Recruitment specialist in HR, Sales and Operations

Becoming a HRD – Lessons from interviews, Part 3

October 4, 2022  /

As I write this, we are about to launch, on the 3rd October, another retained campaign to hire a board level Director position for one of our valued clients. We’ve been retained by several clients to fill their senior HR positions this year and we have delivered to some executive Director, board level requirements.

The process of recruiting to a senior HR position always gives me the opportunity to talk to a wealth of innovative and dynamic HR professionals, from whom I always feel that there is a lot to learn.

How has this population come to be in the positions that so many desire and seek?  In this series of mini-Blogs, I have been sharing my thoughts and findings on these subjects.

My first blog looked at the characteristics and traits exhibited by the individuals. If you would like to read it, copy this link into your browser:

In my second blog ( ),  I shared my observations about key decisions that this population made around gathering exposure to help them get to the top.

In this, my third and final blog of the series, I consider the trends around CPD, qualifications and wider learning that has helped to get people into processes, set people apart and secure the leading board-level roles.


Professional Qualifications

Further to my previous blog on this subject (, it is clear that a professional qualification is vitally important, but why and to what end is an interesting topic. In our experience, it seems unlikely to be appointed at Board level without a professional qualification of some description, and indeed it is much more unlikely to be shortlisted in a process, however when it comes to who is successful, a post grad HR qualification is not always the common denominator. Certainly, the last 2 campaigns we have delivered to have seen the positions go to individuals with post graduate qualifications in law and economics.  It is one to keep an eye on as the HR landscape continues to evolve but for now our observation is that albeit a post graduate qualification is widely seen in those that make it to the top, it is not necessarily in the assumed field of HR and the disadvantage of not having one will likely be in respect of being considered in the first place.


Development …… as a director

Board level appointments have a substantial strategic and governance responsibility. They are, after all, responsible for safeguarding the interests of the shareholders.

From our experience, aspiring HR professionals should seek to broaden their experience and knowledge to understand and be involved in more, outside of their HR roles. Those that have done that seem to perform better in processes designed to appoint to board level roles which by design are required to be more than functional in their consideration and responsibility. Courses and learning through the IOD and MBA’s are good examples of potential differentiators.




Financial Awareness

In today’s environment an aspiring HR professional will need to be both numerate and financially literate. It seems sensible, and a differentiator, to study such things as ‘Finance for Non-Finances’; to be aware of Company Accounts; to progress your ability to read and understand balance sheets and even, at a basic level, to thoroughly grasp Excel. On many occasions we have had conversations with HRD’s where they felt this knowledge had set them apart impressing CEO’s and FD’s with their ability to have a more commercially focused conversation.


Developing the profession and raising your profile

The key difference between the Senior HR role and a board level HR Director’s Role is that the HRD will shape HR policies that will have a reputational impact of their employer to the outside world. This is even more important in the post-pandemic economy. An individual whose reputation or profile precedes them have an advantage in a process. So, you should review what you are doing to raise your profile in HR. Are you speaking at events? Are you working to provide thought leadership outside of your organisation? Have you written articles or a book? How are you contributing to the development of good HR practice?


Clarity of Ideology and Vision

It is evident that an ambitious individual who not only has goals but has focused upon the ways they are going to achieve those goals will be more successful than a similarly talented colleague whose energies are diffused. From our experience of putting forward successful candidates, they have a clear vision of what they want to achieve for themselves, for their Company and for their colleagues and the HR Department. Clarity of vision, clarity of the journey, clarity of potential challenges afford a level of credibility in conversation which partnering board members will respect.

We hope that the series has offered some interesting observations. If you are in the process of hiring to any mid – senior level roles and could benefit from our help, we would love to hear from you.


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