What Makes a Great Hiring Manager (Part one of three)

There are some moments that just stick with you. For me, one of those moments was when colleagues from other departments at the company I was working were discussing who had the worst job in the company. The overwhelming majority agreed that I took that title. They talked about how difficult it must be to anticipate staffing needs and constantly keep a pipeline of potential employees at the ready.


I thought the whole discussion was hilarious, but it did make me think about what exactly it meant to be the hiring manager and have what they viewed as the least-desired job in the whole company. In short: it was hard! I think it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and forget about all the skills it takes to pull it off. The constant decision making, networking and interviewing leaves little time to contemplate what makes a great manager and the areas in which we’re excelling or lacking.


My experience as a hiring manager and working in HR has brought to light what some of those important areas and skills are. Here, in part one of this series, I’ll take a look at what fundamental things are vital to being a great hiring manager.


Education/continuing education
A college degree is almost always a requirement for becoming a hiring manager, but the reasons for having a solid education extend far beyond having a diploma to hang on the wall. The truth is you are a decision maker for your company and should be viewed as such. Regardless of your view on how much weight formal education holds, being well educated often demands more respect and trust from other key individuals in your company.


Beyond your college degree(s), continuing education is a valuable tool in a great HR manager’s toolbox. Beyond HR certifications or an MBA, there are a number of training topics from which hiring managers could benefit, from recruiting through social media to how to handle tough conversations better. Even if you’re an experienced pro, don’t discount the fact that your job is people-centric, and since people are constantly changing, there are always things you can learn.


We all started somewhere, and we all had our first day on the job at some point. I’m certainly not saying that a rookie HR manager can’t be exceptional in their position, but as they say, there’s no substitute for experience. What exactly does experience provide that nothing else can? A lot of crazy, you-wouldn’t-believe-it unless-you-saw-it encounters that require you to think critically and quickly. Experience also gives you an up-close view of what happens when you make a bad decision or a great one. Seeing how those decisions play out, from start to finish, shapes how you make decisions and gives you more of a 360 degree look at all the aspects of a decision.


Passion for people
As a hiring manager, your job is all about people. People you meet, people you recruit, people who seek you out. A great hiring manager is just as comfortable surrounded by people as they are shut in their office. You can absolutely “fake it ‘til you make it” and participate in pleasantries while hiding your discomfort, but there’s no substitute for a hiring manager who loves what they do.


Of these three facets of a great hiring manager, which holds the most weight with you? Tell us in the comments below how you would rank these.

Also check out:
What Makes a Great Hiring Manager, part two
What Makes a Great Hiring Manager, part three


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Add yours
  1. 1
    Mrs. P

    It’s both surprising and disappointing to see that you listed Education as the first of your list of “fundamental things that are vital to being a great hiring manager.”  You go on to say: “A college degree is almost always a requirement for becoming a hiring manager, but the reasons for having a solid education extend far beyond having a diploma to hang on the wall. The truth is you are a decision maker for your company and should be viewed as such. Regardless of your view on how much weight formal education holds, being well educated often demands more respect and trust from other key individuals in your company.”

    Regardless of OTHERS’ view on how much weight education holds, a college diploma or MBA is not essential to being a great hiring manager.  Being a great hiring manager is something YOU do.  Your remarks are insulting and a disservice to many seasoned, talented hiring managers who do not happen to possess a college diploma.

  2. 2
    Ms. N

    Part one of this series has already disappointed me.  As an HR professional with a very successful track record of hiring talented people and no degree to read that a formal education will make those in an organization view me more as a decision maker and demands more respect is insulting at best.  

    I do not disagree that an education is important but what makes others respect me as a decision maker and an authority in any organization I work for is my professionalism, my knowledge, and expertise.  Education is great for the theory part of any career but how you put it into practice and your behavior is more important.

    Obviously, experience is key.  As for a passion for people it is important but passion is not enough.  You need to have a passion for studying people as to how they interact, their behaviors under no stress/stress, mannerisms, etc. and then being able to assess these to make a hiring decision.  As a friend of mine says about me all the time:  People are my business. 

  3. 3

    What great article. Bang on the nail. Education will be and will always be the ticket to prosperity. I was a high school drop out, who by tooth and nail, returned to school and continues to keep learning and acquiring skills, knowledge and abilities.(finished my mba and am working on 2 HR certificates) If you remain constant, you never grow? Whose interested in the status quo? Most excellent employers and employees are not. Education is only part of the solution, the other soft skills, as in hunger, drive, motivation, persistence and so on are the other part of the solution.

  4. 4
    Ms. I

    In defense of the author, there is nothing wrong with having a formal education. Yes, there are many HR Managers/VPs who do not have degrees, however, the marketplace is trending towards having heavily credentialed and degreed professionals. Not everyone will have the luck, inside contacts or network to obtain such positions without a formal education. The number one problem with non-degreed HR mgrs, is that they are screening and recruiting employees requiring them to have degrees for their roles. This presents a double standard, allowing candidates to push back with the same argument (they can perform in their roles w/o degrees); creating a host of issues for company morale. It would be more accepable if no one in a mgmt or executive role was required to have a degree, but only experience.

  5. 5
    Mr GM

    Dear P and N, An education is beneficial from my experience……..it rounds one’s depth and enhances industry experience creating an edge. For this reason, it can evidence a point of difference. Yes, there are street credentialled hiring managers (without degree’s) who do as well as a degree qualified hiring manager……..however we all build experience both thru industry experience and theoretical learning…it is ongoing….as the addage goes “Knowledge is power”..the more you know, the better decision maker you aspire to be.

  6. 6

    I hold an Honours Degree in Psychology. I do encourage people development but I do not think that my having a degree has helped me to become a successful senior recruitment head. People are my passion and that is why I am successful at it. Over 5years experience and sitting in hundreds of interviews, placing the wrong candidates and picking up later why they were an incorrect hire are the reasons for why I am a successful Recruitment Manager.

  7. 7
    L T

    I’ll be interested to read parts II and III from the author, however, I find myself agreeing with most others who have already commented in terms of further education being vital to the success of a hiring manager.  Experience is a given and I am surprised therefore that it features in this list.  A passion for people is something I hear time and time again from people who are struggling to identify what they really are passionate about.  I have also come across line managers (more times than I would like) who genuinely believe they are ‘people people’ and yet their management skills are lacklustre, at best.  A great hiring manager is someone who wants to help others develop and takes satisfaction from seeing others achieve what they set out to achieve.  A great hiring manager is someone who listens, who has integrity in abundance and who is prepared to back down -not someone who’s ego goes before them.  For me, a degree educated ‘people person’ with some relevant experience sounds ordinary.  I look for the extra-ordinary when seeking out potential hiring managers for my organisation – dare I say it, someone who maybe doesn’t have a degree but who has achieved unprecedented success through sheer determination and tenacity.  A great hiring manager is not someone who has been taught how to be a great hiring manager.  It is something intrinsic within them.  Wanting to do the right thing.  Wanting to help others.  Leading by example.  Being fair, honest and acting with integrity. 

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