Recruiting Belongs Under The CEO

Dear Mr. CEO,

It’s come to my attention that many of you now believe recruiting key talent is the No. 1 priority nowadays.

If you really believe this — and those of you with the sense God gave mules should — then you’re probably wondering how in the world are you going to do that.

Here’s a wonderful article by a colleague of mine in an organization I belong to — ERE — and if you’ve never heard of it it’s because you’re really only just coming lately to this management epiphany we’re about to talk about and you’re to be forgiven because — after all — recruiters?

Nobody really took them too seriously ever before.

All that’s about to change and this is your opportunity to be in the beginning of one of the most revolutionary and powerful movements that will change the competitive landscapes of companies today.

Jacque Vilet offers a solution in her provocative article that suggests moving Recruiting out from under HR and placing it in the Marketing department.

We all (more and less) loved her for her point of view, but some of us came up with an alternative proposition — why not move Recruiting under you?

Yes, you!

I see you lookin’ around for someone to pawn this off on.

No, I’m talkin’ to you — Mr. Chief Executive Officer.

You — the guy who makes the final decisions around there — the guy everyone holds answerable for everything.


Maybe you’re worried your number’s about to come up and you’re going to be the one in four CEOs about to be unable to pursue a market opportunity or cancel/delay a strategic initiative because of talent challenges as reported in that PricewaterhouseCoopers CEO survey Jacque referred to in her article.

You might be in that one third of all CEOs concerned that skills shortages will impact your company’s ability to innovate effectively.

(By the way and for the record, those of us in recruiting believe that one-third number should be a whole lot higher.  That’s one good reason you should join ERE. That, and because it’s FREE!)

This isn’t a solicitation for you to join another delivered-in-your-email-daily hodgepodge of self-important pundits (though we have our fair share and you’re readin’ one!) but an invitation for you to explore how to drive exponential value by aligning yourself with a resource that can offer you guidelines to help you find someone with a comprehensive understanding of talent today and talent tomorrow.

I’m talking about choosing someone — maybe someone in your organization or someone outside — who understands recruiting and understands how recruiting can directly increase revenue in your organization.

No, no, not your HR executive vice president who shows up dutifully with that Hail-Fellow-Well-Met salute at your monthly roundtable and suggests golf dates with you afterwards.

Can’t you see he’s just (mostly silently) marking time ‘til retirement?

Not the HR lady either.

Her mind’s on interview scheduling and background checks and onboarding and benefits and the affair that’s threatening to turn into a sexual discrimination lawsuit over in the R&D building and well — you know — she has her hands full.

I’m talking about someone who understands your employees’ views and needs and can give you an assessment of realistic internal advancement in your workforce; someone who gets labor costs, staff productivity, the costs of employee turnover and a return on investment on human capital.

Someone who can help keep your talent-related expenses in check; prevent your quality standards from falling; help you achieve your growth forecasts where you’re based (or overseas) and enable pursuit of market opportunities and innovation and implementation of key strategic initiatives.

Someone who can do all the above with the right decisions on talent and who can give you comprehensive information on that talent and who is only a phone call away from your office.

Someone who reports directly to you!

Maureen Sharib has been a “Socratic sourcer” her entire sourcing career; from the moment she first picked up the faxed list of Silicon Valley high-tech companies that was her target list to “phone source” in 1996 to today she has instinctively followed this method of investigative sourcing using (mostly) the telephone.  She is a proponent of sourcing as a synonym for success and envisions the craft moving away from a dangerously drudgery-paced life-form existence to an exciting investigative/competitive place within organizations where practitioners co-exist within a framework of market research, human resources, and C-level future planning. She owns the phone sourcing and competitive intelligence firm, Inc. You can contact her at Maureen at or call her at (513) 646-7306.  If she’s not on the phone she’ll pick up!


19 Comments on “Recruiting Belongs Under The CEO

  1. Bravo Maureen! If Recruiting Key Talent really is the No. 1 priority nowadays than it just can’t be said, action needs to be taken.

