Checklist for Assessing a Director of Recruiting

With the economy turning around, it seems as though almost every major firms is beginning a search for a new director of recruitment or employment. But as a former chief talent officer, and as someone who advises firms on how to select the very best, I have found that most selection committees totally miss the boat when they screen and select candidates for the head of the recruiting effort. I recommend, rather than asking potential director of recruiting candidates traditional interview questions (because obviously they are experts in interviewing), that you instead ask them to outline their proposed recruiting strategy and plan for your firm. In addition, ask them to forecast some potential problems they are likely to encounter, and how they would handle each within your firm’s culture. If you’re part of one of these director of recruiting selection processes, following are my criteria for identifying the very best.

Director of Recruiting Assessment Criteria

  • Career focus. The primary goal of ideal director of recruiting candidates is to become the very best in recruiting. They have little desire to move up in the HR structure or to serve in non-recruiting areas of HR.
  • Experience. At some point in their recruiting career, ideal candidates have worked at aggressive recruiting shops like Cisco, Texas Instruments, Trilogy, Intuit, Southwest Air, Intel, or executive search firms. The very best will also have some sales or marketing background.
  • Recruiting strategy. The ideal candidate can quickly name the key recruiting strategies that are used by the top firms, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each strategy. When asked to select a recruiting strategy for your firm, he or she can demonstrate how it will provide a competitive advantage over the existing strategies of your direct talent competitors.
  • A sales and marketing approach. The very best realize that recruiting is primarily a sales and marketing function. As a result, they will advocate the use of marketing and sales tools like market research, focus groups, branding, PR, and sales training.
  • Focus on passives. The primary recruiting focus of the best candidates is on finding and hiring currently employed top performers. As a result, they have strategies for minimizing applications from active candidates.
  • Metrics. The best directors of recruiting are metrics fanatics. They insist on measuring applicant satisfaction, manager satisfaction, source effectiveness, and new hire productivity.
  • Business case. A good director of recruiting knows how to calculate ROI and demonstrate to senior managers the high economic return of great recruiting.
  • Branding. The ideal candidate realizes that the only way to build a long-term competitive advantage in recruiting is to build a strong internal and external employment brand. They also know the steps that must be undertaken in order to become a talked-about company among potential applicants.
  • Future focused. Workforce planning and forecasting are essential elements of a top director of recruiting’s proposed recruiting program. He or she anticipates, rather than reacts to, future recruiting issues.
  • Retention. The best include a retention component in their recruiting plans in order to ensure that new employees stay on the job long enough to make a difference.
  • Recruiting audit. Top directors of recruiting have checklists for auditing and assessing key recruiting programs and systems like branding, sourcing, applicant tracking systems, and selling candidates.
  • Rewarding recruiters. As a standard practice, the best directors of recruiting advocate providing bonuses to internal recruiters to incentivize speed and excellence.
  • Web recruiting. The ideal director of recruiting candidate is highly critical of most corporate websites. He or she knows what is wrong with each of the major firm’s career sites and the steps that need to be taken to improve their usefulness. He or she is also critical of large job sites, job fairs, and most newspaper ads.
  • Recruiter training. The best require that all new corporate recruiters undergo complete recruiter training before they are allowed to begin recruiting. In addition, they select “headhunter type” recruiters for new recruiting positions, rather than promoting from within HR.
  • Name gathering. Top directors of recruiting advocate the continuous identification of top talent in the industry. As a result, they have a plan for building a name database and developing relationships with the very best on the list.
  • Employee referrals. A majority of the recruiting effort advocated by leading directors of recruiting is focused on building high quality employee referrals, because this is the most effective way to produce top quality pre-screened and pre-sold candidates.
  • Technology focused. The ideal candidate realizes that all recruiting programs must be paperless in order to be fast and global.


When selecting or assessing a new director of recruiting, it’s equally or more important to assess a candidate’s plan for your firm as it is to assess his or her previous experience. In order not to be fooled by their interviewing expertise, be sure to ask them to assess your current processes and systems and to provide a set of goals (and a plan for each) for what they’ll do with the recruiting function during their first six months. It’s also important to remember that the very best directors of recruiting are extremely aggressive individuals, so don’t be frightened away by what might be perceived as arrogance or bravado. Since recruiting is primarily a sales and marketing function, it’s important to expect a high degree of self-confidence and boldness.

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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