Talent Teams

Why Your Intake Meeting is Broken, And How to Fix It

It’s no secret the disconnect between hiring managers and recruiters is a hot topic in talent acquisition right now, for all the wrong reasons.

As if the recruiting and hiring process didn’t have enough wild cards thrown at it, we as internal recruiters are weighing things down by messing up one of the most important elements of success – the initial intake meeting with the hiring manager. Just like the success of a company relies on a strong alignment between departments, in hiring top talent, recruiters and hiring managers must be in complete alignment about what type of candidate they are looking for.

But this misalignment is not the only thing you should be concerned about, and should take second place in your intake meeting to something far more important. Specifically, someone who doesn’t yet have a voice in the room.

The candidate.

That’s why we’re in recruiting, for those candidate wins, big or small. But as we increasingly focus on how to sell to candidates fatigued by recruiter spam, it’s crucial that the intake meeting doesn’t just reflect what we want in a candidate, but what the candidate wants from us. What they’ll respond to. What will make them drop what they’re doing?



When you leave a good intake meeting, you have a strong sense of what the ideal candidate looks like in your hiring manager’s eyes. But when you leave a great intake meeting, you have a clear understanding of the true value a top candidate is seeking in a role. Not just how much they’ll get paid, but why this role is different.

Think of it this way. When you send your first cold outreach message, what approach is going to be more successful?

“Hey John, I have a content marketing role I think you’d be perfect for.”

“Hey John, I work for a small HR tech start-up that needs a scrappy, hyper-motivated writer to launch a blog in the next quarter, and assemble a team of contributors to build an audience fast. The team is flat and super driven, and everyone in the company is working to change the way people find work.

You in?”

Here at 1-Page, we’ve experimented with a variety of outreach tactics, campaigns, and delivery methods, and one thing is crystal clear in our metrics – when we are able to speak to the VALUE the candidate will add to the team here, in a very specific way, engagement doesn’t just increase by a few percent. It doubles.

Not only are we targeting the RIGHT people, but this refocusing of the intake conversation is improving the quality and impact of messaging, and driving a higher number of responses from people the hiring manager actually wants to see.

It’s a win-win situation.

BONUS: Get the printable checklist we use in every intake meeting to get true alignment.


So how do you prepare for and run a candidate-focused intake meeting? Preparation and structure are key…

1. Come prepared with an understanding of the role and market

Start with the basics. As the talent advisor, it’s crucial you know what candidates for that role typically look like, particularly if you are being asked to recruit for a role you have never touched before. Going into the meeting with your HM with clear benchmarks in your head automatically puts you in a position of trust.

A useful framework for this research is to look at competitors — what experience level do they hire, what do they classify as required vs desired skills, and what salary do they offer. As we’ll discuss below, try to find two or three sample candidates to bring – representing different ends of the talent spectrum – to analyze with your HM in the room.


2. Research your candidate attraction factors

Once you’ve researched the basics, you should do your best to understand what the candidate attraction factors might look like for the role in question, to assist in prompting your HM if needed.

Go and have a quick chat with those on that particular team already. What would make them change jobs? Why do they work at your company? Get specific. It sounds obvious, but these conversations will quickly give you an idea of what a star recruit is looking for (because you’ve hired them before!)

What will make a candidate switch roles and solve your team's biggest challenges?
What will make a candidate switch roles and solve your team’s biggest challenges?


3. Bring your “red pen” and be ruthless

By reviewing line-by-line in the job description, as expert recruiter Stacy Zapar suggests, you’re going to eliminate the need to keep coming back with questions of what’s desirable down the line, as well as revealing any particulars your hiring manager may have. There’s a lot to be teased out about the ideal candidate that is not expressed through words, yet these qualities are critical nonetheless.

“Bottom line, each hiring manager has their own expectations for the role and their own set of biases, and it’s critical to find that up front,” Zapar says.

Zapar makes this line-by-line review part of each of her intake meetings, and it doesn’t just lead to a better recruiting process internally. A concise, easy to read job description is key when you’re trying to catch the eye of candidates and stand out from the sea of open roles around you.


4. Know when to stand your ground

You are a thought leader in the business from a different perspective, so feel free to push back on certain requirements or even candidates when the time comes. That’s why you’re in the room.

We are working for our hiring managers and delivering a match for their needs and wants, but we also have the unique experience of being in tune with the talent market, and the ability to spot reasons why we want to go into bat for particular candidates that may not usually fit the bill.


5. Come prepared with a physical checklist

It’s worth repeating — asking the right questions at the start is key. Our job as a recruiter is to ‘wow’ our key customer – the hiring manager – and to give them as frictionless a process as possible. We need to be able to qualify a lead with little margin of error, and we all know documentation is important to ensure this happens.

You obviously want to cover the basics (alternative titles, degree and experience level) but also drill into the candidate motivation factors – why your company, this team, and what value will they add? Our suggestion is to leave at least half the intake meeting to focus on these questions, to ensure your outreach is focused, personal and irresistible.

Ready to overhaul your intake conversations?

Here’s a free checklist to structure, focus and align your intake meetings.


6. Don’t leave the room just yet!

Whatever you do, don’t leave the room until you are 99.9% confident you know what your hiring manager wants. There is nothing more frustrating than phone screening candidate after candidate, only to find out that your hiring manager tears each one apart for reasons NOT addressed up front. Far more than just annoying, misalignment impacts every recruiting metric.

One useful alignment exercise before you leave is coming prepared with sample candidates and resumes, gathered during the initial research phase. If you haven’t already, you’ll get an invaluable insight into any nuances your HM is chasing.


I don’t have to tell you how important the initial intake conversation is. Run well, it removes communication breakdowns, minimizes back and forth, and makes you look better. But as I’ve found, being the voice of the candidate in the room, and diving deep into their motivators doesn’t just improve the recruiting process. It changes the conversation entirely.

No longer are we simply chasing a line-up a hiring manager is standing by to strike through.

We’re bringing people together around opportunity – to change their careers, impact the bottom line, and grow themselves and their teams.

After all – isn’t that why we’re all in recruiting in the first place?


What are your must-dos to prepare for or run a candidate-focused intake meeting? We’d love to hear them in the comments!