  2. So, does this mean we have given up on the top HR executive being a business partner to the CEO?

    If so, then perhaps the COO might be a better choice.

  3. Leave it to Maureen to speak the truth and seek the sweeping change that business requires to do what is right. Won’t happen of course but it is a grand thought from a person who has the vision and perspective we need to consider.

  4. Paul, you ask an interesting question; one I’m not suggesting at all.

    Maybe it’s time we have the “What is HR?” discussion.

    What I see happening is staffing (and probably compensation) being placed (maybe even a dotted line but I prefer none) beneath the CEO and all the rest (labor law compliance, employee relations, documents, discipline, performance reviews, safety, etc) falling under a top HR executive who is a business partner to the CEO.

    How does that strike you?

    Howard: I hope it’ll happen. Maybe not in our lifetimes but someday, somewhere!

  5. Staffing is increasingly falling under HR Execs. As budgets become tighter, CEOs have become more involved in staffing and recruitment. Recruitment data presented to the HR Exec will eventually make its way to the CEO. If TA is successful, the CEO usually does not get deeply involved. However, this is a mistake, because the information that an experienced recruiter provides can get lost in the bureaucracy and various political agendas. It is essential for TA leaders, and recruiters reporting directly the HR Execs, to have a relationship with the CEO. Relationship building applies internally and externally, and the best recruitment leaders know how to leverage their connections to achieve results.

  6. Thanks, Mighty Mo.
    IMHO, the statement from a CEO that: “Recruiting key talent really is the No. 1 priority.” belongs in the same category
    as such grand and noble statements as:

    1) I’ll call you.
    2) The check is in the mail.
    3) Saddam Hussein has ties to al-Qaeda and weapons of mass destruction.

    Furthermore, does it REALLY matter where on the org chart our boss is, as long as s/he gives us the resources that we need, supports and shows loyalty to us, and lets us recruit without having to sweat the small stuff? More often than not, we really should be under “Maintenance and Facilities” because WE’RE ALWAYS CLEANING UP OTHER PEOPLE’S MESSES!


  7. Keith I can always depend on you for a laugh! LOL!

    Yes it does matter where Recruiting/TA reports. It hasn’t done so well reporting into the head of HR. If it does it loses exec attention and the head of HR is more concerned with costs because that’s what top management beats him/her up for. (Understand there are exceptions so don’t get excited.)

    If under Finance Recruiting becomes viewed even more as a cost than ever — than it is now. All Finance knows is to cut — rarely are they preaching “invest”. (Again understand there are exceptions — but in this case I would bet not many.)

    I said in a past post (Dec. 11) try Marketing. I then revised my pitch to say perhaps Sales, Marketing and Recruiting/TA should report in to a head of ___? that reports to the CEO.

    Why? If you listen to Dr. John — selling is the biggest thing Recruiting needs to do. Marketing is a natural partner for all the reasons I mentioned in the Dec. 11 post. (Again I’m talking about strategic Marketing — not advertisement only).

    Sales/Marketing today gets focus because they “bring home the bacon”. Recruiting needs to be viewed in the same camp. Assets/investments — not costs.

    It nice to say it doesn’t matter who Recruiting/TA reports to — but a little idealistic. It does matter.

    Keith — try to get anyone’s attention when you report to “Maintenance and Facilities”.

  8. Thanks, Jacque. “Keith I can always depend on you for a laugh! LOL! ”

    ” If you listen to Dr. John —” My wife enjoys his style of music more than I, though I agree he is a fine musician and performer.

    I hear what you’re saying- that it DOES matter who our boss reports to. However, I really don’t care for all the political games and pathetic attempts to show how important and significant Recruiting is. Being in a corporate power play often like being a civilian in the middle of a civil or other kind of war- one side or the other is (probably both) is going to treat us poorly and with little consideration, so it doesn’t really matter who wins. As long as we get *resources, support, and avoid micro-management: you could have the “Man in the Moon” or the “Little Mermaid” in charge for all I care. If we DON’T have these things, and a change in org structure won’t improve them, then it still doesn’t matter to me who we report up to. The only time it would is when a change in organization reporting either clearly gets us into a better situation (as I defined above) or takes us out of a bad one.

