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Why Recruiting is One of the Most Important Qualities of a Leader

My company recently reached a big milestone: there are now over 600 Medallians. In the tech world, this is the equivalent of going into the 21+ age bracket when you’re growing up. These kinds of milestones are always cause for reflection. In doing so, I saw that there were vestiges of our 20-to-50 employee days that we needed to stop doing. But that there were also things that, regardless of how big our company gets, we need to keep doing.

And among those, one in particular stands out: that we continue to hire leaders — regardless of their role — that know how to hire.

While this might sound somewhat circular, the logic behind it is not.

Think about that 5-to-50 employee startup that has found product-market fit and is growing very fast. The very presence of success would suggest that these employees are self-starters, leaders in their own right, and probably wearing more hats than there are in a millinery. In that setting, recruiting is obviously mission critical to the success of that company, and it becomes the responsibility of everyone to make it happen. When you’re burning for new people, being able to quickly attract high quality candidates is essential. The alternatives are waiting or hiring sub-par candidates (both of which can be fatal).

Once you’ve hit a certain size, though, your employees are wearing fewer hats, and your recruiting team has likely grown. Rapid hiring is no longer a need or priority. So why would the ability to hire continue to be? And why does Medallia consider it chief among leadership qualities?

Because you can’t hire if you can’t inspire.

On any recruiting team, the best and most successful recruiters tend to be those that have an excellent command of their company’s vision, and they can communicate it succinctly. They have a clear understanding of the company’s needs and future goals — and know the kinds of people that need to be hired to make those goals a reality. If you’ve spoken to such a recruiter, you can probably remember a feeling of excitement at the prospect of tackling the challenges of the company and the role. You don’t even have the job yet, and you’re ready to work!

If you could only choose one quality in a leader, this is exactly the one you would want. When headcount begins eclipsing 100’s of employees — as is happening at Medallia — you need leaders (even outside of manager roles) who will inspire others to do their best work and help drive the company toward those big picture, long-term goals. You need people who can rally fellow colleagues to get the toughest jobs done.

Hiring leaders that know how to hire is, of course, easier said than done, but it’s far from impossible. Ask candidates (and their references) about their involvement and experiences in the recruiting processes at past jobs. Have them describe their recruiting strategies and approach to interviewing. What type of people do they like to manage and how do they find them? Even ask them to try and recruit you to work at your own company. They won’t know everything there is to know about your company, but their recruiting abilities should begin to emerge.

And if they do — and they’re great — there’s just one remaining question: How inspiring were you?

Photo credit: DonkeyHotey

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