Why Most Hiring Manager Training
Sucks, Fails, and Makes Us Look Bad

By John Vlastelica, CEO, Recruiting Toolbox

Copyright Recruiting Toolbox

  • “Too basic. I’ve been interviewing for 10 years.  I knew all of this already.”
  • “This is helpful for evaluating soft skills, but what about technical skills?”
  • “Felt too generic”
  • “Could have been an email”
  • “Cut out all the fluff, and teach us how to actually hire talent that raises the bar”
  • “Felt like the trainer was just reading the slides – didn’t really engage us or demonstrate much credibility.  Have they been a hiring manager before?”
  • “This all felt very optional.  Are you expecting us to change how we interview?  If so, you need to say so and convince me it’s better than how I do it now.”
  • “Why did we only talk about diversity for 10 minutes? I thought this was a top priority.”
  • “OK, so now I know about my unconscious biases – what are we doing to mitigate these biases?  We didn’t even talk about how we make decisions – just interviewing techniques.”
  • “I’m an engineer here, and nothing in this training aligns to how we actually interview or make hiring decisions.”
  • “I still feel like we depend too much on each hiring manager’s definition of fit.”
  • “Our trainer was really fun and energetic.  Not sure I learned something new, but glad to see the company investing in us.”

That’s all feedback we’ve seen and heard from traditional 1-3 hour interview training.  It’s not great. 

My team and I spent years in corporate talent acquisition leadership roles before becoming consultants and trainers.  We know that a lot of hiring manager training sucks.  How do we know?  Because we’ve suffered through some of the same training our hiring managers suffered through, and we’ve read post-training survey feedback from a lot of poorly rated trainings.  Are there common themes?  Yes.  It’s too basic, it’s not credibly delivered, it doesn’t teach us something we can use to hire better talent, faster, with a strong diversity lens, and it doesn’t motivate hiring managers to change their behaviors.  

Now, that sounds negative.  And it is.  I suppose it’s also pretty self-serving to call out bad hiring manager training given my team’s role in building and delivering hiring manager training.  But I share this not to get you to hire us, but to help you avoid some common pitfalls of bad training.  

Do we know what makes great hiring manager training great?  Yes, yes we do. 

First, a little evidence. Our online hiring manager training has been viewed by over 50,000 hiring managers around the globe, with an 84 NPS rating.  That’s really high. Our custom, live hiring manager training has been leveraged by hundreds of companies, with over 10,000 hiring managers participating.  Since 2005, 88% of those hiring managers and interviewers rate our training a 5/5 and 98% said they’d recommend our training to their peers.  Only a small fraction of those hiring managers are new in role – most are experienced, smart hiring managers from companies with high hiring bars and experienced recruiter partners.  

So, what’s our secret sauce to getting high ratings and great feedback?  What can you do if you decide to build your own training in-house, and not hire a firm like ours?  Well, I can’t share our content, of course.  But I can tell you how to avoid building and deploying something that makes us – TA leaders or learning and development leaders – look bad. 

Hiring Manager Training

How to avoid building bad hiring manager training. 

