Did you know that hiring managers and recruiters are not the same?

You might be wondering who you really need to impress in order to land your dream job.

The hiring manager? The recruiter? Both?

Hiring managers and recruiters both play vital roles in the hiring process and can make or break your chances of getting hired.

Recruiters are responsible for attracting and screening applicants for an open position, while hiring managers are tasked with making the final hiring decision. Recruiters identify, assess, and present qualified candidates to the hiring manager, who then decides whether or not to hire the candidate.

Recruiter vs. Hiring Manager
Recruiter vs. Hiring Manager

This article will explain the difference between hiring managers and recruiters, and how you can win them over to land your dream job.

Recruiters: Everything You Need to Know

You might be thinking, “it’s just a recruiter, it’s the hiring manager I need to impress”. You’re not wrong that you need to impress the hiring manager, but without winning over the recruiter, you’ll never make it to the HM.

What is a recruiter?

Recruiters are often the first point of contact and personal advocate that will help you get in front of the hiring manager. A recruiter works for a company to help them attract, screen, and select candidates for an open job position. Both corporate and agency recruiters do essentially the same thing, however, a corporate recruiter works directly for the hiring company while an agency recruiter is contracted by the company to provide recruitment services.

What does a recruiter do?

Recruiters are focused on screening candidates based on keywords and skills that are prominent on the resume. Since recruiters typically lack in-depth knowledge on the roles they are recruiting for, it’s unlikely they will get highly technical with you during the interview.

You should expect a recruiter to ask you basic questions like “do you have 5 years of marketing experience?” If you answer “yes”, they may follow-up by asking you to tell them a bit about the marketing experience you have and which companies from your resume you gained this experience from.

They’ll be looking to see if your relevant experience is recent (from your past 2-3 jobs), and they will try to gauge your confidence level while answering the questions. Have you ever heard of the expression, “fake it till you make it”? This may work wonders with recruiters, but could come back to haunt you when speaking with the hiring manager (more on that later).

What to say to a recruiter

When talking to a recruiter, it’s essential to appear confident and reassure the recruiter that you have the skills they are asking for. A lot of times, they are simply checking boxes. You can almost guarantee if they are asking if you have a certain skill set, it’s important to the job, and answering “no” will likely eliminate you.

When discussing your skills, experiences, and achievements, focus on the ones that are directly related to the job description. Being a top accountant, while impressive, isn’t going to help you land a sales job offer. 

In addition to giving answers relevant to the job you’re being interviewed for, make sure they are recent examples. Most recruiters don’t care about your experience at jobs that were more than 5 years ago.

light bulb Top Tip

If a recruiter asks if you are interviewing elsewhere, the best answer you can give is, “yes”! This reassures the recruiter that you are a valuable commodity and oftentimes will lead to an expedited hiring process.

What to avoid saying to a recruiter

Engaging with the recruiter is good, but there are things you shouldn’t say or do during the interview.

  1. Avoid revealing any blemishes on your career. Contrary to popular opinion, telling the recruiter that you got fired from a job or that you’re not qualified (or anything similar) will not do you any good. Do your best to cover your tracks when it comes to bad references, employment gaps, etc.
  2. Avoid making it seem like you’re all about the money. While fair compensation is understandable, it can give the impression that you’re only in it for the paycheck, and not for the job itself.
  3. Avoid oversharing in general. To be honest, as much as the recruiter will act like your friend, they usually aren’t. Don’t get too comfortable and share personal information, financial struggles, or anything that is not strictly professional and related to the job you’re interviewing for.
  4. Avoid coming off as desperate. While you may be in desperate times, telling a recruiter that “you’ll take anything right now” is not a good plan. This is the case whether you are in a toxic work environment or poor financial situation. This is information you should avoid sharing!
  5. Avoid sharing your minimum salary. If you tell the recruiter your lowest acceptable salary, that’s often what they will offer. If you must share a minimum, make sure to clarify that this minimum is for a job that is perfect in every way (PTO, benefits, hours, etc.). This keeps the door open to request a higher salary if any of those other factors are not perfect.


What is a Reverse Recruiter?

Did you know you can hire a recruiter to manage your job search? Reverse recruiters manage your job search from the application to the interview. They take care of the tasks for you so you can do what you love!

Now that we’ve demystified the roles of recruiters in your job search process, let’s move on to hiring managers.

