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What Talent leaders get wrong about their own job search processes…and what to do instead

Adam Ward

Over the last several weeks, I’ve heard from a number of people who are less than six months into working at a new company and think they may have made the wrong decision. Surprisingly, the majority of these were Talent/Recruiting leaders. This seems counterintuitive—you would think we would be better at evaluating new opportunities as subject matter experts in all things hiring! Let’s talk about why this happens, and what you can do about it.

Why is this happening?

There are several factors that I think are behind this heightened issue for Recruiting leaders: 

  1. Recruiting leaders are not immune to the great talent reshuffle. As the tip of the spear for recruiting activity, leaders are getting early insights into the health of the business and are most impacted by attrition. Couple this with the competition for talent their teams are experiencing in the market and it’s not surprising that the current environment can rattle even the most zen of leaders.
  2. Companies at earlier and earlier stages of growth are building out internal recruiting functions (which we at Growth by Design 100% endorse), which has led to many more Head of Recruiting opportunities out there.
  3. Combine that with the record amount of venture capital being raised and deployed, mostly in the form of hiring, and the tailwinds that the pandemic has created for big tech, and you have a supply and demand issue of recruiting talent across the board. Nearly every company we speak to is feeling this.
  4. It’s been a long run for Recruiting leaders over the last decade. Hiring soared, leading to career burnout for many. Experienced leaders are often turning to a different work environment, like strategic consulting or Talent Partner roles within venture (where Talent Team hiring is also exploding, and impacted).
  5. Recruiting functions have historically been guilty of not following the same guidance for themselves and their teams that they advise of the hiring teams they support. This is often mirrored in their own job search process—leaders ignore the advice they give to others, leading to dissatisfaction in just a handful of months into their new role.

What can you do about it? 

Although they’ve probably helped thousands of candidates through their own career moves, many Recruiting leaders I speak to are not thinking about their next role in an objective and structured way, but rather making reactive and emotional decisions without first taking the time to map out what they value in their next role. 

The main piece of advice I give them is: Before taking conversations or calls about a next role, step back and build an objective framework. This is not a new concept; as talent leaders we do it all the time with hiring managers and the executive team, but when it comes to ourselves, we often fail to apply it. 

Give your search the same rigor that you would if you were running a structured leadership search for a hiring manager. Structure will also help mitigate bias (which, as relationship builders, we are particularly prone to) and optimize for what actually matters most to you. Taking the time to reflect and write it down is invaluable—and put it somewhere you can reference it again when it’s decision time.

Before you begin interviewing—rely on a framework

I like to use a simple 2X2 chart. The two columns are the tangible role/company aspects and the intangible culture/environment characteristics. The two rows are a stack ranked list of must haves (non-negotiables) and nice to haves (bonuses), with no more than 5 non-negotiables in each column.


When it comes to the company and role, the tangible aspects are the things about the role and place you work that you can pretty easily compare to other opportunities, sometimes even in a quantifiable way. These might include:

  • Location and work style. What is your ideal work environment? What kind of return to work plans would you like to be part of? 
  • Size, stage, and industry. Do you have a particular passion for an industry or one to avoid?
  • Level and scope of role. Where do you want to learn and grow? What gives you energy? 
  • Total compensation & benefits.  What mix of cash and equity is important to you? Where are your bottom lines when it comes to comp? 
  • Reporting structure and manager. Where would the People function ideally report into in terms of company structure? And who would you like to be reporting to, what type of leader?

When it comes to culture and environment, the intangible aspects are things that are often more feeling based, or aspirational. These might include:

  • The why. What mission excites you to push forward? This is what will get you through the hard days. What impact matters to you? 
  • The leadership and team. What environment do you want to be a part of? Who do you want to learn from? Do your values align with theirs? 
  • The culture of recruiting. What kind of resourcing do you want to have within your function? What kind of accountability would you ideally see for hiring goals?
  • Path for growth. Are you looking for depth or breadth in your next role? Do you want to grow into the broader People function in some way? 
While you’re interviewing—ask consistent questions

The answers that fill in your 2x2 will help you determine what information you need to gather before, during, and after any conversations with your next company, whether it’s an exploratory chat, a formal interview, or a reference check on the company. Similar to a recruiting process, having a standard set of questions that you ask will help you get a better signal. The goal is to compare your new opportunities to this framework rather than to one another or against your current role. 

Brendan Browne also recently wrote a great post about this growing trend and shared some important questions Talent leaders should be asking when interviewing. 

Once you get an offer—don't forget to negotiate

By using this framework, you’re more likely to get an offer that you’re not only excited about, but that’s a good fit for you on a deeper level. But once you have the offer in hand, a related phenomenon we often see is Recruiting leaders who don’t properly negotiate their own offers. 

Partially this stems from the fact that when Recruiting leaders do make a position change, it may be to a very different opportunity; they might be changing level or going to a dramatically different stage of company, so it can feel like comparing apples to oranges. The second driving factor is that leaders don’t ever want to be the candidate someone dreads working with — the impossible negotiator. Unfortunately, this sometimes means they avoid the conversation completely. And last, while Recruiting leaders have their finger on the pulse of the roles they hire for, they often don’t have a good sense of the market for their own peers. 

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To find the right role, be a great hiring manager…for yourself

With so many opportunities out there, and the high personal and professional costs of switching companies, it’s well worth the time to hold yourself to the same standard you would for any hiring manager you’d work with. This framework will give you the ability to concisely communicate what you’re looking for in a next role, the confidence to say yes or no to an initial conversation, and the tools to optimize the very little discretionary time you have to spend on a role change. While this is broadly applicable to anyone, Talent leaders are especially equipped to do the upfront work and diligence in the process. With a little prep work and reflection, you can find the right role to grow in, for the next chapter, whether that’s two years, or ten!


Growth by Design Talent is a talent advisory firm that provides foundation consulting, training, and retained search focused on Recruiting leaders for high growth companies. If you’d like to learn more or are considering a new leadership role, reach out to us: hello@gbdtalent.com.

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