  1. Don’t make it too basic.  90% of the interview and hiring manager training we replace at companies is too basic – it teaches behavioral interviewing 101, legal dos and don’ts, some biases to watch out for, and a little process.  Brand new interviewers appreciate it, but anyone who’s been a hiring manager for a year or more probably knows most or all of this.  
  2. Don’t encourage bad interviewing techniques.  Too many interview training workshops still encourage really bad interviewing practices, like asking strengths and weaknesses questions, “sell me this pen” roleplays, or bizarre “culture fit” tests (we had a client who had all candidates for corporate roles sketch a self-portrait of themselves as part of their first hour of interviews).  Great training shuts down bad practices that don’t predict success, and focuses on evidence-based interviewing approaches.  (See this popular article we wrote for info on the validity of good interview practices.)
  3. Don’t have someone deliver it who’s not an experienced corporate hiring manager or talent leader.  The trainer needs to have street credibility.  They need to be able to argue for good practices, and push back on bad stuff.  They need to be able to share stories and examples that highlight the consequences of using – or not using – the techniques and practices shared.  They need to be able to talk through the pros and cons of practices used by other companies, as many hiring managers copy/paste what they learned in their last company to hire at your company, and can get defensive when you challenge what they already think is good.   
  4. Don’t make it generic.  Pre-training, align with executives on your company-wide point of view on talent and what good looks like.  Yes, you may have some values or competencies already – great.  And you may have some general talent priorities – like diversity or hiring more senior people.  Also, great.  But how prescriptive are you?  Do you teach your company’s point of view on what’s trainable and what’s not?  Do you teach your hiring managers how your company wants them to think about the balance of soft skills and hard skills, or how hands-on a people manager needs to be, or whether someone lacking a particular skill is still a hire if that skill is easily trainable?  Great hiring manager training attendees should feel like they earned a license to hire for your company.  
  5. Don’t just focus on soft skills. We love it when companies teach to their competency or behavioral model instead of leaving each hiring manager to develop their own sense of “culture fit.”  But, too often, in our focus groups with hiring managers, they tell us the training they’ve attended didn’t focus at all on the other skills needed for the job.  There’s often a big assumption that hiring managers know how to evaluate the technical and functional skills required for success in the job.  Some do, but some rely too much on job titles, company pedigree, assumptions based on degrees, and biases to evaluate technical skills.  Great hiring manager training teaches hiring managers how to evaluate candidates in 4 critical areas – technical skills, soft skills, achievements, and motivation.  That’s the framework we teach.
  6. Don’t optimize for length of training when building it.  We’ve seen quality training turned into a relatively useless, high-level best practices overview because the person building it believed “our hiring managers just won’t attend any training that’s over an hour.”  That’s just not true.  Optimize for learning and behavior change – which includes small group work, discussions, mini-quizzes, and paired practice – is what the TA and L&D leaders building quality training do.  They know that things like small group work and paired practice take time, but are worth it.  If the time needed for the overall training is long, they break it up into modules. They focus on quality content and delivery over time. 
  7. Don’t build just one version of the training.  Where possible, training needs to be customized to the needs of the hiring managers you’re training.  Think about some of the different potential audiences in your company. Executive hiring managers versus new tech hiring managers vs. high volume call center hiring teams vs. experienced sales interviewers vs. university interview teams vs. recruiters.  Each group might have very different needs.  One size doesn’t fit all.  University recruiting teams may rely heavily on case studies, while engineers may leverage design and pair practice programming exercises.  Sales interviewers may leverage candidate presentations, while call center hiring teams may do very short interviews after the higher volume candidates pass several tests.  There may be some good core training – maybe ⅔ of the content – that can be used across hiring teams.  But to really engage and change behaviors and deliver something that’s super relevant and practical, some customization is needed.  Ideally, each hiring manager comments – during the training – “This is great and super helpful – I will use this tomorrow in my next interview.”
  8. Don’t assume it’s good.  Don’t assume that just because people showed up to your training and smiled at the end that they thought it was a good use of their time.  Encourage a diverse group of hiring managers to attend your first few workshops, and then ask them to go around the room and share what they learned and one thing they’d do to improve the training to 1) make it more actionable; and 2) help them get more speed, quality, and diversity.  Then do surveys – but have them fill them out right away in the room or on the zoom.  You will need both numerical ratings and qualitative feedback.  Then, follow up 1:1 with a few especially influential or critical hiring managers to probe deeper into some of the feedback you received – ask them to help you make it better.  For example: What would they cut?  Where does it need to go deeper?  What exercises actually helped them get better?  We’ve been delivering hiring manager training since 2005, and the feedback we’ve received from thousands of hiring managers has helped us make our training so much better.    
  9. Don’t rely on training alone to change behaviors.  Too many smart TA and L&D leaders know that training alone won’t change behaviors, but they still depend too much on what happens during the training to change behaviors.  Great hiring manager training starts with pre-training work to identify the big talent opportunities and challenges, align the executive and talent teams on your company’s hiring principles, and identify the content and exercises and guides that will help align and build the skills and confidence of the target training attendees.  Additionally, there’s always a post-training plan.  How will you get hiring managers to use what they learned?  Hope is not a strategy.  Great hiring manager training has a strong post-training “make it stick” component, that includes inspection and accountability mechanisms to ensure what was learned in the training is actually used, measured, and rewarded.  And some companies even implement something like Bar Raisers or Talent Advisor recruiter roles to drive accountability with hiring managers.  

Most hiring manager training fails to make meaningful change because it’s considered just another required training – not as part of a larger talent priority.  It needs to fit into some broader goals, and be part of a holistic plan.  If it’s a tick-the-box training – with a compliance orientation…yuck.  What a waste of time and resources.  But if it’s part of a broader change, with strong executive sponsorship and strong TA leadership, then it can be a game changer.  

What makes great hiring manager training great?  Great hiring manager training…

  • Aligns all interviewers, recruiters, and hiring managers on what good looks like and your company point of view on talent. 
  • Builds skills and confidence to interview and select the right talent, using evidence-based assessments and hiring decisions
  • Sets expectations and educates the hiring manager on the critical role they need to play in the process, from early work to translate job description language into evidence-based hiring criteria and process and interview team selection, to mid-funnel work around interviewing and quality hiring decisions, to work to help great talent choose us.  
  • Gives interviewing teams tools and guides to help them post-training.  NOT a 15-page required interview guide form. 🙂 
  • Connects to a holistic goal to raise the bar on quality and/or diversity and/or candidate experience.  Framing the WHY for training is important pre-training work.  
  • Leverages a post-training plan, to make what was learned the new normal, where every hiring team is using what was taught in training, and we know they’re using it because we have inspection and accountability mechanisms – like Talent Advisor recruiters, candidate surveys, interview feedback audits and consultations – to ensure the training leads to better hiring outcomes. 
Behavioral Interviewing Training
Great interview training

Hiring Manager training is high impact work. 

As a recruiting leader, you want to make an impact.  From our experience working with over 350 companies worldwide, great hiring managers are the big difference makers when it comes to speed, quality, and diversity outcomes.  So, by helping them make a bigger impact – there are more of them than you – you’re making a big impact.  Making your hiring managers better at their job should be a top priority for every Talent Acquisition leader.  Plus, as a bonus, building and deploying great hiring manager training helps your team’s internal reputation with the business, too, and can lead to better results across almost every TA metric you track.  It’s good for the business, and good for you and your team.  

If you decide you’d like to engage with a partner to build something excellent, please check out our offerings and then reach out to set up a chat, so we can learn more about your goals.

Interviewing training for hiring managers

“The feedback from everyone at CEO staff who attended Friday’s session was fantastic. It hit exactly the right note in terms of providing practical skills in the context of an overall culture shift in the way we want to hire people going forward. Not only are the workshops building skills, they are setting a tone, creating a playbook for hiring across the company, defining a consistent hiring bar, embedding our culture in all aspects of it and creating it all in the most agile way possible. Truly excellent work.” 

CHRO of Fortune 1000 company,
client of Recruiting Toolbox, note to her direct reports in HR about our work together

“Excellent!  This is an important component of our plan to achieve our mission, and I’ll be requiring all of my hiring managers to attend this training.  5/5.” 

 VP/Hiring Manager, Electronic Arts,
client of Recruiting Toolbox

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