Recruiter vs Hiring Manager vs HR: The Importance of Managing Those Relationships

The relationship between recruiters, hiring managers, and HR professionals has a reputation of being volatile. Although each role shares the same goal of placing great candidates in a new job, they have different methods and metrics to reach and measure success. So it’s no wonder that recruiters often lament the woes of working with HR and hiring managers, citing their unwillingness to adjust to a changing market, or an inability to communicate what their ideal candidate looks like. 

But the relationship is a two way street, because although HR and hiring managers may put up roadblocks for recruiters, if you don't take charge as the recruiter, aren’t clear with expectations, and don’t encourage your clients to participate in the recruiting process, then you’re not really setting yourself or your clients up for success. As the recruiter, the impetus lies with you to set the foundation and tone for a great recruiting experience, because working well with hiring managers and HR professionals is crucial in order to get great placements, plus they are great relationships to have in the future

Hiring Manager vs HR

Hiring managers and HR look for different things when reviewing candidates, and sometimes a recruiter is hired as a result of that friction. In order to navigate those two relationships, recruiters have to understand the key differences in how they view candidates, and how they communicate with recruiters.


Sometimes, recruiters don’t give HR professionals the respect they deserve, instead opting to focus on the hiring manager. But in any company, HR is the gatekeeper, and a recruiter doesn’t know how much power they might have in any given company. For this reason, a good recruiter always forges a relationship with HR as soon as possible. 

The HR department tends to look at a particular candidate differently than a hiring manager. They aren’t as concerned with qualifications and instead focus on company culture and best fit. This is both a challenge and an opportunity for you, because your candidates aren’t going to get by on qualifications alone, but at the same time, your candidates need more than qualifications to be successful in the workspace. HR has a better sense of the type of person they’re looking to hire, so their questions and interests are going to lie there.

Hiring Managers

Hiring managers think differently than their HR counterparts. For the most part, they are the final decision makers when it comes to hiring. That means they are going to be focused on the details of a candidate’s qualifications. Their questions are going to be more skills oriented, with the intent of simply understanding whether or not your candidate can do the job. Because of this, the hiring manager won’t worry so much about company culture.

How to Best Work With Hiring Managers and HR

Both hiring managers and HR professionals bring different perspectives to the table, and a successful recruiter understands that both perspectives are necessary for an employee to have success in any given company. For recruiters, the challenge is balancing and tempering those two perspectives and making sure the expectations stay clear, and that all boils down to one thing: Clear and effective communication. Here are some reasons why relationships with HR and hiring managers might be going awry and how you can overcome those challenges.

Take Charge

A lack of trust isn’t a good place to start when trying to build a relationship, and when recruiters begin work a company they haven’t worked with before, gaining that trust can be an uphill battle. This is especially true if there’s some lingering bitterness on HR’s end, due to their inability to find a candidate. Lack of trust can stem from a lack of leadership, so as soon as you can, take charge and be confident doing it. Remember, there’s a reason your client turned to you for their recruiting needs.

It’s good to directly tell HR and the hiring manager that you believe you are great at your job, and you are excited to work with them to bring them the best candidates possible. Continue to let both the hiring manager and HR know that you were hired because you have expertise in recruiting and know how to find the candidate they’re looking for. Someone who takes charge of a process comes off as in control or trustworthy, that’s how you want your clients to view you. 

Set Expectations

Believe it or not, recruiters sometimes fail to meet client expectations. This can happen for a number of reasons, the most important being a misunderstanding over what their ideal candidate looks like. Often, HR and hiring managers may know what they want in a candidate, but are having a tough time vocalizing it in clear and concise terms. To make matters worse, they might ot have a great understanding of the current job market and the type of candidate that will be available for them. Those two issues together can lead to poor candidates, strained relationships, and an unsuccessful placement. This is especially true for those who haven’t had to hire candidates in the recent past, and thus do not have a clear picture of the current job market. 

Before you really dive into the recruiting process, take the time to establish expectations and guidelines. A good way to do this is to hold a formalized intake meeting, where you and your client can take the time to set expectations and vocalize issues and concerns. Try to figure out how many candidates seems like a fair number to submit, how many times in a week are you going to meet with them. What does interviewing look like? Try and agree on vocabulary that will help you better understand their ideal candidate. Go through your specific process with them and how they can support you, because in order to effectively move forward, every party must be on the same page.

Encourage Participation

Nothing makes a recruiter more frustrated than clients who lack a sense of urgency and don’t engage with the recruitment process. This can be especially maddening if you’re doing all the right things to deliver the best candidates, only to be met with radio silence. While the client drags their feet, the candidate gets picked up by one of your client’s competitors. Then, when the client is finally to move forward, you have to tell them that the candidate is no longer available and has chosen a position at another company. And then you get blamed!

This can be avoided by encouraging participation early on and letting them know that the best best candidates come when everyone involved is invested in the process. Tell them to ask questions for clarification. Explain to them how scarce the market is candidates and let them know how important time-to-hire really is. Instill a sense of urgency and excitement by detailing the types of candidates they’ll be reviewing. Essentially, sell it. Make them believe in you and your process, and participation will follow.

Good Communication is On You

At the end of the day, there’s no guarantee that HR and hiring managers are going to be your perfect client. In fact, variables dictate that everyone you work with is going to have some sort of hangup or issue at some point along the process. Building and navigating the relationship between recruiters, hiring managers, and HR can be a challenge, but that challenge can be overcome. Set yourself up for success from the get-go. Take charge to dispel any hesitations with working with you, set expectations so everyone is on the same page, and encourage participation with the process, so your clients stay engaged and share a sense of urgency. Good communication and transparency is paramount for finding the best candidates, and if you’ve done your job well and right, hiring managers, and especially HR professionals, will want to work with you again.