Call it a Kickoff, Not an Intake

Tips I wish I had learned earlier in my career

Jason Gingrich

Jason Gingrich

Talent Acquisition Lead at Intrinsic, an Alphabet Company.

Like many other recruiters, I have more recruiter friends than I can count. Like many other recruiters, we all have a hard time turning the job off. At our last get together, I was listening in on a discussion about whether “intake” meetings are a good use of time. My thoughts? Yes, but not if you call it an intake meeting.

Below are a few of the tips I shared, and frankly wish I had earlier in my career.

Rethink the language you use.

Let’s start by taking a look at the language we use here: what is the difference between a kickoff and an intake meeting? Aren’t we just playing with semantics to explain the same goal? I like to believe that the language we use is important, and by framing this meeting as a “kickoff” we can nudge the hiring manager’s thinking about their role in the hiring process.

This seems like a minor nit, but who wants to join a meeting to purely intake information? This should be exciting! A successful outcome of this process means the team gets to make their next great hire. Kick that process off, don’t intake information.

Create feedback loops, early, often and regularly.

Misalignment is the root of all evil in recruiting. Let me say that again — misalignment is the root of all evil in recruiting. If there’s a misalignment that isn’t caught early, you run the danger of losing credibility with your hiring manager. To avoid this, I recommend a weekly or biweekly meeting to keep the team updated on the search.

Small miscommunications can snowball without regular feedback loops, especially when most of these meetings are virtual. The longer you go without being aligned, the longer it will take to course correct.

Imagine a literal snowball starting to roll down a hill — if you aren’t aligned at the start of your process, that snowball will grow and grow with each candidate you speak with and with each candidate who connects with the hiring team. It’s much easier to divert a small snowball than it is a full blown avalanche.

Define the profile, understand the job.

Often times hiring managers struggle to discuss the profile they are looking to hire without examples. Prior to your kickoff, pre-source a handful of sample profiles. With these tangible examples in hand, you will find hiring managers are better able to point out their favorite (or least favorite) attributes.

That said, understanding what an “ideal profile” looks like is only half the battle here. I recommend supplementing this effort with a second talk track: what is the person in this role actually doing on a day-to-day basis?

Meta point here: have you stepped back to read a job description for most tech roles? More often than not, it is full of jargon and an entirely too lengthy list of must-haves.

Try to reframe the conversation around what’s actually required versus what is not. Press your team to define what is trainable versus not, and pressing on the “requirements” of the role versus what the hire will actually be doing in their day to day. This talk track gives you the opportunity to highlight profiles that the hiring manager might be missing out on by being too specific. By better understanding the job, you can widen the aperture and surface different candidate pools.

Here are a few sample questions that might help with this effort:

What does the person need to do to be considered successful in this role? How will you measure success?

How do you imagine this person will solve the problems or challenges on your team?

What separates good from great candidates in this role?

Use shared documents as a way to drive accountability.

Another commonly overlooked, but powerful, technique to try during your next kickoff meeting is to use a shared document to store the job description, interview plan and kickoff notes. Have your hiring manager fill this out prior to scheduling the meeting.

Once you have the shared document, you can store your newly pre-sourced candidates in advance of your newly titled kick-off meeting preventing any potential misalignments due to miscommunications or inaccurate notes. Taking that concept one step further, try framing the document as a contract between you and the hiring manager, establishing it as your source of truth.

For example, if a hiring manager commits to reviewing profiles weekly, then be sure to put that in your kickoff document. After you’ve framed this document as a contract, you can then leverage it as a tool to log a description of the profiles the hiring manager agrees to hire. With an agreed and documented description of candidate profiles, you can even pre-close the hiring manager, much like you would any given candidate.

That’s right, read that again. You can even pre-close the hiring manager, much like you would any given candidate.

Most recruiters are familiar with pre-closing candidates: a universally common effort to ensure there are no surprises when an offer is made. In the same way, we can prevent surprises from our hiring managers using a similar talk track. For example you might ask, “If I find someone from company A who has B years of experience and C nice-to-haves, would you hire them?”

After documenting and confirming their commitment to hire that profile, you can prevent the dreaded “this candidate was good, but I want to see more” conversation.

Summary

I believe that recruiting, when distilled down to simplest terms, is the job of giving hiring managers confidence in the hires that they make. As you prepare to kick off a new role with your team, try testing a few of the above tips, you’ll find that you’re not just acting as a better recruiting partner—you’re giving your hiring managers the confidence they need by holding them accountable and keeping them engaged.

Own this! This is your opportunity to demonstrate what you do best: helping your team make great hires.

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