How to Hire a Human Resources Director (HRD)

Written by EO Executives on Nov 17, 2017


Your guide to hiring an in demand Human Resources Director...

Heading up the HR practice at global Executive Search firm, EO Executives, I am privileged enough to work with some of the most influential HR leaders in the UK. These leaders are forward thinking, innovative and are continuously contributing to the evolving world of HR within many leading organisations.

Having been in this space for over a decade, I have seen both the candidate and client market demands change considerably. The role of the HR Director has advanced greatly and with new ways of learning, EVP and developments in technology, HR leaders are having to become more tech driven and agile with many aspects of their roles becoming like their peers in sales and marketing. 

Why do I see value in recruiting for senior HR roles? I am passionate about what I do and enjoy building relationships with the markets most inspirational HR leaders; I believe that the hiring of such an individual can bring true commercial value to any organisation that they join. 

A new type of HRD?

Many of the C-Level leaders I partner with are from evolving organisations, many of which are being impacted by the digital transformation. Some are telling us that they are overwhelmed with the changing demands of their customers, others are telling us that they are challenged to find and entice the individuals that can take them through this journey, and many are anxious as to how to develop and retain the skill sets that are needed for tomorrow. All of which are areas that a commercial HR leader can add value in.

So, whether it’s a startup/ SME or FTSE 100 how can an organisation ensure they are hiring the most impactful and suitable HR leader for their business?

Avoid the first mistake

One common mistake, made time and time again is for business owners or decision makers to start the search on their own. Afterall, “How hard can it be, they have worked with HR people before…?” 

The strongest HR Directors are in high demand and many of whom, are happy within their current roles. As passive candidates, they are unlikely to be attracted to a poorly executed recruitment process. Without a well structured strategy and vision for talent attraction, the hiring process will become difficult to manage. For a CEO or MD, managing a business is challenging at the best of times, and managing a crucial hire along side the day-to-day will become challenging. Unless you strike lucky and manage to find candidates through your network, what you may initially see as a cost saving exercise will soon become a drain on your resources and most precious commodity- time.

Hire a leader

When hiring, you need to have a clear focus on what you are looking for and why you are hiring in the first place. Start by thinking about the key qualities and skills the successful candidate will need to have. Staying focused will also help when you discover a candidate who ‘wows’ you but doesn’t fit in with the requirements of why you are actually looking to hire.

You should be hiring someone based on their competency but most importantly you should believe that they can achieve beyond their ‘HR’ role.

A HR director should be seen a key member of the leadership team, working to drive the organisation forward and taking people with them. Yes, they are the experts on people related matters but their strategy should be centered around the overall business goals and objectives.

The HR leaders of today and the future leaders of tomorrow will need to supply business owners and decision makers with commercial vision and will inherently become an integral part of the commercial team. 

These skills can be hard to identify without expertise in this field, but by working with a search partner you will gain a clear indication of what ‘top talent’ looks like and how to successfully engage and entice these HR leaders.

Identifying the right HR leader for your business 

If you want to source the right HR leader for your business, you will need to understand the importance of hiring based on behaviour and cultural fit. After all, if you are hiring someone to build the HR function in your business, you need to ensure they align with your vision. They will need to be an advocate and inspiring influencer for other employees. And if your business is an SME at an early point in a journey, this HR leader will be the initial touch point for attracting and enticing external talent and potentially the face of your business.

How can you attract HR leaders with the right behaviours and cultural fit? My advice would be to analyse your recruitment process from start to finish. Good HR leaders know competency interviews inside out, as they will have led many over the years. They will know how to give the right answer to match with what you are looking for. I have seen HR professionals both over think the interview process and any testing so much so that they aren’t actually present in the situation that they are in. 

What is your hiring strategy?

Go to market with a clear strategy. You need to make it clear what you are looking for and ensure that if you chose to work with a search partner that they understand your business goals. Once you have a clear strategy of how you want to source and entice your new HR Director, you need to communicate this to your search partner. Collaborating with a search firm who aligns with your goals and understands your business will be crucial. A Search partner should truly be an extension of your brand and if they are not passionate and excited about the opportunity, how will they be able to ‘entice’ that passive talent?

