Why Isn’t Your CEO… Also, Your Chief Recruiter? (Because The Changes Will Be Startling)

The most life-changing action in strategic TA… is to ask your CEO to become your Chief Recruiter. Yes, the results from this single bold strategic action will literally take your breath away. Your CEO as your Chief Recruiter (CR) may, just by itself, bring your recruiting department the recognition, support, cooperation, and resources that its leaders have historically only dreamed about having.

The remainder of this article covers a description of this CR approach, the many benefits that the organization will receive, and some initial implementation steps.

A Brief Description Of The “Chief Recruiter” Approach

When your CEO becomes your organization’s Chief Recruiter (CR), they accept the responsibility and the accountability for dramatically improving recruiting results. Many CEOs accepted a similar champion role years ago when they realized the importance of supply chain management. And this CR approach is actually quite common in fast-growing startups.

This “champion role” begins with the CEO making it clear to every employee and manager. Improving recruiting results is now so strategically critical that they must accept a greater role in bumping up those results. To your CEO, this added role also involves adding the importance of recruiting to most of their existing internal and external communications.

In most cases, the Chief Recruiter (CR) also states that it is their expectation that every employee becomes a 24/7 talent hawk. And in that role, everyone not only seeks out exceptional talent. But they also spread the word externally about why your organization is a top place to work (this information is generally spread when the employee is seeking referrals).

Finally, the CR accepts responsibility for identifying and ensuring all major recruiting roadblocks are fixed. Many in recruiting leadership will be surprised at how the power and influence of the CEO’s office will, by itself, create a night-and-day difference in your recruiting landscape.


Imagine The Night And Day Differences That Having A Chief Recruiter Will Create

The power and influence that your CEO will bring can literally minimize every “difficult” aspect of recruiting almost overnight. Think about it.

  • Suddenly, there is an abundance of resources – with the CEO as your Chief Recruiter and champion. Recruiting will finally be able to obtain the needed extra budget and resources that HR could never find for it.
  • Managers will now find abundant time for recruiting – once individual managers realize that their CEO has, for the first time, put every aspect of recruiting under a microscope. The hiring managers who could never find the time to recruit will now enthusiastically find the time.
  • Getting on executive agendas will be easy – with the CEO as your champion. The recruiting function will now easily get new ideas on executive and manager agendas that previously were completely off-limits to recruiting.
  • Gaining cooperation will now be automatic – the cooperation and the coordination that TA could never get from “internal silos” and political managers. With the CEO’s influence, this cooperation will now become automatic.
  • Executives will pay attention to your recruiting metrics – the recruiting metrics that HR would never allow you to send to the CEO or the executive committee. Will now be seen and scrutinized by them each month.

Yes, imagine a future where recruiting leaders won’t have to fight for a seat at the table And where executives actually welcome new ideas on how to improve recruiting results dramatically. Taken together, you will realize that these dramatic before and after contrasts will only occur when you get your CEO to become your Chief Recruiter.


Over the last dozen years, the CEOs of many top companies (including Amazon, Google, and Apple) have all publicly declared that “hiring is the most important thing we do.” So it makes sense for a CEO to openly declare that they are the Chief Recruiter.

Arguments For Convincing Your CEO To Become Your Chief Recruiter

Before anyone approaches their CEO about the possibility of them taking a direct leadership role in recruiting, you had better prepare to start the conversation with more than a handful of convincing pre-tested arguments. Those arguments should cover your business case and why it’s critical to the organization that the CEO accepts this added role. The top 10 arguments that you should consider presenting to your CEO include:

