Attracting talent

Hiring manager vs. recruiter – what’s the difference?

A hiring manager and a recruiter have shared goals but separate roles. Find out what each one does and ways they can work together to make a great hire.

Hiring manager vs. recruiter – what’s the difference?
Listen to this article. Audio recording by
Brook Fischer

You may be wondering when you need a hiring manager and when you need a recruiter. And what exactly do they do anyway?

We’ll tell you everything you need to know about these hiring heroes. What’s that? You’ve never heard them being called heroes before?

Well, think about it. Attracting, vetting, interviewing, hiring and onboarding the right candidate for a job takes courage, strength, perseverance, empathy and discernment – and when the person hired finally takes on their new role, it’s often life-changing. So yeah, they’re heroes in our book. ⭐️

A hiring manager and a recruiter have distinct responsibilities, but you’ll find they have similar goals – and as a result, a few similar tasks when hiring. In this article you’ll learn the difference between a recruiter and hiring manager, what each one does in their role and who makes the final decision in the hiring process.

Table of Contents

  • <a href="#manager">What does a hiring manager do in recruitment?</a>
  • <a href="#recruiter">What role does a recruiter play in hiring?</a>
  • <a href="#need">Do you need a hiring manager, a recruiter or both?</a>
  • <a href="#responsible">Who is responsible for hiring?</a>
  • <a href="#mishire">What if the candidate ends up being a mis-hire? Then who is responsible?</a>

<div id="manager">What does a hiring manager do in recruitment?</div>

The hiring manager is the person in charge of hiring someone for their team. They will work with others – usually those within their direct team and sometimes with a recruiter – to determine who will be the best candidate to fill the role.

As the title indicates, they are the one leading the process and they have the final say on who gets the offer. You don’t need to have a Human Resources or recruiting background to do this, but of course it helps if you have some hiring experience or practical ideas on how to start hiring.

A hiring manager’s tasks typically include:

  • Creating a job brief
  • Ensuring the job post is well-designed and includes an engaging job description
  • Getting the word out that there is an open position
  • Reviewing applications
  • Interviewing candidates
  • Gathering feedback on candidates from the hiring team
  • Making the final hiring decision

It’s important to note that the hiring manager is often doing these tasks alongside their day-to-day work, which means they have to set aside ample time and be very organized to ensure a smooth hiring experience for candidates and the team. Hiring managers may choose to work with a recruiter to manage the hiring workflow or they may rely on recruiting software to keep everyone on task and communicating successfully.

📣 Check out the 10 best recruiting software for small businesses

To learn more about hiring managers, we spoke to Homerun’s Content Marketing Lead, Lydia Kooistra, about her experience in this role.

Q&A with Lydia

In your own words, what does a hiring manager do?
In a small business, a hiring manager owns the hiring process for a specific role a company is hiring for. Usually they are going to be working directly with the person who is hired. This was the case when I hired our two newest content writers who are now my team members. ☺️ A hiring manager is also the one who makes the final decision about who to hire after gathering the hiring team’s insights.

What would you say is the most difficult part of being a hiring manager?
It can be extremely tough to make unbiased decisions based on your own and your teams thoughts and opinions about candidates. Not only do you have to be extremely aware of your own potential biases, but you have to make sure the rest of the hiring team is as well. This means carefully structuring the hiring process and having very clear traits and skills listed out so your team can review candidates as objectively as possible.

What’s the best part?
Having great interactions with talented candidates is the best part of hiring a new team member. Even though some amazing people don’t end being a match, it’s still so great to be able to connect with them and hear about their careers and their opinions about our company. I’m glad to still have some candidates in my network. After all, hiring is not just about the immediate hire but building relationships long term. And when there is a match it can feel almost euphoric. When I hired our two newest content writers I found myself thinking, ‘What are the odds that these talented people who I’d love to work with are looking for a job just like this one?!'

