How to Be an Effective Recruiting Leader

Good news.  At Recruiting Toolbox, we’ve listened to executives and top HR leaders at hundreds of companies in 20+ countries, and almost ALL of them want their recruiting leaders to step up and play more of a strategic role, focusing on so much more than just managing a team, running reports, fighting fires, and driving a consistent process. Bad news – it doesn’t “just happen.”  It takes real work.  Below are recruiting leadership resources to help you win in your job as a corporate recruiting leader, including content to help you build a culture of recruiting, improve your recruiting strategies and processes, bring more insights to your recommendations, hire great recruiters, and coach your recruiters to be true Talent Advisors.

How to Create a Culture of Recruiting

We’ve trained and led focus groups with thousands of hiring managers all over the world. As part of that work, we’ve seen hiring managers range from passive participants in an interviewing process who are quick to complain to full-on talent champions, leading work around candidate attraction, interviewing strategy, diversity, selling, and training. What is the makeup of your hiring manager community? How do you make your hiring managers better?

Check out The Hiring Manager Maturity Model to evaluate your current mix and identify how to create a culture of recruiting, where everyone operates as an extension of the recruiting team, for your company.  To us, this work to create a culture of recruiting, is the SINGLE MOST STRATEGIC, HIGH IMPACT WORK YOU CAN DO as a recruiting leader.

Also, check out this great overview of a different way to frame up the role of the hiring manager in your org, and some specific best practices to create a culture that lives the “hiring is a team sport” philosophy, where hiring managers are expected to – and rewarded for – being so much more than a customer of the TA function.
Recruiting leadership resource: The Hiring Manager Maturity Model

Get Strategic!

Check out the first two recorded presentations, which focus on how we need our recruiting teams to show up differently to the business and deliver even more value.  And then the third one is focused more on addressing common internal blockers that we – as recruiting leaders – must focus on first (Shocker: None of it is about employer branding or getting a new ATS).

John Vlastelica, our founder, delivered some #1 rated presentations at conferences like LinkedIn TalentConnect and RecFest where he shares very practical best practices that he’s personally leveraged as a corporate recruiting professional PLUS best practices leveraged by Recruiting Toolbox clients. Warning: These presentations are PG-13 – he swears, sometimes a lot, so if kids are watching, wear headphones!

At Recruiting Toolbox, we see recruiting leaders as one of the most critical roles in a company.  You are one of the most high-leverage leaders, as you partner with business leaders to shape their talent strategies, work to keep the bar high across teams, and have a huge impact on diversity and culture as you bring new talent into your company. You are such a difference maker!

How to be a
Strategic Talent
Acquisition Pro

How to Give Hiring Managers
what they Really Want:
Speed and Quality

How to Fix Four
of the Biggest Blockers to
Talent Acquisition Success

Getting More Strategic by Thinking and Acting More Holistically

Hear and watch John Vlastelica share practical tips for leading more holistically as a Talent Acquisition leader. Check out John’s LinkedIn Talent Connect presentation as well as the his conversation with Johnny Campbell.  John shares how we can and should influence onboarding, compensation, internal mobility, and other areas that have a massive impact on recruiting success.

Creating an Internal Marketplace
for Internal Talent

As recruiting leaders, we can add value beyond just filling external reqs.  Listen to John interview a VP, Talent Acquisition from a medium-sized tech company explain how his recruiting team built an internal marketplace to help redeploy their internal talent to short-term project assignments, how that helps with diversity and retention, and how you can leverage projects like this to develop your recruiters into so much more than just req-fillers.

And if you’re seeking something more robust, learn more about Uber’s internal mobility strategy, including their gig marketplace, dedicated recruiters to help internal talent, and academies. A lot of other companies are investing in systems and marketplaces and training to help their internal employees advance in their careers without leaving.

If you’re just generally looking to improve internal mobility, hear LinkedIn’s Chief People Officer talk through internal mobility lessons learned and best practices.

Public Recruiting
Leadership Workshops

by Recruiting Toolbox

– PepsiCo

– Intuit

– Nike

– Nestle

Driving Accountability with Recruiters

Setting clear expectations for recruiter performance is a big part of your role as a recruiting leader.  You need to think about both quantitative and qualitative measurements AND most importantly, tie them to the outcomes and behaviors you want.  Not all performance metrics are created equally – for example, if you over-focus on hires/month, you may emphasize short-term thinking at the expense of quality, diversity, or candidate experience.

John Vlastelica built and leveraged this basic framework – the DRIVE model – as a corporate head of TA.  Feel free to check out this free recruiting leadership resource – perhaps it’ll help you think about both the WHAT and the HOW you should evaluate to build and lead a high performing recruiting team.

