Hiring Manager Satisfaction Surveys: The Worst Thing to (Still) Happen to Talent Acquisition

By Linda Brenner | November 20, 2023

Despite the growing challenges of the talent marketplace and the difficult in finding, winning and retaining top talent (particularly for those with scarce skills), organizations continue to struggle to measure the effectiveness of their hiring teams. One ineffective yet long-standing practice involves hiring managers completing a 'recruiter satisfaction survey' to rate how well recruiters responded to their hiring preferences. It’s high time to recognize how arcane and counter-producive this approach is – and institute more meaningful metrics that truly reflect the success of a recruiting function and the value of talent acquisition investments.

The fundamental flaw in the recruiter satisfaction survey lies in its reinforcement of an antiquated and counterproductive hierarchy. By positioning recruiters as subservient entities catering to the whims, preference, beliefs and (yes) biases of hiring managers, this approach perpetuates the illusion that success in recruiting is synonymous with making the hiring manager happy. These surveys also become a tool for reinforcing the status quo, stifling diversity and perpetuating a cycle of homogeneity that hampers organizational innovation. Last, it mires organizations in the past - the way it’s been done - rather than the innovating to address the most challenging talent marketplace any of us has ever operated in. 

Recruiting functions need to establish themselves as credible experts: “Here, let me describe how this is going to work best, step-by-step” instead of relying on the manager to tell them how they want it to work. This type of partnership requires influence, knowledge and collaboration.

In reality, the most crucial indicators of recruiting success have nothing to do with a few check marks on a survey that a hiring manager may (or may not) provide after the fact. 
The assumption that a smiling face and compliance with a hiring manager's directives equates to effective recruiting fails to address the ultimate goals of recruitment. The true measures of recruiting success reside in the outcomes of the hired candidates – also known as “quality of hire". Did the new hires stay in the role? Did they perform well? Were they retained and promoted over time? These are the questions that should guide the evaluation of a recruiting team's efficacy – and the effectiveness of its sources. By shifting the focus from subjective satisfaction surveys to objective performance metrics (speed, diversity, quality of hire and cost effectiveness), organizations can foster a more meaningful and results-oriented recruitment strategy.

And, with apologies to TA leaders everywhere (I was one), this is not about ‘who gets in trouble’ but how can we improve the process? If TA results are disconnected from effective hiring sources and retention of talent, there are very few ways to justify the investment in what is often a seven (or eight) figure annual budget for TA.

Instead of gauging recruiter success through the lens of compliance with managers' preferences, organizations should emphasize the strategic aspects of recruiting. Successful recruiting is about understanding the organization's goals, aligning recruitment strategies with those objectives, and ultimately contributing to the growth and success of the company by continuously improving hiring and retention results.
Recruiters should be empowered to challenge conventional thinking, introduce innovative hiring practices, and prioritize diverse and inclusive candidate pools. Metrics such as total vacancy time, candidate throughput and drop out, source effectiveness and quality of hire (to name a few) provide a more accurate reflection of the value of talent acquisition investments than the opinions of managers who (let’s face it) may themselves be poor performers or not long-term players.

If after all this, you’re determined to keep the traditional recruiter satisfaction survey then AT LEAST implement a “Recruiter Satisfaction Survey” alongside it. 

This would include questions such as:
- Did the hiring manager meet with you in a timely way to discuss the spec of the role and recruiting strategy?
- Did they include a minimal number of interviewers?
- Did they attend and actively participate in a live candidate debrief?
- Did they change the spec of the job during the search?
- Did they put the job on hold?
- Did they ask you to keep a candidate “warm” while the process was delayed for any reason?

I don't care if you like me as much as I care if I'm recruiting high-performing, diverse talent who will stay and perform well in the role.

Better yet though, establish Service Level Agreements (recruitment SLAs) regarding (differentiated) process steps, timeframes and data-based outcomes that both parties are responsible for achieving. By doing this, we can pivot the narrative of the hiring manager as the customer to that of the true customer: the top talent in the marketplace we most need to win.

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