    “Keith — try to get anyone’s attention when you report to “Maintenance and Facilities”.”
    Exactly right- Jacque. Who wants attention?
    As they said in Fiddler on the Roof:
    “God bless and keep the Tsar….far away from us!”

    Happy Friday,


    *and I get paid promptly, easily, and in full.

  9. Maureen,

    Thanks for replying to my post, that is appreciated. Oh, I took your ‘test’ and (if you don’t count the two erasures I made after finding we agree on an issue or two -I had mistakenly anticipated your ‘answer’ being different from mine- I scored a 98% although I’m not sure that a high score on that test means someone is an expert phone sourcer. (I did not know people earned fees harvesting those “…press 3 for Steve Williams, press 4 for Cheryl Hannin, press 5…” names, LOL! I always keep track since as a headhunter we’re s’posed to harvest every name available but I did not know that was what a phone sourcing person does….Huh? Oh, thirty years, since 1980, why? Talk about being ‘external’, huh? LOL!)


    I retract what I said about Recruitment perhaps being better off reporting to the COO.

    I’m going to keep this simple since this is not an easy subject to resolve with an assertion or two so here is my basic view on this:

    Yes, there is a lot of sympatico between Marketing and Recruitment but if anything, I see a dotted line between the two so the Employee Branding/Company Branding/Company Culture is a common conversation between the two departments.

    I believe that it is more relevant to re-invent HR instead of taking away one or more of its components. Recruiting is about Human Resources/Human Capital and denying that is denying what HR is ideally all about.

    The Leadership of HR needs to be re-invented or at the least, persuaded to take a more recruitment/talent acquisition/sales/marketing mentality vs. a ‘pencils all lined up in a row’ mentality.

    In other words, we need to ‘fix’ HR, not disassemble it.

    And as to having Recruitment/TA reporting directly to CEO I say, no, uh-uh.

    I am reading that CEO’s are participating more in the recruitment process and that tells me her/his top executive in HR is not doing her/his job.

    Diluting the time of the CEO by having that person spending more time in Recruitment/TA seems like poor use of that person’s time.

    In fact, I wonder if that is why RPO’s are doing so well- because [in some cases] a CEO decided that Recruitment/TA was not being effectively handled by her/his top HR executive.

    It might be more ‘fun’ for the recruiters to be working in Marketing but I don’t see that as a proper resolution toward fixing what needs fixing.

    Keep bugging that CEO and you may find your department being RPO’ed.

    Thanks, Maureen.

  10. @ Paul: “Keep bugging that CEO and you may find your department being RPO’ed.”

    IMHO, recruiting should be RPO’d because somebody with pull realizes it’s not cost effective to pay $30+/hr and 20+% fees for work that can be effectively done for less than U.S. minimum wage. If somebody’s working in a place where the CEO would do something like that because they’re annoyed with someone in recruiting: that’s a place to get out of and FAST!


  11. Hey, Keith!

    1. First, I was being a bit of a smart-aleck when I said, “…Keep bugging that CEO and you may find your department being RPO’ed…”

    [Overly?] simply stating it, farming Recruitment out to an RPO, as per a “Special Advertising Section” by WilsonHCG in the December 2013 issue of WORKFORCE refers to RPO as being “…a service providing positive business impact…”.

    I believe I can assume that assertion includes defraying the cost of external recruiters, just as you suggested.

    I say all this to put the conversation of RPO back into its appropriate perspective and I regret using the subject out of context so as to put it into the mix of Maureen’s thread here.

    My first of two apologies, Maureen.

    2. I easily and emphatically take exception, Keith, to your suggesting Executive Search can be “…effectively…” executed by persons earning less than “…U.S. minimum wage…”.

    This is so outlandish an assertion it defies belief you would even say this. Who in their right minds is going to go through the rigors of executive search at ‘less than’ minimum wage?

