What makes a person an outstanding recruiting leader? Is it the ability to set a vision, develop a strategy, or manage a budget? Or is it something much less visible and subtler?

I believe that leadership is not something we are born with, although we may have a general aptitude. To become a good leader you need to study what good leaders do and then practice doing similar things yourself it in a deliberate, thoughtful and consistent way.

The points below amplify what I have learned from many successful leaders over the years.

Rule #1: You Are Not a Recruiter Anymore

Leaders cannot focus on their technical skills and expect their functions to be great. The biggest lesson to learn is that it is not about your technical expertise anymore.

Effective leaders set the tone; hire good people, provide development and mentorship and let the team do their job unhindered. If a recruiter needs constant supervision, then that recruiter should be replaced. If you have established guidelines and hired smart, capable people then your job is to create the environment where they can thrive.

Rule #2: Keep it Lean

Successful leaders find ways to do more with fewer people by improving efficiency and streamlining processes. Headcounts are not going to increase significantly and cost pressure will remain. The only way to survive is to reduce paperwork and process steps, implement technology, remove layers of management, and reduce reporting and meetings.

Rule #3: Focus on Simplicity

A recruiting function should operation like an iPad. It should be so easy for a hiring manager to hire someone that they think they did it all themselves. The leader’s job is to keep the sourcing, screening, and interviewing pieces humming quietly – honed to efficiency. The hiring manager should see only the output of these pieces – a qualified candidate who is eager for the position.

Rule #4: Use Data

Effective leaders need to analyze the data they have so that they can spot both areas that are constraints and areas that are growing and take action. They should remove any people, procedures or policies that inhibit sharing and communication (including recruiters that won’t share candidates or information), and they should ruthlessly look for ways to make doing everything easier, faster and cheaper.

Challenge your team to use data to better identify what kind of talent is needed and become efficient in finding and hiring these types of people. Make all rewards based on team performance. Encourage sharing, cross-learning, and leveraging each persons’ skills.

Rule #5: Embrace Teams – Not Individuals

Collaboration and teamwork are more effective in getting results than individuals. Don’t organize into functional silos with sourcers, screeners, recruiters, and so on. If you have specialists, mingle them together to create cross-functional teams. Include hiring managers and business leaders on your teams, at least as part-time members, whenever you can.

Rise above the transactional mindset to one of making a strategic difference. Make all rewards based on team performance. Encourage sharing, cross-learning, and leveraging each persons’ skills.

Rule #6: Accept the Limits

There is never enough of anything. In decades in the recruitment world I have never heard anyone say they had all the money, time, or people they needed to do their job. And I am pretty sure I never will.

Rather than complain, use the limits to your advantage. When there are not enough people, learn other ways to get a task done. Try crowdsourcing for new ideas and to perhaps find candidates through your network. Limits often lead to creative breakthroughs if you have the right attitude.

Rule #7: Build Internal Relationships

Relationships are the key to success and happiness in every social setting, and organizations are social settings. Getting to know and support your own leadership team will help remove constraints and perhaps even provide more resources.

Spending time to chat with business leaders, getting to know them and their problems and needs will help you to focus your efforts, redirect priorities, and improve your relevance.

Rule #8: Use Technology; Don’t Fall in Love with It

Using technology well is the key to increasing productivity, but do not forget that recruiting is a people-to-people business. Relationships, virtual or face-to-face are the basis for generating interest in a position and in getting hiring managers to accept candidates you send to them.

Technology helps immensely and increases productivity, expands the reach, of your recruiters and provides data and insights you would not get otherwise. But, it does not replace the need for recruiters to continuously refine their ability to connect with candidates and convince them of the opportunity offered. Nor does it replace the face-to-face conversations with hiring managers that builds the credibility of your department and improves candidate acceptance.

But remember that most of all your job is to set the stage for success and do everything you can to make sure your recruiters have the skills, tools, and empowerment to achieve the goals of the organization.

Kevin Wheeler
Kevin Wheeler Founder and Chairman the Future of Talent Institute. Kevin started FOTI in 2004 out of his passionate belief that organizations need a more powerful and thoughtful architecture for talent than they have. After a 25 year career in corporate America serving as the Senior Vice President for Staffing and Workforce Development at the Charles Schwab Corporation, the Vice President of Human Resources for Alphatec Electronics, Inc. in Thailand, and in a variety of human resources roles at National Semiconductor Corporation, Kevin has firsthand knowledge of the need for better strategies and approaches to finding, developing and retaining people.

Today, Kevin is a globally known speaker, author, teacher and consultant in human capital acquisition and development, as well as in corporate education. He is the author of numerous articles on human resource development, career development, recruiting, and on establishing corporate universities. He is a frequent speaker at conferences. He writes a weekly Internet column on recruiting and staffing, which can be found at www.ere.net, and he and Eileen have written a book on corporate universities, The Corporate University Workbook: Launching the 21st Century Learning Organization. He serves as adjunct faculty at San Jose State University, the University of San Francisco and on the business faculty at San Francisco State University.

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