Hiring Managers: Everything You Need to Know

A hiring manager (HM) is one of the most important players in the hiring process. Even after doing everything right to impress the recruiter, if you can’t convince the hiring manager of your value, you’re unlikely to receive an offer.

What is a hiring manager?

Hiring managers are individuals responsible for deciding who to hire for an open position within their department or organization. They typically define job requirements, evaluate a shortlist of applicants, make job offers, and become the direct supervisor of the hired candidate.

What does a hiring manager do?

Hiring managers are not usually involved in the opening stages of the recruitment process. Rather, they come in later on to conduct final interviews with qualified candidates, arrange for them to meet with the team, assess their fit for the position, and decide whether or not to hire them.

Hiring managers ultimately want to find out if you’re a good fit for the team. They’ll ask questions to determine if you’ll be easy to manage, a good culture fit, and someone they can depend on.

Since HMs are typically the direct supervisors, they want to make sure you’re someone they’d enjoy working with, and vice versa.

What to say to a hiring manager

When interviewing with the HM, a little bit of flattery can go a long way. Expressing your excitement to be working for such an amazing team, manager, and company, will work wonders. Be sure to discuss the company’s mission and values, and highlight how they align with your own personal and career goals.

However, flattery alone won’t seal the deal. You’ll also need to convince them that you have the skills and qualifications to do the job well. Take time to review the job description in detail prior to your interview.

light bulb Top Tip

Copy and paste each bullet point from the job description to a Word doc and add one example of a time you’ve done something similar. This will allow you to have a handful of stories prepared before speaking with the hiring manager.

What to avoid saying to a hiring manager

A job interview is a professional setting and like it or not, there are certain topics that you absolutely must not bring into the conversation.

  1. Avoid making negative comments about past companies, bosses, or colleagues (no matter how terrible they were)! This can reflect poorly on your ability to work on a team, and make you look like a negative Nancy.
  2. Avoid oversharing in general. Keep the focus on answering the questions that the HM is asking. Talking about your family, religion, favorite foods, weekend activities, etc. are all things that could eliminate you from the hiring process, simply because the hiring manager shares different values or opinions.
  3. Avoid being overly casual. Even if the HM is super light and playful calling you “bro”, this doesn’t mean you should reciprocate during the interview.
  4. Avoid writing checks your bootie can’t cash. Hiring managers are much more likely than recruiters to have a deep understanding of the job. HMs will often ask for detailed examples or even test projects to prove your skills. While you may be able to get past the recruiter with vague answers, the hiring manager is more likely to know if you truly have the skills or not.
  5. Avoid bringing up salary and benefits too early. Research has shown that 70% of hiring managers expect you to bring up the topic of compensation only after they make a job offer, not before.

Recruiter vs. Hiring Manager FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the relationship between recruiters and hiring managers?

Recruiters support hiring managers in their efforts to hire new employees. A recruiter creates and publishes job ads, finds and filters through hundreds of applicants, and presents a shortlist of the best candidates to the hiring manager for a final decision.

Should you reach out directly to the hiring manager or recruiter?

Do hiring managers or recruiters make job offers?

Do you negotiate salary with the recruiter or hiring manager?

What’s the difference between a headhunter and a recruiter?

Key Takeaways

Recruiters and hiring managers are both very important to your job search. Knowing their unique roles and what they’re looking for will give you a competitive advantage against your competition.

  • Hiring Managers are the most important. The reason HMs are considered the most important in this article is because every job will have a hiring manager, but not every job will have a recruiter.
  • Recruiters usually come first. Expect to speak to the recruiter prior to speaking to the hiring manager. They are the gatekeepers. If you can’t make it past the recruiter, you’re unlikely to receive an offer.
  • Hiring managers have the final say. Ultimately, it’s going to be the HMs decision whether or not you get hired. They’ll be the ones to decide if salary is negotiable, if there’s a culture fit, and more.
  • Recruiters tend to focus on keywords to verify you have the appropriate skills. 
  • Hiring managers usually dig deeper and are harder to BS. HMs also tend to focus on culture fit, likeability, and values alignment.

Hiring managers and recruiters work together to make the best hiring decisions possible. It’s safe to assume that anything you say to one, will be shared with the other.

If you follow this advice to impress both of them, you’ll receive more offers than you know what to do with!