    And I’m not referring to advertising, placing notices at Social Media websites or skimming names at LinkedIn; I’m referring to the tedious practice of getting on the phone and using ruse calls or brilliance, getting the names of all the Actuaries in that insurance company’s Pricing/Product Development/Pension, etc. departments, the names of all the nurses in Post OP or the names of all five Cost Accountants at a Health & Beauty company?

    Now, Maureen, you have my second apology for drawing this thread off-topic.

    Back to CEO’s and HR:

    As an example of the CEO becoming involved in the Recruitment process, refers to “HR Magazine: CEO as Recruiter”, Vol. 53, No. 4.

    Examples of how and why the CEO would participate in the recruitment process are reviewed and within the context of recruiting in small shops and/or recruiting C-Level executives I’m sure it says nothing new nor to be debated.

    However, as a major re-organization -back to your thread, Maureen- having Recruitment/TA reporting to the CEO or Marketing is, still, IMO, an inappropriate step toward resolving the issue of how HR is not executing Recruitment/TA as effectively as it might.

    I’m a Traditionalist and I also believe we ought to be doing the Six Sigma thing here….looking for a Root Cause and then solving the problem.

    Dismantling HR is not an optimum solution since, again, IMO, if we address the issue of who is heading up the sub department of HR in Recruiting/TA, perhaps we might find that a more suitable personality with a lot more imagination would go a long way toward resolving this issue.

    Give that person the tools to do the job, create that dotted line connecting Recruitment/TA, Marketing and Public Relations [Employee/Company Branding & Culture issues] and voila, perhaps this would go a long way toward resolving the breakdowns that have many of you wishing for a new Master.

    Also, not mentioned in the posts by others, above, is the fact that Recruitment/TA has not only many twists and turns to it, there is also the factor that liabilities of various sorts show their faces and I am not so sure a VP of Marketing would like to have these occasional entanglements taking up her/his time.

    Rightfully, these ‘issues’ that come up from time to time [oftener, the larger the enterprise, yes?] would be referred back to HR who would push them off onto Legal.

    Legal would wonder why both HR and Marketing are dropping HR related breakdowns into their in basket.

    Bottom line for me is that I still don’t see the wisdom of disassembling HR when perhaps the best solution is to take a harder look at how HR can mend its own house.

    Thanks, Maureen.

  12. I see an error in my post above:

    “As an example of the CEO becoming involved in the Recruitment process, refers to “HR Magazine: CEO as Recruiter”, Vol. 53, No. 4.”

    Should have said, “As an example of the CEO becoming involved in the Recruitment process, refers to “HR Magazine: CEO as Recruiter”, Vol. 53, No. 4.”

    My mistake, I did not realize using the symbols for links would have not show up in the text.

  13. I read a blog post here in the UK that I pronounced to be the best of 2013. Yours Maureen come in a very close second, thank you for an outstanding contribution to the wide and more holistic debate. Also thank you to Jacque Vilet for equally good contributions, I feel deeply inspired.
    Many good comments above and well said things.
    I tell you why this entire subject matters more than ever before, and why it this time around cannot be given 3rd 4th or 5th priority. Global competition. Read Gyan Nagpal’s book ‘Talent Economics’ and you will see that what is coming round the corner is of a force and of a dominance that the western world has never seen before and why we really are approaching 11th hour if we are to have a chance to uphold status and stem onslaught of competition from countries like India and China. Mediocre approach has just about made things tick over and keep most above water, however that will not do in the VUCA world we live in and that will only become more pronounced. CEO’s worth their title know this and are acting accordingly.
    Fight for (global) survival is about being the best, having the best people, and with them produce the most innovative/best products and/or deliver the best service. That starts and ends with people why it simply in my opinion is the main issue and priority full stop.
    As CEO’s are the captains of their ships, those that rule and delegate, every single aspect and not least the culture/vision and overall attitudes are set by them. THEY set the agenda and THEY are the ones that ultimately decide what is to be done and not done.
    Having seen and been close to CEO’s that did have the talent acquisition as one of their main priorities, that ensured this pervading every element of their companies and through that having financial bottom line success, low attrition, and a culture that was raved about, I know what this means, and can testify it to being a sight of beauty, of harmony, of efficiency and sustainability.
    Sure we can have TA report to marketing and/or sales, but the ultimate solution, the solution that makes a significant difference is to have it as the attention and responsibility of the CEO.
    One such example exist, being the company Unilever, where the CEO has TA or people attraction as one of his 5 main pillars of focus. Take a look at them, they are a very good and strong example of someone doing this already and reaping the rewards.