What advice or tips would you give someone who has never been a hiring manager before?
Take more time than you think you need! Being a hiring manager comes with so many steps and tasks that can be quite time sensitive. If you don’t have enough time set aside for this, it will have a direct impact on whether you’ll be able to hire anyone at all. This means putting other projects on hold and prioritizing hiring. I needed about 10 hours a week for a full three months for hiring two people. A lot of this time went towards evaluating applications (we got a lot!), corresponding with candidates, planning and evaluating assignments, interviewing and supporting my team in conducting interviews. If any of this was rushed then the candidate experience would have suffered and it would have been much harder to make decisions with confidence.

<div id="recruiter">What role does a recruiter play in hiring?</div>

Recruiters connect job seekers with businesses by finding qualified candidates for their open roles. A recruiter can be part of a recruitment agency helping various clients fill vacant roles, they might work on their own as a freelancer or they may work in-house to find talent for a single company.

Filling open roles is a recruiter’s #1 responsibility. In addition to industry experience, they usually have a degree in Human Resources, Business Administration or a related field, plus certification.

Recruiters often:

  • Work with companies or hiring managers to determine their hiring needs and set up a hiring process
  • Come up with a personalized recruitment strategy (based on a recruitment strategy) for each role
  • Help with the creation and advertisement of job posts
  • Attend job fairs and events and use other sourcing techniques to build a robust candidate pipeline
  • Review applications and conduct initial interviews as part of the screening process
  • Coordinate interviews between qualified candidates and the company
  • Ensure background and reference checks are completed
  • Assist in the negotiating process

Depending on the needs of the company, the level of involvement can go much deeper. A recruiter might conduct interviews alongside managers and other stakeholders, oversee prep of interview questions, identify and recommend salary ranges and incentives, and ensure there is compliance with federal, state and local employment laws.

An internal recruiter (one who works to fill positions within their company) will receive a salary while an external recruiter (someone who finds talent for various clients) will earn a recruitment fee – either a percentage of the candidate’s first-year base salary, a flat fee or an agreed upon hourly rate.

To better understand the nuances of this position, we spoke to Gareth Cartman, Founder of Example, a digital marketing recruitment agency.

Q&A with Gareth

In your own words, what does a recruiter do?
In essence, a recruiter helps their clients find talented people for their teams. You have many levels of recruiter — some will post job ads, sift through CVs and select for you, others will actively headhunt the passive market and pitch the role for you. At all levels, the recruiter would handle the process for you, organising interviews, preparing the candidates and eventually, negotiating on behalf of both parties.

What would you say is the most difficult part of being a recruiter?
On a day-to-day level, it's telling people they haven't got the job. You have to do this at least three times more than telling people they do have the job. At a higher level, it's more about convincing new clients that you're not like the 'bad' recruiters who dominate the market. There's a significant level of mistrust towards recruitment agencies who take on a lot of roles in order to hit a 20% target, which leaves clients feeling short-changed. But they only do that because they don't feel they have a good chance of winning the fee, as the client has enlisted the services of multiple agencies. The good recruiters work hard to break down that mistrust.

What’s the best part?
You get to talk to SO MANY talented people. It's insane. I spent twenty years in digital marketing and I talk to people thinking, ‘God I wish I'd known you were around when I was running a digital agency.’ And then you get to tell them they've been selected, and you're helping them make life-changing decisions.

What advice or tips would you give a company hiring with a recruiter for the first time?
When recruiters know they're not 'exclusive', they have to make a commercial decision about whether they'll earn a fee or not. So find a good one — quiz them about KPIs, their experience and their understanding of the roles you're hiring for, get timescales out of them and understand their process. Brief them extensively, spend at least an hour explaining the company culture, the day-to-day responsibilities of the role, the team they'll be joining, the benefits package. And ask them about the market and what to expect — salaries, competitor packages, that kind of thing. The more you give a recruiter, and the more you trust them, the better quality service you will receive.

<div id="need">Do you need a hiring manager, a recruiter or both?</div>

When hiring for a role, you will most certainly need someone to manage the hiring process. So do you need a recruiter or a hiring manager, or both?