Check out these other models shared by top leaders in TA, as well.  They recognize that you can’t fairly measure recruiters the same way if they have different req loads, different difficulty ratings, and different sourcing and scheduling support:

And, if you’re looking for a light, fun article explaining the silliness of comparing hires/month between recruiters without looking at other factors, read this: Recruiters: Do you suck?  (Hint: No!)

Managing People

Operating as an effective recruiting leader requires core management skills.  There are thousands of articles and podcasts and training programs designed to help you more effectively manage people, and we’re by no means generalist management trainers, but we like content that firms that focus on these core skills share, so we’ll share some favorite content below:

  • Great article that discusses real management challenges – how many direct reports is too many, how do you leverage task maturity to decide what to delegate, why promoting leaders from within is smarter than hiring externally most of the time, why skip level meetings are key, and more.
  • Looking for some good performance management tips? While this isn’t written for TA leaders and recruiters, it’s got some really good practical examples of how to frame up and lead a performance and development conversation with an employee.
  • Quick video highlighting the keys to adapting your leadership approach to the skill and will of your employees.  How prescriptive and directive should you be?  Should you be hands-off with everyone?  Of course, it depends.  (Note: This is the basis for Situational Leadership, a popular and well-respected leadership development workshop.)
A key to being effective as a recruiting leader is to not just manage recruiters effectively, but to also CREATE new leaders on your team – people who can eventually take on management roles or at least take on more senior executive relationships as a lead recruiter.  We help recruiting leaders develop their recruiting managers into recruiting directors through our public Recruiting Leadership Labs and develop recruiters into Talent Advisors and leaders through our custom, live Talent Advisor training.

Interview and Hire Great Recruiters

We’re preaching to the choir here, but obviously, high performing recruiting teams start with recruiting and developing great recruiters.  Want to leverage a structured interview that’s 100% focused on predicting success as a corporate recruiter?

Check out how John Vlastelica – who has interviewed hundreds of recruiters, and made many great hires and hiring mistakes – structures a great interview.  He includes detailed questions you can ask to determine how effectively this recruiter can source, screen, close, PLUS, just as importantly, how effectively they can engage hiring managers, set and manage expectations, and push back if needed.  He includes behavioral interview questions plus key exercises to separate the good interviewees from the good performing recruiters.

Check out the popular video recording of his webinar (over 17,000 views so far), and download the slides if you’d like to follow along or extract some great interviewing questions the next time you need to hire a recruiter.

Recruiter Enablement 

What’s going on in the world of recruiter enablement and onboarding? What’s missing from most recruiter enablement programs? And how do you scale recruiter enablement in a world where you need to localize so much by job family, geo, and function?

Hear our CEO, John Vlastelica, talk about the problems with most recruiter enablement programs and how to improve the ROI you get from your investment in recruiter onboarding, enablement, training, and resource guides. Want more recruiter enablement ideas?  Check out our free recruiter enablement resource page.

Are my recruiters operating as Talent Advisors?

A top 3 goal of every Head of Talent Acquisition we work with is to elevate their recruiters to Talent Advisors. Nobody – nobody! – wants to be an order taker.  So it’s unlikely your team will resist your efforts to help them show up in a more strategic way.  But first, you have to get real about where your team is today, so you can understand the gaps that you’ll need to close.  You can start by downloading this diagnostic tool – one of our favorite recruiting leadership resources – to see where you have the biggest opportunities to develop your team of recruiters, and reading this article to learn about five signals that indicate your recruiters are already functioning as talent advisors.

Additionally, learn how the TA leadership at LinkedIn is developing their recruiters into strategic talent advisors in this article (which features some of our work here at Recruiting Toolbox).

Reframe Your Thinking

Read a few key articles that’ll help you reframe how you think about the business and the hiring manager.

  • Stop calling it an intake form. Please. (Words matter, so when you talk to your recruiters about that first meeting they have with their Hiring Manager, consider labeling it something that doesn’t set the tone of the whole relationship to sound like a customer/supplier relationship.)

Next, read up on how other Talent Acquisition leaders are elevating their recruiting team to Talent Advisors.

We believe a major focus for recruiting leaders should be to create more leaders, not compliant followers of a process. If you’re seeking free resources to help elevate your recruiters to talent advisors, refer your recruiters to our Talent Advisor Expert Page. It’s a page just like this, but it’s built for recruiters.

How to be an effective recruiting leader: elevate your recruiters to talent advisors

LinkedIn regularly features our thinking in their content aimed at corporate recruiting leaders.