  14. Jacob — thank you SO MUCH for bringing in the global angle on this. Having dealt in the international arena for the past 20 years it is imperative that companies find a better place for Strategic recruiting.
    Finding talent worldwide is one of the top priorities for CEOs when 50% or more of U.S. companies’ revenues are coming from outside the U.S. And it’s not manufacturing I’m talking about. That’s a dead subject. Companies are hiring local professionals in other countries.
    Not having enough talent is keeping companies from taking advantage of market opportunities.

    I don’t know how much recruiters keep up with the world of general HR but for at least 20 years (I can show you comments from big HR thought leaders on this) HR has been begged/pleaded with to become more strategic. And other than talking about ad naseum nothing has changed (Google and a few exceptions).

    Reforming the entire HR function it not realistic in our lifetime. The best alternative is to deal with the reality that HR “is what it is” and move on to get Strategic Recruiting positioned in a more strategic part of the company.

    Sorry for the long rants but this is a hot button with me.

  15. @Jacque
    Re: ‘Not having enough talent is keeping companies from taking advantage of market opportunities’
    = Not having the r i g h t talent equals losing out to competition!
    (example: Samsung Mobile have 20 times if not more designers/engineers than Apple, yet their products are inferior!)
    Re: ‘Reforming the entire HR function it not realistic in our lifetime. The best alternative is to deal with the reality that HR “is what it is” and move on to get Strategic Recruiting positioned in a more strategic part of the company’

    If a CEO taking the whole HR/people issue seriously then they will know/understand/acknowledge that having mediocre/’old world’ folks in these departments simply wont cut it, and demand/ask for a ‘new breed’.
    That said ‘new breed’ in short supply, and often CEO’s have zero clue about this side of their business!

  16. @ Paul: I was unclear:
    I believe most recruiting work that isn’t worth paying someone at least $50/hr to do (your rates may vary) can and should be no-sourced (eliminated), through-sourced (automated) or outsourced (sent away) for under US minimum wage. While the research and sourcing part of Executive Search can effectively be handled at the low end, the relationship-building (aka, “getting them to talk to you”) and closing parts can most definitely NOT- it’s one of those $50+/hr areas.

    @ Everybody: As far as getting CEOs deeply involved (aka, “micro-managing”) in recruiting: NO-O-O-O-H! Not in a million years! When CEOs start sticking their noses in our business, they think they have some sort of “CEO Spidey-sense” that enables them to effectively know more about hiring than we do, AND THEY DON’T. (Why would you let a CEO micro-manage Recruiting, when you wouldn’t have them micro-manage Finance or Legal?) When this happens, the GAFIS (Greed, Arrogance, Fear, Ignorance/Incompetence, and Stupidity) Principles come out in full and you get disasters like “hire slow,” “have lots of interview(er)s,” “hire based on GPA and academic attendance,” and expectations of hiring entitlement.


  17. @Keith
    Ehhh… Who says anything about micro managing CEO’s?
    As micro management overall usually spell disaster and as most CEO’s anyway too busy that is rarely the case. Where I have been involved and seen it play out succeessfully was where CEO managed to instill in everybody a sense of that getting the best people hired a shared responsibility and enablng all involved parties to do their bit with required tools, understanding and capabilities. That in my.opnion is best way of doing.things and thé results from this were there in abundance.

  18. Recruiting needs to report thru operations not HR. I have worked in IT Consulting companies, and I agree with Maureen that Recruiting is often misplaced in an organization. I do not agree that Recruiting has to report to the CEO to be effective. As long as it reports to someone with authority and responsibility in the organization, it will be effective and accountable.

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