What to Look for in a Fractional HR Leader

Now that you’ve made this initial decision to hire a fractional HR leader, you next need to determine exactly who to seek for this position.
8 min read | by Dan Smith
Racing Paper Airplanes and Yellow one in the lead

So, you’ve recently decided that your business has developed a clear need for hiring a fractional HR leader.

First off, congrats! This is a big, strategic decision that has the potential to significantly elevate the experience of your employees, and that, if done well, will offer dividends to your broader organization. But now that you’ve made this initial decision to hire a fractional HR leader, you next need to determine exactly who to seek for this position.

Quick interruption… if you’re reading this and are thinking, “what’s fractional HR leadership?” then please pause and first read this brief article.

If you already know what fractional HR leadership is, but you still need some help determining if hiring a fractional HR leader is your best solution, then read this article.

Ok, back to the topic at hand. Now that you’ve decided to hire a fractional HR leader, you probably have several more questions popping up about who to hire for the job. HR professionals are a dime a dozen, so how can you identify the highest-quality candidates? What sets any given fractional HR leader apart from the rest?

In this article, we’ll delineate four different characteristics of prospective fractional HR leaders to consider: qualifications, the nature of professional experience, logistical compatibility, and potential for culture add. Let’s begin with qualifications.


The first characteristic to consider for your potential fractional HR leader candidate is their qualifications. But what qualifications matter? Traditional academic education is often the first thing presented on resumes or CVs. For fractional HR leadership, higher education is a “nice to have,” but not always a “need to have.” That said, it still can be a valuable initial indicator for identifying qualified candidates. 

Universities offer master’s or doctoral degrees in human resources management, leadership, business administration, organizational behavior, and many other topics that offer individuals a relevant, more traditional education. However, a degree alone is rarely sufficient for identifying your ideal candidates. So, what else?

Aside from traditional higher education, there are several other potentially valuable, more specialized certifications and trainings that fractional HR leaders may possess. The list of credible and potentially worthwhile certifications and trainings have expanded into the dozens. Take a look at this recent list of the 26 best HR certifications courses of 2024

These trainings tend to vary in both length and rigor but whether or not a candidate has completed them can offer important insights about whether the candidate may be qualified and suitable for your position. Importantly, they tend to be technical and directly tied to duties and responsibilities required for the job, thus potentially offering a complementary qualification to traditional forms of education, such as a master’s degree.

A third qualification to consider is each candidate’s leadership competencies. If you are hiring a fractional HR leader, it is essential that they can articulate and enact their leadership in the role. Leadership competencies are difficult to assess from a resume but much easier for candidates to demonstrate in an interview through various means, such as strategic questioning or situational interview questions that ask candidates to describe how they would act in a given situation. Beyond qualifications, there remain multiple other candidate characteristics to consider.

Nature of Experience

The next characteristic to evaluate among fractional HR leader candidates is the nature of their current and past professional experience. Here are some initial questions to think about and that may help you assess the value and pertinence of each candidate’s past experience to your fractional HR needs. 

  • Does the candidate have any professional experience in addition to education, training, or other qualifications such as those mentioned above? 
  • How many years of experience do they have? 
  • What industries have they worked in and are they similar to that of your organization? 
  • Either way, what is the transferability of their previous experience to your industry and organization? 
  • Is the job applicant a specialist (e.g., only has experience with onboarding), or are they more of a HR generalist? 
  • Importantly, to what degree does any given candidate’s previous experience align with your specific hiring needs? 
  • Will this candidate be able to walk into the job on day 1 knowing exactly what has to be done and how to do it, or will this candidate require any initial training to perform as required in this role?

No two fractional HR leaders have the exact same past experience, but one’s past professional experiences matter greatly. Therefore, it is important to assess the nature of each candidate’s past experience, determine the potential fit with your current HR needs, and finally, identify what, if anything, needs to be done as part of the hiring process to help the prospective leader thrive once they have assumed their post.

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Logistical Compatibility

If you are hiring a fractional HR leader, it is likely that your applicants may have varying degrees of logistical compatibility with your organization. Logistical compatibility refers to the level of harmony between an individual’s schedule and availability with that of your organization. 

The reason this first matters for fractional HR leadership roles is because it is likely that your job applicants have other current clients, especially if they are good candidates. In fact, it can be a sign of strength for an applicant to disclose that they have other existing clients. This means that there is demand for their services and that they are capable of doing this type of work. 

However, this can present certain challenges. If a job applicant has concurrent clients, you must determine whether the job applicant’s capacity for more work meets the magnitude of your HR leadership needs. For example, if you anticipate needing an individual to work for 40 hours a week, it may be difficult for an individual to do that if they already have three clients.

Another feature of logistical compatibility has to do with job applicants’ location. If your headquarters is located in New York City but your job applicant lives in Hawaii, the time zone differences may place a strain on the potential employment relationship. For instance, if you have weekly all-hands meetings at 8 am Eastern time on Mondays, then will the applicant in Hawaii be able to reliably hop on Zoom at 2 am? Regardless of time zone, does the applicant have availability for working when you need them to?  

These examples should further highlight the importance of checking the box of logistical compatibility when hiring a fractional HR leader. Determining these will help you proactively understand if a given candidate has the capacity and the schedule required to perform the necessary duties of your fractional HR leadership role.

Potential Culture Add

Finally, and certainly not least importantly, it is valuable to assess the degree to which your fractional HR leader candidates have the potential to add to the culture at your organization. Leadership is important for many reasons. But one of the (often overlooked) organizational outcomes that leaders have a direct impact on within an organization is the culture. 

Leaders are often the face and voice of an organization. They also model certain behaviors and reinforce social norms within an organization. As a result, their level of influence ultimately extends to the level of culture. If you have a positive leader, you are more likely to have a positive culture. So it is first important to estimate the potential influence that a given candidate might have on an organization’s culture.

But zooming in on this, at Blend Me, we don’t just think it is important for an individual to fit with a given culture, we believe it is important for individuals to be assess for their potential for culture add within a given organization (read more here about our perspective on Culture Add). 

Ultimately, we acknowledge that fractional HR leadership needs to support smooth operating of the organization. However, it’s a major bonus feature, when fractional leadership doesn’t just check boxes for HR tasks, but rather, as any effective leader does, they serve to strengthen and bolster the organization’s culture.

In summary, there are several important characteristics of a given fractional HR leader to consider when deciding if they are the best candidate for the job. If you found this article helpful, please take a look through our other insights and industry articles. If you have questions about selecting a fractional HR leader, please feel free to contact us. Happy hunting!

Originally Published by Dan Smith on Tuesday, April 16, 2024 | Updated on Tuesday, April 23, 2024
Fractional HR Leadership
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