• Michael Wright


Whoever you are, and whatever your involvement in the search for a replacement or new CEO…

Consider hiring a recruiting leader.

tl;dr — There are too many CEO’s who are auto-selected from Finance, Operations and Sales — and too few who come from Talent, especially Talent Acquisition. It makes sense to me to bring on leaders from TA, is all.

Hear me out. Here’s why:

We drive behavioral change 

We are persuasive. We connect with people and influence them as part of our daily work. And not just influence them in a small way — we contribute the information and provide (usually impartial) advice that leads them to make life-changing decisions with far-reaching consequences. In short, people find reasons to trust us.

We know our way around a P&L 

Most recruiters work a system where they have to “cover their seat” meaning that they have to deliver sales revenue of at least their CTC (Cost To Company) before they are paid any commission.

An agency recruiter will have to immediately embrace and understand the concepts of fixed and variable costs and forecasting, and this advances in complexity as growth happens. ROI is always at the heart of what we do, whether in-house or vendor side.

We are entrepreneurial 

Most recruiters will be familiar with “running a desk” and how that feels exactly like running your own business because it is exactly like running your own business.

I know there’s much more to being an entrepreneur than resilience, but the most successful ones will remind you that hustle and determination are key absolutely key to winning.

We can mine data for insights 

In Recruiting Leadership, agency or corporate, there are a million data sources and things to be tracked. Data and metrics are everywhere. You monitor sources vs costs, time-to-hire, cost-per-hire, quality-of-hire, sales… the list is endless. Even the seemingly straightforward task of reviewing a resume requires a special ability to read between the lines and dig out the signal from the noise. Something that, despite AI-technology like Watson beating us at Chess, Jepoardy and GO, robots are yet to beat us at doing.

We lead & empower 

Great recruiting leaders light up a corner of the world, and enable their teams to interpret even the toughest situations in empowering and constructive ways.

The lens we create is almost always focused on a desired outcome. We help our teams envision the ultimate goal and then challenge and coach our teammates to get there.

We extract value from social media 

Recruiting has always been fundamentally social. So great recruiting leaders will always have a knack for it. We embrace tools that can make our big-data-sifting job easier. We understand how it influences customer consideration and the buyers journey. We understand the value of social analytics for evaluating sentiment. We understand it’s power to create online influence.

We listen and we remember 

If you aren’t a great listener, you’ll never have been a successful recruiting leader. Active listening is an essential routine that we practice daily with our candidates, clients and co-workers. The slightest detail, however nuanced, implied or subtle, has to be noted and retrieved at a moments notice. At our best we use this ability to build trust, at scale.

We are great troubleshooters 

We love to identify and solve problems. Our business is consulting. We don’t offer off-the-shelf, one-size-fits all — we offer bespoke, custom-fit solutions to tackle each issue. Our heritage in commission-based work means that if we don’t solve the problem, we don’t get paid, and this conditions us to be adaptable and iterative in our approach.

We speak the language of business and of culture There’s no denying that some CEO’s like Riot Games Brandon Beck have a much different grasp of the importance of talent & culture in driving results, but not everyone is like Brandon. Recruiting leaders can help to educate the ones who are not gifted with that kind of vision because we speak the language of the business.

We can deal with ambiguity and adversity  

All recruiters understand that regardless of how they qualify their leads, how effective they are at sourcing, qualifying and passing talents to the hiring manager — stuff can goes wrong. This ensures we have a comfort level with ambiguity that few other professionals have. We’re dealing with facts but ride the unpredictability wave because of the human element. So we shape our daily work around dealing with that.

We are objective 

We consciously avoid letting subjective analysis and bias interfere with getting the job done right for the client. This emotional detachment and cold business-like appraisal is refined over time, and means we are able to make tough decisions when the chips are down, an essential CEO trait.

We simplify the complex 

We learn and adapt real fast. Recruiting leaders who operate in one or more niche industries will quickly have to develop tacit knowledge of their sector(s) extending to fluency with concepts, functions and technology. We synthesise.

We are strength-finders

Getting the best out of people is key in any leadership role. Helping them discover their strengths, and matching them with the right opportunity isn’t a job that comes without a lot of practice, trial and error. It’s the most important job a recruiting leader does. It’s arguably the most important job a CEO does too.

We can see around corners

From the get go, a newly minted recruiter will almost certainly have inherited what’s known in the trade as a “cold desk” — despite what they might have been promised at the interview. What a cold desk means is that there are few or zero existing customers. This means that recruiters are usually highly proficient at ‘reading’ markets, conducting qualitative and quantitative analysis based on micro and macro trends, location and availability of talent. We’re always on the pulse and are forced to adapt because of the constant need to expand and develop our customer / candidate network.

If you made it to the end of this long post I would love to know what you think. Why aren’t more recruiting leaders selected to be CEOs?

[This was originally published on TalentMagnate, my old blogger blog in 2013]

#leadership #CEOhiring #whatistalent