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The World of Work Today – What Companies Are Looking For When Hiring Their HR Leaders And How You Can Be A Competitive Candidate

This year brings a collective sense of optimism, indicating a resurgence in demand for HR leaders.

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Apr 25, 2024
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Last updated on Apr 15, 2024

So far in 2024, HR leadership positions are becoming more prevalent, along with opportunities for recruiters, both on contract and permanent terms. This uptick suggests that there should be an increase in hiring across the board. 2023 posed challenges in finding HR leadership and recruiter roles; many in my HR leadership network who were open to new opportunities weren’t “getting pinged” nearly as much as they are now. This year brings a collective sense of optimism, indicating a resurgence in demand for HR leaders.

The world of work has undergone rapid transformations since the pandemic, going from one extreme to another —from mass layoffs to sudden hiring surges and back to layoffs. This fluidity leaves us wondering the current state and what’s next. It appears that companies continue to refine their cultures and operational methods and are relying heavily on their HR leaders to lead the charge. Industries like financial and professional services are urging employees to return to the office 3-5 days per week, while others, like tech, retail, and media, and more are ranging anywhere from remote-first to fully on-site.

Before the pandemic, most companies adhered to a five-day office workweek, with some allowing work from home (WFH) flexibility, while a few were entirely remote-first. However, today's work landscape places significant emphasis on how the company works and communicates, influencing both recruitment and retention. This complexity offers a broader array of options for job seekers, accommodating diverse lifestyles and work preferences making it even more challenging yet also exciting for HR leaders to design cultures that are forward thinking and cater to today’s employees (given there is a seat at the table for HR).

Since operating models now have strong preferences attached to them – it can almost feel like the volume of opportunities have shrunk, but what I’m finding is that job seekers are weighing lifestyle priorities higher than ever before and finding the right match for ones operating model preferences can narrow the acceptable options. On the flip side this paradigm shift has reduced the talent pool for HR leadership roles, as finding the right fit has become paramount for both employers and candidates.

If you aim to position yourself as a top HR leader in this evolving market, you may encounter fewer opportunities due to specific parameters. However, recognize that there is intense competition and understand what hiring managers seek especially for those coveted positions:

  1. Alignment with the company's operational ethos. CEO’s will want to ensure their HR leader is on-board with the direction of the company’s operating model and how they work and communicate. In some cases, the C-Suite will want their new HR leader to bring their wealth of knowledge and experience to the table to chart the new path forward.
  2. Experience managing similar-sized teams. The C-Suite will want to see that their HR leader has overseen a population of their size. Many like to see a mix of small and large company experience. 
  3. Industry familiarity and understanding of key revenue-generating roles. Having an HR leader deeply understand the needs of the types of professionals such as lawyers or sales people at the organization is critical in order to attract and retain top talent. 
  4. Exposure to transformative events such as mergers, acquisitions, or system changes. A CEO hiring for an HR leader will want to feel assured that the person they are hiring knows the people challenges that will need to be solved for in these types of situations.
  5. Strong references attesting to your capabilities. If you are actively searching for a new job, have these ready to go to provide when asked. 
  6. Proficiency in technology and analytics, including AI integration for task automation and data-driven decision-making. My team and I at Frazer Jones are getting an increased amount of requests for data driven HR leaders as well as HR tech professionals, companies want to see the ROI from their people programs.
  7. Executive presence and ability to build trust with both the C-suite and employees to drive transformative people programs. This has always been important for HR leaders and can also be the most challenging – getting buy in. Some environments are easier than others when it comes to this and it typically stems from how HR is looked at in the organization, either as an administrative function, which tends to make it tougher to get initiatives pushed through or as strategic which tends to be more amenable to implementing more modern people programs. 

Below are a few extra tips to distinguish yourself and secure a rewarding opportunity:

  1. Craft your career narrative, highlighting successes and lessons learned. Hiring managers want to know about impact and ROI, have this information readily available to speak to.
  2. Familiarize yourself with the prospective company's workforce and tailor your insights accordingly.
  3. Balance adaptability, impact seeking, with respect for existing processes. 
  4. Pose thought-provoking questions that demonstrate your strategic thinking.
  5. Be authentic yet professional throughout the interview process.

Despite the competitive landscape, opportunities are out there for those who remain proactive, research-oriented, and focused on leveraging their strengths and their networks. Stay positive, stay informed, and invest your efforts where they align best with your goals and abilities.

Best of luck!

Want to continue the conversation? Reach out Erica at Frazer Jones at Hello@troophr.com. Frazer Jones is a global HR executive search and recruitment consultancy. Driven by the work ethic and passion of our people, we help HR professionals thrive and empower HR leaders to put people and culture at the heart of their business – creating a more progressive future, for everyone. Visit our website at www.frazerjones.com

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