The short answer is: it depends on the amount of time you have for hiring, your bandwidth and your budget.

There will always be a hiring manager (a person on your team in charge of hiring) but you may or may not end up working with a recruiter. Let’s explore why.

In an ideal world, companies could hire a recruiter who'd use their expertise and connections to bring in top talent and free up the team to focus on their own tasks! But this may not always be possible for a variety of reasons.

Let's say you're a small business with limited financial resources or you’re hiring for a straightforward junior or entry-level position. Then a recruiter might not make sense for you.

Yes, that means you'll be hiring on your own, but thankfully there are plenty of resources out there to help you along, including our hiring guides (see below) and handy hiring templates.

📣 New to hiring? Check out our helpful guides, including:

If you're organized, have a well-thought-out hiring process in place and a team that's game to help, you're in good shape. But if you're hiring for a role with a shortage of talent (meaning there are more open positions than there are qualified people to fill them), that's where it gets trickier. 😬

Recruiting for these roles can be difficult and time consuming, so you can do your best to prepare yourself for that scenario or make room in the budget for some professional help. Once we were able to hire a Software Engineer without a recruiter, but another time it simply wasn't possible and we ended up working with an amazing freelance recruiter to help us with sourcing.

More and more recruiters are offering their services in a variety of ways (hourly rates for example), which can allow them to focus on the specific tasks you need help with. If you find you're struggling to fill a role, it's worth it to get in touch and see what they can do.

When a hiring manager and recruiter join forces, they usually kick things off with an intake meeting to make sure their goals for hiring are aligned.

They'll typically discuss:

  • the role in depth
  • required experience or qualities a candidate should have (the must-haves vs. nice-to-haves)
  • the ideal hiring timeline
  • salary and benefits
  • the hiring process – e.g. how things will work and who will be in charge of what

If a company is not working with a recruiter, then these are all points the hiring manager can flesh out with the hiring team, which we'll take a look at in the next section.

<div id="responsible">Who is responsible for hiring?</div>

Although a hiring manager and a recruiter each have a key role, there is never just one person responsible for hiring. Whether you’re a small business, a larger company, a nonprofit or a startup, the principle is the same: It takes a village.

The best hires are made when teams pitch in to create an engaging job post, interview candidates, discuss their thoughts and eventually decide who will join the team.

Let’s take a look at some individual roles within a hiring team and what the team itself could look like.

Sample hiring team

Hiring manager – For small businesses, this is often the person who will be the future manager of the new hire. It might be your Tech Lead who is hiring an Engineer or perhaps a Content Lead who will manage a team of writers. This person is typically the one responsible for most of the evaluation and making the final decision about who to hire.

💥 Pro Tip: Make sure there is only one decision-maker in your hiring team who takes everyone's input into account to make a final, unbiased decision. This will help to avoid unproductive discussions and confusion about who has the final say.

Owner of the hiring process – If it’s not the hiring manager, the owner of the hiring process could be someone in HR, your People Ops Manager, Office Manager or even the Founder. This person makes sure everything goes smoothly according to your hiring process. Sometimes they’re also the point of contact for candidates, scheduling their interviews and sending rejections. Once you near the end of your hiring process, they'll typically do any admin necessary to hire your new team member.

Team members – You’ll need one or more team members who will work closely with the new hire to go on this recruitment journey with you. Their feedback is incredibly valuable because they know what kind of work needs to be done and what sort of gaps exist within the team. They'll typically join in on one or more interviews with the candidates, which creates a more diverse hiring team with varying perspectives and helps you work together to keep your biases in check.

Founders or CEO – For some of the more crucial roles, the company's Founder or CEO can play a big role in evaluating a candidate's skills and if they’re a value fit. It's their job to decide whether a candidate's skill set and previous experience align with what the business needs.

Copywriter – If you have a Copywriter in the team, have them write or edit the job description to make sure it's on brand and sparks the interest of candidates. If you don't have a Copywriter, you probably have at least one colleague who has a way with words. Ask them to work their magic on your job description. It'll make a big difference.

