The Difference Between Recruiters and Hiring Managers

A service member listens to a hiring manager describe job openings during a Hiring Our Heroes event at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.
A service member listens to a hiring manager describe job openings during a Hiring Our Heroes event at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, Sept. 15, 2022. (Edzel Butac/Joint Base Lewis-McChord PAO photo)

Many job seekers -- not just military service members transitioning to civilian careers -- are confused by the different roles of corporate recruiters and hiring managers. When applying for an open position at a company, researching a point of contact or when networking your way into an employer, you'll see different titles and roles under the human resources department umbrella.

Recruiters and hiring managers are both charged with talent (employee) sourcing for the company. They have these functions in common:

  • They understand the company culture, business and goals, and seek candidates who will support the business and fit in the organization.
  • They want to find the right candidate for the job.
  • They may both use online job applications, applicant tracking programs and review candidates' social media presence in deciding which applicants to pursue.

Here is where they are often different:


  • The recruiter is typically an external consultant who works for a company that is compensated for each successful placement (part time, contract or permanent employees). Large companies might have internal corporate recruiters, but most likely, the recruiter is hired by the employer to recruit for one or many open positions.
  • They are focused on sifting through resumes, conducting first-round screening and interviewing job candidates who fit the position and the company. Most recruiters also conduct reference and background checks on candidates before forwarding them on to the hiring manager.
  • The recruiter is typically focused on fact-checking and evaluating the fit for the job. The recruiter may ask more pointed and direct questions, seeking simple and straightforward responses.
  • Recruiters are listening for confidence, ability, clarity and passion for the work. They want to be sure you have the skills, experience and desire to do the work their client is looking for, and that you will present yourself well in an interview with the employer.
  • Recruiters want to see a resume that is free of errors, focused and a reflection of the person they are speaking to on the phone.

Hiring Managers

  • The hiring manager works for the employer; has knowledge of the business goals, challenges, vision and brand; and is part of the human resources department.
  • They use their inside knowledge of the company to interview, refer and hire the best candidates for the job and the company. Culture and fit are very important to the hiring manager.
  • Hiring managers serve many different duties besides hiring. The hiring manager is often involved in screening, onboarding, job performance evaluations, candidate experience and retention strategies in the company.
  • Hiring managers interview and screen for personality, attitude, aptitude, experience and skills. They are looking at how the candidate will fit in with the team they'd be placed with, interact with the department managers, and their potential to grow their career at the company.
  • The hiring manager wants to understand: Have you done this work before? Are you capable of doing this job? What unique qualities, talents or expertise do you bring to the position? They also want to hear about your goals, vision and passion for the work, industry and company.
  • Hiring managers interview differently. Their interviews (phone and in person) tend to be more qualitative and conversational. They will be curious about your research on the company, understanding of the company's mission, brand and goals, and will look to see how well you can sell yourself into the position, not just relying on your resume.

When you get the call for an interview, remember the above information to be sure you speak clearly and in a way that is compelling, given the interviewer's goals and responsibilities.

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