  • When you need a high-impact, low-cost strategic recruiting solution, this may be it – if you’re frustrated because every new recruiting approach that you have tried hasn’t really had a significant impact on your results. You should consider this “top-down” corporate-wide approach where you create a recruiting culture that permeates the entire organization. And that is led by the most powerful person in your organization, your CEO. So that your CEO openly becomes the primary champion and the chief advocate for excellent recruiting.
  • This shift will provide your organization with a competitive advantage since I first recommended this CR approach back in 2003. I have noted that this shift will not only increase your hiring volume by as much as 20%. But that will also result in new hires who will perform measurably better on the job (than those hired before the shift). And, of course, using this unique “top-down” approach could also give your organization a competitive recruiting advantage in your industry.
  • The strategic importance of recruiting will be understood by all because it is somewhat unusual for the CEO to be the chief recruiter. Having such a powerful person in that role will ensure that everyone (both inside and outside) is aware that great recruiting is a top-priority corporate strategic goal.
  • CEO recruiting messages will be noticed – because of their title and wide visibility. Almost everything that this CR says about recruiting will be noticed both inside and outside of your organization. Being noticed increases the likelihood that your target audience will see, listen to, or read their recruiting messages.
  • Their recruiting messages will be believed and then acted on – once potential applicants hear/see a CEO’s recruiting message. Their status and the fact that CEOs speak for the entire organization. Your targeted applicants will be much more likely to believe the content of each of their messages. And that believability will increase the chances that your target will apply. Note that your CEO’s believability rating may be twice as high as the rating of your recruiters and hiring managers.
  • No other executive can be as effective in the CR role – given their visibility, status, power, and the assumption that they speak for the entire organization. No other executive, VP, or director could even approach the impact that the CEO would have. And just like in college basketball, it is simply a fact that no one could have the same impact on recruiting success as the top decision-maker.
  • Most CEOs already have the required skills – I have found that most CEOs can accept this role with confidence. Most are already highly skilled in the essential role elements of attracting, nudging/influencing, and selling. So they won’t need to undergo extensive training. You can find more about how CEOs can help to sell important candidates here.
  • If you’re struggling to meet your diversity recruiting goals, having a CR may be the answer – it’s no secret that almost every organization is currently struggling to meet its diversity recruiting goals. Well, fortunately, it turns out that one of the best ways to convince potential diversity recruits to apply is when it is obvious to them that the CEO of this organization is not only concerned about diversity. But that he/she is willing to take both a strategic and a “hands-on role” in ensuring that this goal is actually met.
  • As an added benefit, this shift will also improve your employer brand image – if you are concerned about maintaining excellent recruiting results over the long term. You must realize that your CEO is actually an important part of your employer brand image. So, that image will be improved in future recruiting and be enhanced when they see that your CEO is concerned with employee issues. As part of your recruiting culture, your chief recruiter will also encourage every employee to accept the role of “talent hawk actively.” Fortunately, this will add an army to your employer’s brand-building effort as your employees actively spread positive stories about your organization to their friends and colleagues.
  • The costs of this added role will be limited to time – this shift doesn’t require any increase in out-of-pocket recruiting costs (other than the costs that may come from increased employee referral traffic). It also doesn’t require any reorganization or new hiring. Obviously, your CEO will have to spend a significant amount of time recruiting related matters. But in many cases, top CEOs already spend a great deal of time on recruiting. One study revealed that most CEOs spend between 30% – 50% of their time on recruiting. For example, Dave Gilboa (Warby Parker) says he has spent 25% of his time. And Mark Zuckerberg (Meta) noted that he has spent up to “50% of his time recruiting talent.” Tiago Paiva (Talkdesk) says that he has spent 80% of his time recruiting (at his startup).


Recommended Action Steps… If You Choose To Implement This Process

After you have convinced your CEO to become your organization’s chief recruiting champion and advocate. They will, of course, want to know what initial action steps you recommend that they should take. There is, of course, no set “implementation playbook”. But below, you will find many of the implementation actions that others have taken.

  • Make sure that your Chief Recruiter is visible on your own platforms – when potential recruits are searching through your organization’s online sites. Make sure it’s easy for them to find video, audio, or narrative messages from your CEO that cover the best aspects of working at your organization. You can find a great example of this vocal message practice by Greg Brown at Udemy here.
  • Make your CR more visible on social media – data-driven recruiting functions determine which social media platforms your high-value recruiting targets frequently. So it makes sense for your Chief Recruiter, as well as your employees, to concentrate on those platforms. To spread stories and examples about why your organization should be the recruiting target’s next step. In most cases, this will mean having the CR appear in the videos that appear on your organization’s YouTube channel.
  • Participate in Podcasts – because the most prized candidates are continually learning. It makes sense for the Chief Recruiter to participate in the most popular industry podcasts actively. And when feasible, to offer their own company podcasts on the company website. 
  • Also, increase CR visibility in traditional media – have your chief recruiter also set aside time to author articles and to participate in interviews with at least one major business and industry journal each month.
  • Industry event speaking – have your CR give talks and present at industry and functional conferences. In that presentation, include at least one component covering your employee programs.
  • Company events – have your CEO talk about how you treat people whenever your CEO is talking during your organization’s routine business events (including PR appearances at product reveals and customer talks).
  • Offer rewards for great people management – the CEO can indirectly improve the managers that are involved in hiring. When they insist that HR has a process for formally measuring the effectiveness of each individual manager (Google has one), they then go a step further and ensure that each manager is significantly rewarded for great people management.

Action steps for individual recruits and employees

In addition to the above broad steps, the Chief Recruiter can also play a role in recruiting top individual candidates.

  • Calls to top recruits – have the CR set aside a certain number of hours per month to call top prospects or candidates directly to build their excitement. And in special cases, to invite them in for a one-on-one visit.
  • Close the deal calls – after the offer has been made. And you want to increase your odds of acceptance. Have your CEO call the finalist in order to answer their strategic questions and encourage them to say yes.
  • Come to my office on the first day – another “reinforcing the deal” action. Request the new hire to come to the CEO’s office on the first day for a “reinforcing the sale” visit. This action will further excite the new hire and show them they made a good decision. This action will improve retention, and it may lead the new hire to provide additional referrals.
  • Retention calls/visits – having the CEO periodically call key employees who might be at risk of leaving. It will help improve top employee retention. Based on the same premise, a personal call from the CEO will make a big positive impression.
If you only do one thing look both internally and externally. For past examples of how other “Chief ________ Officers” have been appointed to solve a major strategic business problem. And then use both the positive and the negative lessons from those experiences to sculpt your plan for getting the CEO to become your Chief Recruiter.

Final Thoughts

In my over four decades of research on recruiting best practices. I have literally never found a single strategic recruiting program that could even come close to equaling the almost instantaneous and startling impacts that occur. In the months immediately after, a CEO enthusiastically accepts the role of Chief Recruiter (the next most impactful approach is implementing a strong data-driven referral program). So I highly recommend that you seriously consider a plan for convincing your CEO to accept this important role.

Author’s Note

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About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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