A hiring manager who says ‘I’ll know it when I see it’ is the recruiter’s nightmare. They are just flagging up that they have no intention of taking recruitment seriously and leaving all the responsibility with you.
So, if you are an internal recruiter, no matter how low down the hierarchy, it's your responsibility to push back. If you are an agency/RPO it's your responsibility to push back. And if you are a candidate, guess what? It's your responsibility to push back.
Get a job description and person spec. If they are not taking hiring seriously, should you take them seriously?
But it goes deeper than just not defining what is required. It also extends to the famous 'gut instinct' approach to recruitment. Add this in to the (lack of) process and it is hardly surprising that “Most companies spend 2% of their time recruiting and 98% of their time managing their recruitment mistakes” (stolen from Mervyn Dinnen's blog).
Many hiring managers, through time pressure, arrogance, ignorance, personality preference, but most often through fear, will 'cut through all the bullshit' – their description for the professional recruiters tool-kit of data gathering: the CV; qualifications; killer questions; case studies; psychometrics and ability tests; the structured interview; competency or strength based questioning; referencing; social media searches etc
However, there IS a time for gut instinct, something I have come to realise looking back at my big hiring mistakes.
Companies keep saying what they want. Values, drive and other specified behaviours are important, not just skills. You can gather data on these and you should, though this is complex, deep stuff and will take time. So don't reject on some arbitrary qualification bar. Don't reject CVs within 10 seconds (and don't boast about it). Run relevant assessment centres, gather evidence on how they live the values you want, take soundings internally and externally. Take them out to lunch, though maybe don't get them drunk.
And when all your evidence says yes? But your gut says NO? Then, and only then, do I go with instinct. And every time I have ignored it, I’ve made a mistake. Which hurts more than not filling the post and waiting longer for the right person.
As long as you are not discriminating against someone because of age, race, faith, sex, sexual orientation, disability, trade union membership, or indeed any other unacceptable reason….. then if it doesn't feel right at offer stage and you have done a really thorough and professional job, I think you've earned the right to trust your gut.
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