In recruiting, relationships are everything. There are your candidate relationships, of course. Nurturing the high performers in your pipeline is a big part of the job. But the relationships you build with your hiring managers are even more important. You could have access to the best talent on the market, and you still couldn’t be successful without strong relationships with the people who hire that talent.

Part of it is the nature of the work. If you’re in recruiting, you don’t have a proprietary product, there’s nothing to patent. You don’t have a secret sauce, or a family recipe. Sure, you’ve got your talent pipeline, your database, but at the heart of it, the only real asset you’ve got is you. Your credibility, and the trust and confidence that hiring managers have in you. All of which begins with those relationships.

It takes time to build a solid relationship; time, and consistent actions that build trust. But there are things you can do to shorten that time, and to keep your focus on the actions that will foster the kind of relationship you want.

There’s an overarching mindset that can improve any relationship in your life, whether business or personal. That mindset is one of partnership. If there’s a relationship in your life that’s important to you, one that you want to build or improve, or even fix, start by thinking as a partner would. Partners look for ways to help each other. They seek to make the other’s life easier or better. They find ways to bring value to the relationship. Approaching the relationship from that stance gives you a head start on making it a strong one.

A mindset is ‘big picture’, though. Let’s get tactical, and look at three specific ways you can be a good partner.

Communicate and Be Responsive

At the heart of it, your business is getting important information from one party to another, as accurately and as efficiently as possible. This means keeping the lines of communication open and humming.

This should probably go without saying, but there’s evidence to suggest that some people still need reminding: be as available as possible. This doesn’t mean working 24/7, nobody can expect that, and nobody should. So, when you’re not immediately available, respond as quickly as possible to messages that folks have left for you.

Want to go from good to great? Your outgoing voicemail message and your email auto-responder are great tools, if you use them well. Rather than a generic outgoing message on your voicemail, consider updating it every morning with today’s date. If you’re going to be difficult to reach because you’re in meetings, say so. Same goes for your auto-responder; it’s not just for vacations. If you know you’re buried in back-to-back meetings all day, set up your email to let people know that, and tell them when they can expect to hear back from you. If it’s easier for you to get text messages or to call your cell, give people that option. Oh, and when you call someone back and get their voicemail? Bonus points for giving them the best ways and times to get back to you. Nobody likes a game of phone tag.

Be Open and Transparent

It’s fun to bring information to someone when we know they’re going to like that information, isn’t it? Not so much when the news is unpleasant. Human beings have a remarkable capacity for procrastinating when it comes to avoiding conversations like that. But here’s the thing. It’s so much better to be the bearer of bad news now, than of a surprise later.

Don’t put off difficult conversations. Coming up short of candidates on a requisition? First choice candidate pulling out of the running? Or maybe they got a generous counter-offer from their current employer and they’re going to take it? Is the salary too low, or are the expectations too high? Is someone in the interview process not representing the company well? None of these situations will be fixed, or helped, by waiting. Do whatever you need to do to prepare – script yourself, practice in a mirror, listen to some music that gets you pumped up. Then have the conversation. This can be particularly difficult when ‘speaking truth to power’ – communicating with a particularly senior or demanding hiring manager – but it’s even more important in those cases.

The ‘good to great’ move here is to bring solutions, not just problems. If you’ve got difficult news to share, think about possible answers to the problem, and bring one or two recommendations to that conversation.

Being honest and transparent with hiring managers won’t damage the relationship, even when you’re communicating unpleasant news. On the contrary, you’ll demonstrate that you can be counted upon to share the critical developments and possible courses of action that hiring managers need to do their jobs well. In doing so, you’ll earn respect and trust, and build a stronger relationship.

Offer Real Value

Sure, a recruiter can do okay in their job by filling reqs quickly and well. Do you just want to do okay? Since you’re reading this, probably not. You want to be great. The final key to developing great relationships with your hiring managers is to bring real value to those relationships. Specifically, valuable information.

Your job puts you in the position of having a bird’s-eye view of a vitally important landscape: the market for talent. The information and insights you gather through the course of your work can make you an invaluable resource to the hiring managers you work with. They need the information you have.

You know the positions where demand is outstripping supply. You know the geographic pockets where you may have better results finding the people you need. You know where you’re stronger than the competition, and you also know where the competition has you beat. You understand what could be added to compensation packages to ‘sweeten the pot’, and bring candidates to the table that otherwise might not get there. You probably know all these things. You just might not be aggregating and organizing what you know. Now’s the time to start.

Get curious. Bring the investigatory instinct of a detective and the analytical mind of a consultant to your work. If you’re noticing a particular trend, what supporting information can you find to help you understand why that trend is happening? Looking at what you know, what can you extrapolate as to where that trend might lead? Take a look at the situations over the past quarter where you haven’t been as successful as you would have liked. What insights can you draw from those situations that allow you to offer hiring managers the kind of counsel that will help you – and them – succeed?

Insights happen when people like you pull together the pieces of information they know, and see how they affect the world around them. You have the dots, now you just need to connect them. Your insights about the market for the talent hiring managers need are one of the most valuable things you can offer them. That makes this one of the best and fastest ways to build a strong and productive working relationship.

To wrap up …

Creating and building great working relationships with hiring managers isn’t rocket science. Be communicative and responsive, be open and transparent, and use the information you have to offer the insights hiring managers need. All of this begins with being a good partner, and a good partnership is a beautiful thing.

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