Designer – A Brand Designer can make sure your job post follows the brand guidelines and is going to stand out to candidates. Creating an aesthetically-pleasing and engaging post is such an easy win since 99% of all job posts still look like and read like electric toothbrush manuals. 😳 If you don’t have a Designer on your team (or they don’t have time to help), not to worry. You can easily create beautiful and modern job posts using Homerun!

External recruiters – For some roles that are very hard to fill (like Senior Engineering roles) you might want to involve an external recruiter who has specific industry knowledge and a network to help you find great candidates.

You may need a hiring team like the one above for important roles, but you can definitely succeed with a much smaller team as well. In many cases, a hiring manager plus one other team member could be enough to get things done! Just keep in mind that getting more team members involved in the process (also known as collaborative hiring) makes it easier to discern if a candidate is a good match for your team.

Be sure to keep your hiring team in the loop throughout the hiring process. You can and should treat hiring like any other project at your company so that there's clarity around roles and time commitment.

If projects usually involve kickoffs, stand-ups and retrospectives, then do those for each new job opening too. Making hiring a designated project with allocated time and a clear beginning and end will help your team to keep your hiring organized and set you up for success.

<div id="mishire">What if the candidate ends up being a mis-hire? Then who is responsible?</div>

If for some reason the candidate you’ve picked turns out to be a mis-hire, it’s not time to play the blame game.

We’ve heard stories of companies who’ve used recruiters asking for partial refunds on their fee and it’s simply not fair (unless there was some serious negligence).

Gareth explains it this way, "If you've been through two or more interviews and an offer process, and your candidate turns out to be a bad hire, it's more your fault than that of the recruiter. There is an element of responsibility on the recruiter, however, there are tools available to assess cultural fit, there are screening techniques that you can use to make sure both skills and behaviours are aligned. So if the recruiter has gone through these processes, a.) it shouldn't happen, and b.) the onus is really on the hiring manager at this point.”

That said, if your company agrees to hire someone and it doesn’t work out, the best you can do is move forward and learn from the experience.

Of course everyone wants to steer clear of mis-hires. In a survey from CareerBuilder, 74% of companies who made a mis-hire reported an average loss of nearly $15,000 per hire. Some experts put that figure as high as $240,000 😱, depending on the position and type of business.

Not only does it hurt financially, it can be very frustrating and demoralizing for your team. That’s why it’s so important to have a solid hiring process in place and to avoid hiring biases, which can cloud anyone’s judgment.

Hiring with confidence

Having a clear and organized hiring process in place and a hiring team whose goals and expectations are aligned will help you hire with confidence and ease. Whether you’re using the services of a recruiter or hiring on your own, you always want to give candidates a top-notch hiring experience.

This means having a structured hiring workflow, collaborating and communicating effectively with your hiring team and adding personal touches to improve the candidate experience, like well-crafted and designed job posts and simple-to-fill-out application forms with thoughtful questions.

When you work together and utilize your strengths, you can make hiring a positive experience for everyone involved and find the right person to round out your team!

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What’s the difference between a hiring manager and a recruiter?

A hiring manager hires for an open position on their team and leads the hiring process. They do this in addition to their regular job responsibilities and have the final say on who gets hired. A recruiter's role is to identify, attract and help a company hire great team members. They are either outsourced by the company or they work in-house to fill open positions. Hiring managers and recruiters have the same goals and objectives but they take on different tasks and play complementary roles in the hiring process.

Who makes the final decision in the hiring process?

Although the hiring team may include a hiring manager, recruiter and/or other team members, the hiring manager typically has the final say on who gets hired. The hiring manager works with the team and takes everyone's input into account to make an unbiased final hiring decision.

About the author
With a background in education and journalism, Brook has spent the past 18 years crafting and editing insightful content for small to medium-sized businesses. Her current favorite topics in the hiring space include employer branding and how to create a positive candidate experience. She lives in Toulouse with her husband, two sons and one sweet Staffy.

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