Recruitment specialist in HR & Human Capital Management

Becoming a HRD | Lessons from recent interviews – Part 1

As I complete on the delivery to retained search to hire a HRD, I am left reflecting on how brilliant it has been to again talk to a very impressive pool of HR Directors.

The process has given me the opportunity to talk to some of the most senior HR professionals and I always feel that there is a lot to learn from this population. How has this population risen to the positions that so many of us would desire and seek?

In this series of 3 blogs I will share more about what it takes to get to number 1 HR roles through 1: my observations about common personality traits and habits displayed by the pool; 2: offer Insight into experience secured and decisions taken that has been instrumental for their career development and 3: offer a summary of qualifications, wider learning and CIPD etc that has really helped them along the way.

For the first in this mini series, let’s take a look at which characteristics and personality traits were evident.

In managing this campaign we reviewed close to 250 HR director profiles and cvs. I screened 35 and interviewed 18 to arrive at my short list of 5. The business was global and well respected; in a strong place to do great things. The pool was impressive – the insight I hope, extremely valuable.

This is what I observed about the personalities and traits from those 18 who were all in number 1 HR roles.

1) All were ambitious and, early on in their life, they had set career goals.  As you will know from biographies, self help material,  coaching practice etc, it was evident that this population had a clear goal, and this was to become a board level HRD. With that clear goal in mind, they had taken steps, consciously and sub consciously to reach it. Indeed, most had career plans that were planned and documented. Some described this as a very deliberate process in a spreadsheet, one had even written himself a letter, that he written and sealed, only to be opened again after 10 years had passed. This letter was written in the past tense and described his  journey – the letter came true! As some of you will know, this is a technique that is often used by high performing people – it is called the ‘Zander letter’.

2) Most had made commitments and made sacrifices for the sake of their career. These are highly demanding roles. Hobbies and other interests had been a secondary to the primary goal. A controversial subject here, in a world where we quite rightly seek work/life balance. However, in most cases this population accepted these sacrifices. Fundamentality their purpose and  drive was to achieve their goal, it was the most important thing to them and it is what gave them most satisfaction. I took from this that hard work and effort is important. I was also left reflecting about many positive and negative conclusions here. Overall it is clearly important for us all strive for what gives us the most satisfaction. Understanding what that it is, is vital for us all.

3) All had described situations where they had taken professional risks. As Richard Branson once said – ‘if you are offered a job that you don’t know how to do, take it and learn how to do it after’. This sentiment and bravery was evident in most; all could recall times when they were offered an opportunity that they thought was challenging or above their immediate skills set – but they took them anyway (and of course succeeded in them).

4) All practise gratitude and were humble. I am interested to see if this will surprise readers, but the population I interviewed were a very humble, polite and grateful group. Some practised gratitude, 2 even write lists regularly of things for which they are grateful!

5) All were responsibility takers. It was evident that all take responsibility for their actions. All could offer examples of where they had learnt from mistakes or where they wish they had done things differently. What was striking was that they rarely displayed negativity and at no times were they critical of others. Problems with other people, environments, businesses were never described. Their focus was always on outcomes and how they could improve – quite inspiring!

6) All were great relationship builders. This was second nature to all. By the end of my conversations they had all done a great job with me at building rapport. They were polite, inquisitive, personable and engaging. Basic, but perhaps obvious – to get ahead, you have to get on with people. But what was interesting for me is that all of the pool recognised this as a skill, as I do. Like me this population are interested in this skill and have researched around this area. I find this interesting – something we should perhaps all work on more.

Stay tuned for blog 2 in the coming weeks and if you need assistance with a senior level HR search, reach out for a conversation.

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