Recruiting – it’s not just an open job position, it’s an adventure!

As a manager, hiring good people is a necessary skill to build a highly-functional team and continue to be seen as a credible manager.  Recruiting can be difficult depending on the time of year or the position you are trying to fill.   As the hiring manager, you own the whole recruiting process and final decision.  If you can't fill your open positions, then you need to change your tactics.  Here are some tips for hiring managers based on what I've learned in my years at Microsoft.  I even included a few ideas on better interviewing tactics for interviewers.  These are ideas and tips solely based on my experience and approach.  These aren't meant to represent any formal Microsoft interview policies. 


  1. If you have positions to fill, you need to use your established network to ask for referrals.  I usually give resumes referred to me from my network and team members higher importance because these people have a good idea of what the job requires.
  2. Volume is everything, especially if you don't have a large network.  I know after many years of successful hiring that it can sometimes take a ton of resumes to find one good candidate.  So given that, if I only see 10 resumes, then statistically the odds are slim that the one good candidate is in that pool.  I look at every resume and move forward with any that look promising, but I also expect to see lots of relevant resumes and set time aside to go through them.  If you want to fill your position, you need to find the time to look through resumes, and make it a priority.
  3. Partner closely with a recruiter.  Luckily, I have an intern recruiter to work with and the more he understands my job requirements, the more filtering he can do of resumes.  That can gain efficiencies in the process.  If you are working with a recruiter, make sure they know the type of skills that are needed for your job and give them feedback on the resumes they send you so that they can filter them out better in the next batch.
  4. You own the process which means you need to make sure it’s always moving forward.  Do you have candidates in all stages of the process?  Are you getting resumes regularly?  Are screenings or interviews scheduled?  If you are waiting for anything that isn’t moving forward, you need to ping the owner and make sure progress is happening.  Many times, I see everyone thinking that someone else owns the next step and then the process is stalled until someone moves it forward.  You need to make sure that doesn’t happen.
  5. Stay organized by keeping a spreadsheet showing all candidates that you are considering and where in the process they are.  This is a huge help for me.  I list the date when I first get their resume, when the initial tech screening happened and who from my team did the screening, the date of the interview loop and who the interviewers are, what position this candidate applied for, who the recruiter is, and from whom the candidate was referred.  I also show the current owner of the next step which usually ends up being either me or the recruiter.  Every day I look at this spreadsheet and know if each candidate is getting processed at a good pace or if the process stalled out.
  6. It's not about how likable a candidate is, but whether that person can be successful in the job.  I see many people confuse this issue.  I find most candidates are friendly and likable (on a job interview, who wouldn’t be?), but that doesn't mean they can do the job.  And if they can't do the job, I'm not going to like the fact that I hired them no matter how friendly they are.  So as a hiring manager, I make sure to understand how interviewers are evaluating the interview candidates.  And continue to emphasize hiring decisions based on qualifications and not on friendliness.
  7. Hire based on potential, not just skills.  This is hard and takes planning good interview questions.  This isn't about allowing a candidate to just prove they can write good code.  You need to push them beyond their limits and experience and see if they can formulate ideas and opinions based on new criteria.  Another approach is to teach them something that they obviously don't know based on their resume (for example, a concept of a programming language they aren't familiar with).  Then in later interviews, see if they can apply what they were taught.  This takes coordination with other interviewers, but these types of interviewing techniques prove more than just what the candidate knows.  It tells you if the candidate has intellectual horsepower, critical thinking, and can be creative.
  8. All common interview questions are on the Internet.  If you use a question year after year and find that more people are getting the answer right, you better search the Internet because it's probably out there.  I like questions that involve real problems we are trying to solve in the team.  Those change often and won't be found on the Internet.  And if a candidate actually comes up with good solutions not only do I get the benefit of finding a good candidate, but my current real-world problem gets solved.
Comments (2)
  1. Hi,

      First of all I have to say that I found your post quite interesting, especially because you mentioned the points 6 and 7. Actually if I’m thinking more about 6, I doubt somebody will hire in general a person without liking him/her, if it’s not about the appearance, at least for his/her technical skills and/or potential. I find your approach in what concerns the teaching and assessment of the capabilities of a person to integrate a concept learned during an interview quite intriguing. I know that in IT it’s quite difficult to cope with the volume of CVs, one friend of mine was complaining that quite an important number of CVs come from people who have nothing to do with the programming, or in general with specific the job requirements.

     Working with recruiters/headhunters enables managers to minimize the number of CVs they deal with directly, though it depends also on third party’s capacity of selecting the best candidates. This year I dealt with many headhunters, and it was easy to figure out that many of them have no idea of what the customer is requesting or the project was about, sticking to the words found in job description, any deviation from job description’s formulation blurring them. I find it important to partner with recruiters who have at least a high level idea about the implications of the respective job.

     Control Management techniques could be applied to any type of processes, including recruiting, now it depends what type of metrics, tracking systems and benchmarking a person uses. Talking about benchmarking, I was wondering if you attempted to interview some of the candidates with respect to the interviewing process from their perspective?

    Best regards,


  2. anita george says:

    Thanks for your comments.  Yes, having a good recruiter who understands your job requirements is essential to successfully hiring good people.  At Microsoft, recruiters will typically ask for feedback from the candidates being interviewed in order to help us improve the overall process.  Since I am typically the hiring manager, I may be the last person to interview the candidate and I like to ask them some questions about the interviews.  For me, it's for two reasons.  I typically ask questions such as what was the most difficult interview question they heard today, what they learned today, etc.  First, this helps me determine if the interviewers did a good job at asking questions at or above the skill level of the candidate and that they spent some time sharing information about the position.  But it also allows me to evaluate the candidate, if they can be critical and make good evaluations, and whether they can repeat what they learned from the day.  Neither the feedback to the recruiter or the answers to my questions give any numeric data, but it is overall still helpful feedback.  Whether you work with your internal recruiting team or a 3rd party headhunter, you should ask them about the types of metrics they collect.  You may find some agencies specialize in hiring in the field you are interested in while others may focus on different candidate pools in different fields than what you need.

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