Recruiting Leadership resource: Recruiting Future podcast for recruiting leaders
Recruiting Leadership resource: The Shortlist podcast for recruiting leaders

Podcast Episodes to Help you Lead

How about some audio-only best practices?  Check out these podcast episodes that focus on hiring manager engagement and talent advising.  A Recruiting Director at Amazon makes this first one required listening for his recruiting leaders.

“How Do I Build a Recruiting Plan when our Hiring Needs Change All the Time?

Laptop Image
“We need the business to understand cause-and-effect. You want more hires than planned — or fewer — then here’s the impact. The impact to you, to us in TA, to hires versus plan and the overall timeline. We need to talk about the things we can and can’t control when presenting our plans, and take advantage of the time in front of the business to educate them on the variables that open up our hiring targets to greater risk. All while getting their buy in.”

Read More on LinkedIns Talent Blog about how our CEO coaches TA leaders to build quality recruiting plans.

Recruiting Leadership Resource: Influence, the Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini, Ph.D.

Influencing Executives

Great ideas are close to worthless if they don’t turn into real change, and real change happens through influencing.  Welcome to the world of sales – you, as a TA leader, have to be great at selling ideas, getting buy-in, and driving adoption.

One of the great thinkers in this space is Cialdini.  Robert Cialdini, in Influence, his book on persuasion, defined six “influence cues or weapons of influence.” All are interesting, but pay special attention to Social Proof and Scarcity, as they likely will help you when trying to get executives more engaged, open to new ideas, and activated.

See the graphic below to learn about the six principles of persuasion. And if you want to learn more, click on it to read a longer summary.

The six principles of persuasion: Reciprocity, consistency, social proof, liking, authority, scarcity

Setting Expectations

To be a strategic recruiting leader, you must bring external insights to your business leader conversations and hiring plans.

Want more tools?  Check out what our own Principal Consultant Carmen Hudson has curated for you at RecruiterHunt.

Leading the Interview Process

So much focus in talent acquisition leadership is on sourcing.  In fact, ask a business exec what the root issues are to their talent problems, and you’ll hear “more candidates” 75% of the time.  But we know that to make great hires, we need to put just as much strategy into our interview process as our sourcing approach. Check out these resources below to get more strategic about the way you build and lead your interview process.

Our founder, John Vlastelica, built and led Amazon’s Bar Raiser program when he was Head of Tech Recruiting there years ago, and it’s now scaled to tens of thousands of hires at Amazon, and used at many different companies around the globe.  He’s also helped companies put in different type of quality control mechanisms, including hiring committees popularized by Google.  As a TA leader, you need to understand these models, and their pros and cons, as you’re likely going to run into execs who have worked at companies that have had these kind of programs, and they may push you to implement something similar. (Tip: These are NOT for everyone.)

Public Recruiting
Leadership Workshops

by Recruiting Toolbox

– Amazon

– LinkedIn

– Facebook

– Twitter

How to Raise The Bar On Talent: 3 Quality Control Decision-Making Models used by companies like Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Booking, including the pros and cons of Bar Raisers


It’s easy to feel overwhelmed as a recruiting leader. Frankly, there’s often way too much to do, and not enough resources or time to do everything. So, what should we do when we’re overwhelmed? Well, prioritizing is an obvious first step. And prioritizing – and deprioritizing – are some of the most strategic work you’ll do. But how else can we help the business?

Check out what John Vlastelica suggests to TA leaders, beyond prioritization, when there’s just too much to do.

Get curious.  Really curious.

Great recruiting leaders are curious, and create a culture of curiosity on their recruiting teams.  And that curiosity makes them more valuable, more interesting, more insightful, and more aligned to the business needs.  John Vlastelica wrote this article for LinkedIn’s Talent Blog, where he makes the case that curiosity may be the most important characteristic of great recruiters, and shares some of the key questions every recruiter should ask to get smarter.  Do you think your recruiters would know the answers to the questions he highlights?

How do we keep getting smarter?  Here are suggested blogs and newsletters to read to stay sharp on all things talent and business:

  • Global Technology, Startup, and Industry Updates, CB Insights

Non-talent-focused conference recommendations:

Talent Conference recommendations (these conferences tend to focus on the recruiting leader role more than others):

The Future

What does the future of recruiting and work look like?  As a recruiting leader, you should be thinking ahead – how will AI and automation impact the work my team does, is it smarter to outsource certain pieces of traditional recruiter and interviewer responsibilities or is it better to keep them in-house, how will remote work and the freelance economy impact how I advise business leaders to think about staffing up their needs, and how will (and should) general hiring requirements and candidate profiles evolve given limited specialists and the need for diversity?

