So Now YOU’RE in Charge

Now you have what you always wanted: the chance to build your own recruiting function. Just a few days ago you were a recruiter, an HR generalist, or in some other role where you performed as an individual contributor. Just a few days ago you knew exactly what you would do should you ever have the chance, and it all seemed simpler than it does now.

As in all things, the first few days are the most challenging and they will set the tone for the future. I sometimes get emails or phone calls from newly minted recruiting managers who want some advice on first steps.

While each case is different, there are a few steps anyone can take to maximize the chances of success. Building strong foundations are as important for a recruiting function as they are for buildings.

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You have about 90 days to make a first impression. No matter the circumstances, your future will be at least somewhat judged on whether you meet your goals, impress the boss, and set a positive tone for the future. By opening clear communication with your manager and by working with him or her to set some specific goals, you can vastly improve your chance of success.

Here are three suggestions on what to do:

  • Step One: Determine your recruiting philosophy and approach. The first step is particularly critical: working with your boss, determine a philosophy and general approach that will underline and define your recruiting function. Work with your boss, the management team, and the VP of HR to come up with a written philosophy and guiding principles for your function. Some of this comes from answering a few tough questions: What is most important to you and your boss about recruiting? Is it finding quality candidates or is it finding a lot of candidates? Why were you chosen? What is expected? Is it taking time to filter numerous candidates against a predetermined matrix of competencies, or is it just finding “good” people and getting the positions filled? Are you going to look at resumes and make decisions or are you going to determine competency by interviewing, by testing, or by both? The list of questions can go on, and you will have to develop your own set. The most important thing is to enter into a dialog with management and get a consensus on your organization’s philosophy. Many recruiting managers cannot answer these questions, yet the answers always exist whether they are articulated or not. They are fundamental to forging a strategy that will lead to management acceptance and success. Many organizations have very clear philosophies and they are usually the most successful. Google focuses on engineers and software gurus. The selection process is tough. People are critically examined and challenged. The goal is to get a few of the best. KPMG focuses on new college graduates and screening is about academic excellence and cultural fit. Whatever the recruiting approach, its consistent practice coupled to results will lead to your acceptance and success.
  • Step Two: How will your success be measured? Some recruiting managers seem to prefer to work with little more than the number of people hired or number of candidates screened as measures of their worth to the firm. I would prefer something a little more significant. For example, one measure could be the time it takes to present a qualified candidate to a hiring manager. This is an impressive statistic and combines how well your recruiters know their hiring managers, the quality of their sourcing, and the quality of your talent community. If your recruiters can produce good candidates in a few hours or days, you know you have a winning team. Another measure might be the quality of the hires as measured by hiring manager satisfaction and long-term retention. Take a look at the metrics put forth by the non-profit association. They publish benchmarks and formulas, and I highly recommend participating in their work and in a dialogue about what should be measured. Couple this with at least two to three specific accomplishments you agree to complete within 90 days. This will be how your boss judges you and will help you complete the next step.
  • Step Three: Create a recruiting strategy. All of this needs to be followed by an overall strategy for your recruiting function. The “whys” should have been answered in your philosophy, and you should now know what you have to get done. What remains is how to make that happen. This is where you can focus on whether you are going to recruit for every position or just for certain ones and outsource the rest. This is when you can begin to make decisions about the kinds of recruiters you have. You may not have any choice and then you will have to figure out how to assign and motivate them to help you achieve your goals and those of the organization. The strategy should evolve smoothly from the philosophy and visioning and can be written almost as a road map to the future. It requires discussion around resources and capabilities and speed. It also requires tradeoffs and compromises. And, only after the philosophy, metrics, and strategy are in place can you safely move to the tactical: the staffing plans, the computer systems, the website design, and the other many elements that are needed for success.

Too many new recruiting managers rush in and start lots of activity with almost no planning and with little deep understanding of what is expected or possible. Taking it slow the first few days, asking lots of questions, building a level of trust with your recruiters, and showing your boss that you are focused and want to deliver results will go miles and miles toward making you a top performer.

Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at


2 Comments on “So Now YOU’RE in Charge

  1. Nice one, Kevin.

    When I was first promoted to a position of management, it was recommended to me to read The One Minute Manager. It’s a short read and a simple (painfully simple) method of managing people in any capacity. I applied the three step process and immediately had a team of 15 Marines working like a well-oiled machine. I then spent time defining the core subject of my style. I have found over the years that companies have the terrible habit of making managers out of top-performers. If not trained or skilled at the basics of management more often than not this yields a poor manager, the loss of a highly productive asset, and worst of all, poor morale among the troops.

    Thanks for the contribution!

  2. Having been the new kid on the block in different organizations over the years, Kevin’s article is right on! It is not about tactical activities at first, but assessing what management values. Running a great recruiting function (or HR or IT function, for that matter) is truly understanding the corporate culture and norms, understanding your client’s expectations (both internal and external clients or stakeholders), then working on those things that can exceed the client’s expectations. It is not at all about activities and tactical firefighting/triage. That approach will ultimately get you into trouble. Also, a savvy staffing leader knows enough not to just deliver on what is asked, but can use his/her expertise to figure out what the organization really needs and will accept. That’s the measure of a true staffing leader- a person who can achieve more than originally anticipated while delivering on expectations.

    Thanks again, Kevin, for a great article.

    Best regards,

    John DePolo
    Cornell Strategy Solutions LLC
    (919) 595-0700

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