate.

Brendan Browne, the head of global recruiting at LinkedIn, sees this clash all the time and calls it “a universal challenge in recruiting.”

It starts, Brendan says, “when the hiring manager is feeling very frustrated that their recruiter is not moving quickly enough.” Brendan adds that this particular point of friction may pop up nearly every week.

In this week’s episode of Talent on Tap, Brendan talks about how to defuse this potentially volatile situation and get your hiring manager synched with you on timing.

“I’m going to share with you a little exercise I do from time to time,” Brendan says, “in this very scenario when hiring managers are feeling frustrated, escalating, or whatever it may be, making my life unpleasant.”

Here are Brendan’s four steps to get everyone working from the same schedule:

1. Meet in person to have the clearest communication

“Any time there’s heat, challenge, frustration,” Brendan says, “get in person with the hiring manager. Texts, emails, even phone calls, things get lost in translation. Sitting eye-to-eye with someone makes a huge, huge difference.”

2. Detail all the steps you’ll need to take, from job req to final offer and negotiations

After getting in the same room with his hiring manager, Brendan stands at a whiteboard to list all the steps that will need to be taken and he assigns a time window to each. For the purpose of his Talent on Tap walk-through, Brendan assumes that neither the job requisition or the job description has been completed.

He assigns a week to the job req and two weeks to the job description. From there, his steps include forming an interview panel; aligning the interview team; calibrating what kind of profiles look right; making recruiter phone screens; enabling hiring manager phone screens; organizing onsite interviews; and, if all has gone well, negotiating an offer and closing.

Your list doesn’t have to look exactly like Brendan’s. For example, you might choose to shorten it by tackling some tasks concurrently or you might have to extend it to account for people being on vacation or away for business. But the essential thing is you need to call out all the necessary steps and then assign realistic timeframes for each.

John Vlastelica, the founder of Recruiting Toolbox and cofounder of the Talent42 tech recruiting conference, says: “One of the biggest opportunity areas when working with hiring managers is to set better expectations on timelines. Recruiters must work with hiring managers to help them understand how long each of the major steps typically takes in the process, and how their actions can help — or hurt — their time to fill.”

As John suggests, part of this exercise is clarifying the shared responsibility. Speed isn’t all on you. Hiring managers need to see how they impact a big chunk of the timeline — filling the job req, writing the job description, pulling together the interview panel, giving you and the panel the clearest possible idea of what an ideal candidate looks like, being available for phone screens and onsite interviews, and having realistic expectations around salary.

Get the hiring manager’s agreement on the timeline before you set off to fill the role.

3. Spend time on alignment and calibration up front to avoid problems later on

Brendan believes it’s absolutely critical to get everyone on the interview panel in accord on what they’re doing and what they should be looking for.

“We need to get everyone in the room clear on what makes this person successful,” Brendan says. “What are the must-haves, the nice-to-haves, and what are the things that don’t really matter. I find this will make our process go much, much faster in the end. If we don’t do this now, you and I will be having this conversation in a couple of months and it will be much more painful.”

But there’s an even more important alignment that has to be made. The hiring manager and the recruiter have to be unified on what a strong candidate looks like. Brendan will send the hiring managers candidate profiles to deepen his understanding of what they're truly hoping for — and to understand what they don’t care about or may even want to avoid.

“Try leveraging calibration resumes/CVs of similar but unique potential candidates,” John Vlastelica suggests, “and ask the hiring manager to critique these sample resumes before you begin sourcing.”

This is particularly important because a Deloitte study found that while 80% of recruiters reported having a good grasp on the jobs they’re recruiting for, 61% of hiring managers said, I don’t think so.

4. Once you have agreed on the schedule, document it — and share it with the boss

In Brendan’s model, the search — with its nine distinct phases, from job req to negotiations and close — will take 16 weeks. “I’ll take a photo of this,” says Brendan, who then sends it back to the hiring manager — with a request.

Brendan always asks hiring managers to share the timeline with their bosses — “to make sure they’re clear about what the expectations should be.”

Sharing your viewpoint up front on what a successful recruiting effort will entail, how long it is likely to take, and how the hiring manager affects the speed of the search is critical if the hiring process is going to end with thumbs up rather than fingers pointing.

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