How to conduct an effective hiring manager intake session

Intake sessions are an often overlooked stage in the recruitment process. When done well, they can foster a positive hiring manager-recruiter relationship and lead to finding more qualified candidates faster. However, when these sessions aren’t conducted effectively, you risk diminishing your hiring efficiency and credibility as a recruitment partner if you’re not aligned with your hiring managers.

At ML6, we take pride in the thoroughness of our intake sessions. We spend a lot of time upfront gaining a deep understanding of our client’s business goals and barriers to success to ensure we develop the best, customized strategy for their organization. Since we’ve seen so much success with our approach, we wanted to share a few of our insights with you.

But first, let’s start by going over what intake sessions are and why they’re a major benefit to your recruitment process.

What are hiring manager intake sessions?

Hiring manager intake sessions are an opportunity for recruiters and hiring managers to clarify the details of the job, set candidate qualification criteria, and agree on the hiring stages. Intake meetings are useful for several reasons including:

  • Establishing expectations and reducing miscommunication
  • Building and maintaining a strong hiring manager-recruiter relationship
  • Increasing quality of candidates and reducing time to hire

Now that you have a better understanding of what intake sessions are and why you should be investing time here, let’s take a look at how to prepare for your intake session, what questions to ask, and actions to take post-session:

How to conduct effective hiring manager intake sessions

Pre-intake session: Do your research upfront

Firstly, before the intake session even happens, make sure you’ve done your research. Find out information about the department, team, and hiring manager before the intake session. Remember, you’re meant to be the recruitment expert, so it’s important to establish that you have the foundational knowledge that most hiring managers would expect you to know already.

Also, come prepared with relevant recruitment data if you have any. This can look like internal and external salary benchmark data, source of previous hires (if this type of role has been hired in the past), as well as time-to-fill and time-to-hire ratios. This information can help inform your conversation around budget, timelines, and the overall recruitment strategy.

Conducting the intake session: Focus on the right questions

Your questions during the intake session should help shape the candidate profile, provide you with answers to potential questions candidates might have about the role, establish what the recruitment process will look like, and outline the next steps.

To break this down into more manageable pieces, we’ve divided the sections of our intake session into four parts: general overview questions, candidate profile questions, employee value proposition (EVP) and team culture questions, and wrap-up questions.

General overview questions:

  • What is the reason for the opening?
  • If this is a replacement, what did not work out previously and what are you hoping to find again or avoid with the next hire?
  • How long has the role been open?
  • What are you trying to solve by making this hire?
  • What has already been done with this search?
  • Have you looked at your internal network or considered promoting someone from the team? Why or why not?

Candidate profile questions:

  • What are the three key things you are looking for the candidate to bring from an experience standpoint?
  • Describe the personality of the perfect candidate.
  • Do you know of any other companies or teams that are doing this role well? Can we target someone from one of them?
  • Do you already have a candidate in mind that you would like us to approach?

EVP and company culture questions:

  • How would you describe your team/department culture and dynamics?
  • What’s great about working at the company?
  • How would you describe your leadership style?
  • Where can someone go from this role (e.g. next steps in the organization, growth plans, timelines — are you looking for a successor?)
  • What’s your budget for this role? How firm/flexible are you here?
  • What’s your elevator pitch for this role — how would you sell it to your dream candidate?

Wrap-up questions:

  • What are your expectations from me as your recruitment partner? Have you worked with other recruiters before? What has worked and what hasn’t?
  • Are there any companies that are out of bounds due to non-competes or companies you do not want to hire from?
  • What is your ideal interview process?

Before you wrap up your session, always set expectations in terms of what your responsibilities are as a recruiter and the responsibilities of the hiring manager. This should include what you expect from them as far as turnaround time on providing candidate feedback, as well as the level of feedback you require so that you can provide an exceptional candidate experience.

Note: if you’re looking for more ways to level-up your candidate experience, check out our blog 6 ways to improve your candidate experience.

Post intake session: What actions to take

Now that you’ve completed the intake session, there are a few more steps that you need to take to ensure you have all the right resources in place to ensure a smooth recruitment process.

  1. Prepare the job ad. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, job descriptions and job ads are not the same things. Your job ads should be dynamic. That means making changes and updates to accurately reflect the role each time you post a new opening.

    You should be using the insights from your intake session to help inform your new ad. And make sure to share this with the hiring manager before going live to ensure you’re aligned.

  1. Provide interview assistance. During the intake session,  you might discuss the hiring manager’s interview style and how much experience they have interviewing. It may be a good idea to provide them with resources such as best practices, scripts, and score sheets to help them facilitate the interview. Alternatively, you can offer to sit in on the interview.
  1. Get initial candidate feedback and determine your recruitment strategy. When possible, share a few candidate profiles with the hiring manager to get their feedback before you invest any more time in targeting that kind of profile.

    Once you know you’re on the right track, you can then determine your approach — will it be a more passive or active search? Will you require more time sourcing candidates or reviewing resumes and setting up prescreens? And don’t forget to share this info with your hiring manager so they understand how you’re spending your time.

  1. Follow up with regular status updates. Communication and transparency are key to building a strong hiring manager-recruiter relationship. You’ll want to ensure your manager is kept in the loop at all times so they feel engaged in the process.

    You can achieve this by providing them with regular hiring status update emails or reports created by your Applicant Tracking System (ATS). Share data such as the number of interviews held, the number of candidates qualified, and the reasons why candidates were rejected to help determine what actions need to be taken on both your end and on the hiring manager’s.

At the end of the day, an effective intake meeting comes down to your ability to communicate, set expectations, and follow up. We hope that these insights give you an idea of how you can get started on conducting intake sessions if your organization isn’t currently practicing this, or how you can take your sessions to the next level if you’re looking to improve in this area.

About ML6

ML6 is a recruitment and talent advisory firm located in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). We provide customized solutions to support our clients throughout the employee lifecycle. We help our clients attract and retain talent by advising on people programs, processes, and best practice