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Hiring an HR Leader? Look for a Candidate With These 3 Skills

One of the biggest mistakes startups make is overlooking the importance of HR. Hire an HR leader sooner rather than later and look for these key skills.

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BY Adam Robinson - 24 Aug 2018

Hiring an HR Leader? Look for a Candidate With These 3 Skills

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

In a recent interview, Silicon Valley icon Marc Andreessen said one of the biggest mistakes startups make is hiring an HR leader too late. According to Andreessen, businesses should hire true HR leaders when they reach anywhere between 50 and 150 employees. Any business that doesn't take HR seriously is at risk of facing crises with no resource in place to help resolve them.

As a business leader, I agree that every company needs to hire an HR leader sooner rather than later. In fact, my team started looking for a VP of People as we approached the 150-employee mark. In filling this role, we'll have a seasoned leader in place who can turn our people strategy into a source of long-term competitive advantage.

If your business is ready to hire an HR leader, it's critical to look for candidates with the right skills to help your team grow. Here are a few key skills to consider.

1. Storytelling

The unemployment rate is at a near-record low, meaning HR leaders need to sell candidates on the opportunity of joining their teams now more than ever. Most importantly, HR leaders need to answer the question, "What's in it for me?" in their job descriptions and through employment branding. This is where storytelling skills come into play.

In job descriptions and on career sites, HR leaders need to outline the key benefits of working for their teams. This can include typical employment benefits, such as health care and paid time off.

Benefits should also include opportunities for career advancement, such as defined career paths and training and professional development opportunities. And another key piece of the story involved HR leaders working closely with current employees to develop testimonials and success stories.

No matter the content, HR leaders need to be great storytellers so job seekers will be excited to join the team in today's tight labor market.

2. Communication and Interpersonal Skills

This skillset goes hand-in-hand with storytelling. In addition to building out great content to attract quality employees, HR leaders constantly communicate with a wide variety of audiences--including candidates, current employees, and fellow leadership team members.

HR leaders need to communicate with candidates to keep them excited and engaged throughout the hiring process. They also need to communicate and connect with employees on a day-to-day basis--whether to listen to employee feedback, help employees navigate benefits, or resolve an issue.

And HR leaders need more strategic communication skills for interactions with fellow leaders. Your HR leader should continuously update your team on what's working and what's not on the people side of the business and identify key areas of improvement to move your business forward.

3. Data Analysis

People analytics is a hot topic among HR leaders. According to a recent study from HR Open Source (HROS), one of the biggest shifts in human resources in recent years is an increased focus on data. The data found that people analytics was the field with the highest increase in expected impact (22 percent) among HR professionals, 48 percent of whom said their organizations planned to invest in people analytics software over the next three years.

With increased investment in people-related data, a key skill any business needs to look for in an HR leader is data analysis. People analytics can be used by HR leaders to increase productivity and profitability for the company as a whole.

For example, HR leaders can use data to improve the hiring process and decrease time to hire. Or analyze data to better understand employee satisfaction levels, which can ultimately lead to happier, more productive employees.

These are just a few of many skills you should look for in an HR leader who will help you grow your team. During the hiring process, you can gauge whether or not HR leader candidates have the right skills to set your team up for success through prescreen surveys, situational interview questions, and skills testing.

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