Witt Kieffer CHRO Discusses How to Find Top Executive Search Professionals

Human resources executives are tasked with the enormous responsibility of building strong, cohesive, and diverse teams for their organizations. They must know how to read people, recruit them to the team, determine best fit, and weigh strengths against weaknesses.
Debra Jerome, Chief Human Resources Officer at Witt/Kieffer, has a unique twist on this responsibility as an executive who hires consultants who will in turn recruit executives on behalf of our client organizations. She was recently interviewed by Jeff Hyman for Strong Suit Podcast, a series that educates executives looking to recruit “rockstar” employees. As an executive who recruits recruiters, Deb has invaluable insight into the talent industry.
Below is a short summary of the podcast, highlighting some of her most notable quotes. Listen to the full 20-minute audio here.
Culture is Key
The discussion between Deb and Jeff focuses on three aspects of the recruiting business: What to look for in recruiters, how to create an effective employee referral program, and what to look out for when hiring “rockstar” recruiters for your organization.
When it comes to working as a recruiter, Deb repeatedly references the importance of loving to interact and work with other people. It is a highly collaborative industry, and team players are essential to preserve the company’s mission. “When you’re a recruiter for your profession, you have to understand why people tick and how they will fit into certain environments,” she says. This level of engagement within the culture of the company is something Deb says she always looks for when hiring recruiters.
Another key aspect of finding new talent is through the employee referral process. Deb discusses this at length during the interview, and highlights how great it can be for a company to grow through the referrals of current employees, who are already committed to the mission and values and live them every day. “We’re now finding [employees] who are vetting these candidates ahead of time,” she says. “The majority of our hires have been referrals.”
Deb also advises that there are certain red flags to look out for when hiring and onboarding a new consultant or other employee. “Our culture is so strong in the values that we set that it’s not going to take too long for someone not to be successful if they don’t collaborate with others.”
This doesn’t mean that a new hire who struggles early on will not find success in the long run, however. According to Deb, having candid conversations about strengths and weaknesses can improve performance. She believes if employees want to learn and expand their skills, they will make that effort.
This is especially true for executive search consultants. The best recruiters, she notes, are those who are intellectually curious, want to learn the business, and process and integrate constructive feedback.
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