Check out these articles, which highlight some of the most important considerations for talent leaders who are future-focused.

Take Care of Your Recruiting Managers

Are you a recruiting leader who manages recruiting managers?


If you’re looking for a way to develop your recruiting managers into recruiting directors, check out our Recruiting Leadership Labs – we have public workshops (for 1-2 managers) or custom workshops for your team of 12+ leaders.  Companies like Facebook, LinkedIn, Amazon, Northrop Grumman, Disney, Nike, Twitter, and Uber regularly send their leaders to our Recruiting Leadership Labs.


Great TA leaders create a culture within their recruiting teams that reward and recognize team wins, help the business win, and reinforce that hiring is a team sport.  Learn more in this article John Vlastelica wrote based on Okta’s head of TA’s work with his team to create a stellar recruiting team culture.

Recruiting Leadership Resource Library

Try harder is not a strategy

Looking for more Recruiting Leadership Resources?

Sign up to get our every week-or-two posts from our blog, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and connect with us on LinkedIn to get updates on best practice white papers, how-to guides, presentation content, and webinars/podcasts we like or produce.

Attend a big recruiting conference in the US or Europe, and it’s very possible someone from our team will be presenting there. We’ve delivered keynotes at conferences like Sourcecon, ERE, Recfest, Unleash/HR Tech, Smart Resourcing London, and Talent42, and regularly present breakout sessions at other regional and global events, including LinkedIn TalentConnect. So, if you’re planning to attend, ping us on Twitter to let us know you’ll be there!

If you’re looking to elevate your recruiters to Talent Advisors, check out our custom-built Talent Advisor training. It’s been leveraged by hundreds of recruiters at all kinds of companies, including Recruiting Toolbox client companies like Disney, Target, TripAdvisor, Nike, USAA, Hulu, Nestle, Salesforce, Autodesk, Activision, Thoughtworks, Northrop Grumman, Google X, and Atlassian.

Some of our larger clients – like EA Games, Northrop Grumman, and Thoughtworks – have licensed our content so that they can redeliver it to their teams with their internal trainers.

If you’re part of a massive team we can also support you with online training.  We have some of our best Talent Advisor training content online, available to purchase through our online training partner. It’s used by companies with 500+ person recruiting teams, like Intel, Uber, Oracle, and IBM.  Contact us to learn more.

And if you’re thinking, “I have zero budget for this, but I still need help,” check out this post we put together on how to train up your recruiting team for free, complete with some videos and facilitator questions.

If you’re looking to develop yourself as a recruiting leader, please check out our Recruiting Leadership Labs.  We have both public workshops for recruiting leaders, and custom, onsite recruiting leadership training for whole teams of corporate recruiting leaders.  These are not focused on the tactics of sourcing, screening, and closing candidates.  Instead, we go deep into building and getting funding for new strategies and recruiter headcount, leveraging metrics and insights to lead and influence, building and deploying effective diversity strategies, creating a culture of recruiting, building scalable pipelining sourcing strategies, managing and measuring recruiters and sourcers, and coaching recruiters to be talent advisors.

Companies like LinkedIn, Facebook, Nike, Amazon, Booking, and Microsoft send their recruiting leaders to our public workshops.  And companies like SAP, Bloomberg, Disney, and Atlassian have hired us to deliver custom recruiting leadership labs for their global recruiting leaders and directors.  Feedback is amazing.  Contact us if you’d like to learn more.

And finally, if you’re thinking – “this is GREAT, but I need my hiring manager teams to improve.” We got you. Check out our hiring manager maturity model above and our leaders guide to interviewing. Those are both loaded with practical, how-to info.  If you want paid help, we might be a resource for you, as well.  Our team of former practitioner consultants build custom hiring manager training.  If you’re looking to raise the bar on WHO you hire and HOW you hire, we might be a good partner.  50% of our business is helping companies define their hiring standards/bar, and then building custom hiring manager training workshops, with a focus on partnering effectively with recruiters, interviewing and selection, selling and candidate experience, diversity and inclusion, process adoption and speed, and more.  Learn more about why companies like PepsiCo, Starbucks, Booking, Epic Games, Nubank, Dolby, Pokemon, Electronic Arts, Pinterest, and Target engage us – and trust us – to train their hiring managers and interviewers.

And, again, if you’re a really large org, we can support you with a full train-the-trainer program or online training, so that you can scale this across many hundreds or thousands of interviewers and hiring managers.  Just contact us to learn more.

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