Getting to first base with a hiring manager means getting them to feel “safe” with you

I provide recent MBA grads with job search advice. Many of them are keen to leverage their degree into a related job or advance their career. For example, Chandra is trying to leverage her MBA-Human Resources concentration into an HR Specialist role.

She recently applied for such a job with her current employer but it was given instead to another employee with no HR education who had filled that role temporarily. The HR Manager asked Chandra to take the internal Recruiter role left vacant by that employee.

Naturally, Chandra was a bit miffed at being passed over for someone who had not invested their own time, energy and money in higher education. Feeling unappreciated by her employer, she redoubled her online search to find a job elsewhere, only to run into a brick wall—-she has not received any callbacks for interviews.

Like so many others, Chandra feels she has done everything right by being a good employee adding value to her employer, taking the initiative to go back to school to upgrade her skills, and now deserves her just reward–a better job in line with her degree. And, when you look at it from her point of view…she’s right!

I understand her frustration but I asked her to look at the hiring process from the HR Manager’s point of view. He was simply doing the most natural thing in the world!

Getting that job was important to Chandra, but I pointed out that she is not the most important person in the hiring process because she doesn’t get to hire herself; that task is still in the hands of the HR Manager. And his priority, naturally, is to protect and promote his own career first and foremost.

Chandra admits that she had never met that manager prior to applying for the position of HR Specialist—that’s a major reason she didn’t get the job! He doesn’t know her, and he’s not going to risk his career on hiring someone that could jeopardize it. Instead, he hired someone that had worked for him for several years, and someone who had performed that role temporarily without “relevant” education.

It is “safer” for him to hire someone he knows as reliable, dependable, and competent, over Chandra, who is “qualified” but unknown to him; in short, she is too much of a risk for him. What if she has a personality flaw and can’t get along with him and they end up in a dispute, or litigation? Not to mention the many other possibilities that could lead to some kind of workplace conflict that could jeopardize his career. I’ve written about this in more detail in another post, but suffice to say here that few managers will take that kind of risk if they don’t have to.

By offering Chandra a lower level position as an internal Recruiter in his department, he is saying in effect, “Thank you for applying for this position. I like what I see so far. But I really don’t know you well enough at this point to take such a big risk with my career. Please accept this other position so that I can get to know you better. Once I feel safe with you, I will feel confident about promoting you into an HR Specialist role.”

I recommend that she take the internal recruiter position, and use it as an opportunity to deepen rapport with her HR Manager. This makes his job easier when it comes to hiring in the future.

If she wants to prospect externally for opportunities, I suggest that she focus on a pro-active job search strategy, by identifying preferred employers, getting the names of HR directors, using her contacts to get face-to-face with them to establish the same kind of rapport that is a pre-requisite of any hiring situation (except desperate ones!) . I have outlined this process in my free webinar ‘Secrets to a Successful Job Search.’

Your job, as a job seeker, is to reduce that risk for a hiring manager, by giving them a chance to get to know you. The purpose of these meetings is not to get a job but to build rapport with a manager so that they feel “safe” with you.

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