Ensure that you stick to time frames. Have a set date of when you need someone to start and agree this with shareholders/stakeholders and work backwards. Be realistic here. You need to factor in the time to identify great talent but also time to interview, negotiate and then work through the inevitable notice period, which can typically be six months plus for an HR Director. 

Who should you partner with?

You will want to ensure your search partner has a strong reputation and can provide you with case studies and success rates on similar roles. You should also look at the company’s value proposition and ask them to demonstrate how their proposition can do these three things:

 1: De-risk the hiring process, 2: Increase ROI and 3: Represent your brand.

Ultimately, your partnering firm needs to understand the journey your business is going to embark on and why you want to make the hire.

The interview

It is crucial to agree the interview process with your search partner upfront. They will manage candidate expectations and ensure they are nurtured through the journey. If a candidate does not feel they have received an excellent candidate experience, you risk them turning down the role. And in a competitive market, word of mouth is key – regardless of whether you take an individual through a process, you should ensure they receive a positive experience. Reputation is crucial for attracting new talent.

To get the most value from the interview process, break it into three stages. This shouldn’t drag on though as momentum is crucial: 

Stage 1: Cultural/informal meeting. 

The first stage should be centred around your relationship with the candidate.

You will soon know if the candidate is a good cultural fit for your organisation – you may have already conducted behavioural testing to ensure that they are aligned to the particular role. 

Keep the discussion top line. Give enough away that will make them intrigued about the role but also keep your cards close. At this stage, you should be assessing whether you can work with them day to day and if your team will respect them.

Likewise, you need to remember that this process is as much for the candidate as it is for you as the client. If you think that there could be a potential fit then you must remember that you also need to ‘sell’ the business and opportunity.

Learn more about behavioural testing here:

Stage 2: Formal on-site interview with key stakeholders 

Ensuring candidates meet the team is a great way to get ‘buy- in’ from your colleagues and will make your employees feel like a valuable part of the recruitment process. Ultimately, you want your new HR Director to connect with the rest of the business and be seen as a valuable asset.

Your people are the differentiator to your success and involving them in this journey can be valuable. Remember you are also ‘enticing’ the HR Director and you need them to want to be part of this business.

Stage 3: Final Stage

At this stage, you will likely have a preferred candidate in mind and will be keen to make an offer. However, you may have a few concerns or areas for consideration to explore in more detail. 

Inviting the potential HR Director back for one more informal meeting, not only provides you with the opportunity to address concerns but also theirs. This will also give them chance to formulate any further questions about the role and see the business in action.

Once you have the right candidate finalised, you must ensure they are aware you want them to be a part of your business journey and relate why you are passionate about the business. Demonstrate how they will contribute and get them excited about your plans. 

Do not offer the role in the interview. Both parties need time to reflect and you do not want to put the candidate in an uncomfortable situation.

It is typical that the Search partner will make the offer to the successful individual and you should never underestimate the quality and potential ROI of a best in class candidate. Trying to get a ‘bargain’ at this point and cut costs on your hire will only impact your business in the future; a low offer can be detrimental. 

Why would you spend time and resources to only loose your preferred candidate at this late stage? It could mean the difference on getting that unicorn or starting the entire search again! If this candidate is the right person for your business, you will soon see the ROI.

With many businesses, the hiring process stops once the candidate has been placed and is in role. At EO Executives, we understand the importance of ensuring a thorough process both before and after the placement has been made. Ensuring the candidate receives the most effective on-boarding and is settled into their new role is key for guaranteeing long-term success. This is why our team offer a 90 day on-boarding process and work with both the candidate and client to fast track success. 

Learn more here:

My top tip?

Avoid cutting corners when making such an essential hire. Ensure you make the time and effort to thoroughly on-board your new HR Director. In the end, you will end up with a strong HR function and overall a better business. After all, they are the one individual within your business that will ensure that your people become one of your strongest unique selling point (USPs).

What would be your biggest hiring tip? Let us know by sharing your thoughts below.

If you are about to make a crucial HR hire or would like to receive some further information, please get in contact directly at:

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