Thursday, November 06, 2014

Skills are Different Than a Profession

A Check Box Recruiter

Nearly two decades ago, I worked on my first retained CIO search.  I’ll never forget one of my recruiting calls connected to that search that was made to a Director of Information Technology in a Fortune 500 company in Chicago.  As soon as I identified myself, the Director asked me if I was a “check box recruiter”. 

I asked him what he meant by the term “check box recruiter”.  I truly had no idea what he meant.  The Director explained that a “check box recruiter” was a recruiter who had a list of questions in front of them.  As they asked the questions, they checked boxes if the person answering the question provided the right answer.

At the end of the questions, if enough boxes were checked, the person answering the questions would be deemed to be a potential candidate.  I remember laughing and asking if that was the kind of recruiting call the Director had received in the past.  The Director told me he received this type of call all the time. 

I proceeded to broaden our dialogue and this difficult-to-recruit Director ended up being one of the candidates my client flew in for a final interview.

Skills Versus a Profession

This story came to my mind yesterday when I was engaged in a discussion regarding the difference between skills and a profession.  The CISO I was speaking to told me that he though most companies thought of information security as a skill within the company but he didn't think information security had matured to the level of a profession just yet in most companies.  

I asked him to explain further.  He suggested that at one time, companies hired book keepers.  Book keepers became accountants.  Accountants became Controllers and eventually the role of Chief Financial Officer surfaced and over the years it has matured to be part of the “C” suite.  He didn't think the CISO role had reached that level of maturity in business yet.

Checked My Understanding

To see if I understood where the CISO was going, I suggested that he was explaining the difference between the skills a resume sourcer might have in the recruiting field versus the skills a gifted professional recruiter has.  He said yes.  

While a sourcer may know a thousand ways to build Boolean searches to search the Internet for information, it takes someone who is gifted with significant intuitive skills, sales skills, persuasion skills, skills in psychology and skills in business to perform the role of a professional recruiter.

The CISO suggested that it is easier to measure the output of a skilled person than to quickly understand the impact of a gifted professional.

Skills Versus Profession in Action

When your company chooses to hire internal staff to handle recruiting, you owe it to yourself to understand whether the people your company is hiring are people who have recruiting skills or whether they’re actually talented professional recruiters. It's the difference between hiring skills and hiring talent.

The same is true when your company is going to invest in an outside recruiter to fill a mission critical position.  Don’t settle for a sourcer unless you’re only paying for sourcing.  Check references and hold out for a highly specialized professional recruiter if that's what you truly need.

When your company needs to hire a CISO, hire someone who has technical skills, risk management skills, expert level communication skills, skills to understand your business and skills to communicate effectively below, beside and above their CISO role.  

If you only hire based on skills and certifications, you'll very likely be hiring an engineer or an architect when what you really need is a business professional who understands security, risk, compliance and privacy.'s Security Recruiter Blog