CMOpinion: Tread with caution when playing recruitment musical chairs

Diana Di Cecco returns with her regular Mumbrella column and writes, as a candidate, nailing the “trifecta” of right workplace, good people and personal satisfaction, is the skill of the year. Where do you start when considering a job move?

“I’m thrilled to not be starting a new job and announce I am staying with my current employer” said: no one on LinkedIn in the last year. While I am genuinely delighted for people who have moved roles, the messaging is monotonous. Surely the platform could do something to help people announce their news with some panache, right? I digress but segue directly to the heart of this piece: people moves.

People are weird. Now and then we find new ones covertly declaring, “you’re my people” and stick with them. It’s a sibling-like connection that can last for days, months or years. Sometimes, this happens with co-workers, and they can be the most meaningful relationships we foster. Apart from immediate family, work is the most important part of the week; we spend the most time doing it, it facilitates our lives, and some people even do truly meaningful work. Over the past two years, people have revaluated many aspects of their lives, including work. Some have relocated, others have stayed put, some have moved jobs, and others have undergone a sea change. It is The Great Resignation, The Great Evaluation, or (the great “whatever you want to call it”) playing out in real-time. Despite a looming recession, the lowest unemployment rates since 1974, and the increasing number of jobs vacancies, appetite is high for marketers to sling a hook. So, when you’re considering a job change, how do you land at an organisation with “your people?”

There is a concept I once described as work family. For me, it’s the intersection of family-like behaviours in the workplace. For example, the people I work most closely with, I care about, I am loyal to, I have their backs and they have mine, I respect, and I trust. But most importantly, we show compassion, understand each other and have good banter. Of course, there are good days and bad days. And like family, I don’t get to choose them individually, but they are “my people” and we operate like a small gang; tight and accountable. I know the term work family can be contentious—sure, we don’t hire and fire people at home (although I do give out a red card now and then), but ultimately, we win and learn together. In lieu of an appropriate 90’s-inspired gang name, I now refer to this group as my crew.

Throughout 2021, there was enormous chatter about The Great Resignation. We all know people who moved jobs, have been either side of talent poaching, and who were/are on the hunt for their next move. Enter 2022, and change is certainly a foot. But for the love of God, if I see one more LinkedIn post about how someone is thrilled to be starting a new position, I may implode. While I wasn’t one of them initially and wasn’t even looking, all too soon, I also found myself being lured by “that next gig.” Given the musical chairs for talent does not look to be slowing, it had me thinking about what I consider when contemplating a change, so I’ve prepared some tips to save you time down the track.

Firstly, recruitment is a two-way street; an organisation needs to find the right candidate as much as the candidate needs to find the right company. So, while they analyse you to a criteria, you must consider measures for them too. Let’s assume you have pondered the obvious (remuneration, location, travel, reputation, flexible working, benefits, etc), and you have done your homework (researched the company, and reviewed their socials, website, and reviews etc). Then you find yourself in the hot seat; the interview(s). The reality is there is no magic formula on how to figure out good fit and I can’t promise the grass is always greener. I can, however, share the red flags I’ve come across that, in hindsight, I wish I had not ignored.

Marketing jargon

When a marketer finds themselves in conversation with non-marketers who have added out of context marketing vernacular to their repertoire, it’s awkward, rendering the non-marketer clueless. Stand out examples include word overuse of strategy, point of difference, the 4Ps, and my personal favourite, the acronym mega-mix, usually a compilation of CPA, B2B, B2C, and FMCG (rhyming acronyms are particularly comical). Assuming the marketer knows their craft, they will pick the jargon a mile away. Hear them out, bring your poker face, and provide the facts; don’t be afraid to politely correct them as required.

Weak answers

Have questions prepared and include tough ones. How an interviewer responds will either leave you impressed or perplexed; weak answers can be a sign that things are not what they seem. One of my favourites is “what don’t you want me to know about this organisation?” The answer is unlikely “nothing” but what an interviewer chooses share is telling. If the business is listed, you have a plethora of information to analyse; annual reports, forums, share price (ask for an explanation of highs/lows, read announcements etc). I once had a Managing Director tell me the all-time high share price was the result of a product release, only to later find out it was something more ominous; it destroyed my perception of him and the company.

How they speak about peers

One of the most revealing characteristics is how the interviewer(s) refer to peers, namely other departments. References to marketing being the “colouring in department” or “fluffy” is enough to signal the function is not respected; are you there to educate or implicate departmental politics? I am also fascinated by the relationship between Sales and Marketing; how is this described? Is it strained? And if so, why?

Definition of culture

You’ll never know if culture fit is right until you work there. In the meantime, try to understand what culture means to them to see if you’re aligned. But what equals culture? Perks such as free snacks, special speakers, ping pong tables and lunch on a Friday, do not equate to culture. Culture is the characteristics that set the organisation’s vibe and defines how they do things. Immediate red flags, in my opinion, include; interviewer lacks enthusiasm, numerous bad online reviews (a trend rather than a rouge ex-employee), interviewer speaks poorly about other departments during interview (yes, this happens!), glorification of over-working, interviewer does not know the organisation’s values, high employee turnover, interviewer does not provision time or is unprepared for you to ask questions (it’s a two-way street, remember? If they’re not interested in your questions now, imagine bringing an idea to the table later?) Culture relates to standards therefore, knowing how a potential employer defines it will force you to consider if they measure up.


There is a distinctive quality I seek in people whether it’s a tender, a candidate interview or a company interview; X-factor. To me, X-factor it is an intangible quality; it is chemistry, smarts, eye contact, excitement, and most importantly, energy. It is something you can’t quite put your finger on but can feel. And when you find it in an interview, it’s reminiscent of recruitment bingo—“I found my people!”

And lastly, if it sounds too good to be true….(you know the rest)

Chris Donnelly, Founder at VERB and Co-Founder at Lottie, put it best recently when he said, “Sometimes the grass looks greener because it’s fake.” And he’s right. I’m not suggesting genuine alignment does not exist. I do, however, suggest that when an organisation promises the world, talks themselves up, only backs half of it on paper, and you find yourself turning a blind eye because its “perfect,” you will inevitably figure out why the curation exists. Usually, because they are not who they projected themselves to be. And believe me, you do not want to work for an organisation like that.

Ultimately, evaluating potential crew comes down to one thing: can you see yourself having grown-up conversations? You know, the hard ones where you need to confront or have an uncomfortable discussion. You will, more than likely, have multiple interviews, so for the people you meet, think; can I see myself having a respectful disagreement with them and for us to still be crew? The right attitude to resolution is not dissimilar to altercations between young siblings where they disagree but quickly find themselves as friends twenty minutes later. That speed and overarching desire to resolve is what I look for.

If the answer is no, rethink why you want to move in the first place; the grass is not always greener so if there’s something you need to work through in your current role, have you really tried and do you want to?
If the answer is I don’t know, fair enough; people won’t always let their guard down enough in an interview to let you in and see their true self. Think about a first date versus a relationship 12 months down the track; it is different when you get to know people and work environments are no different.
If the answer is yes, you’re at half-way there. Listen to your gut—somehow it seems to know more than we give it credit for.

Wherever you land this year, be mindful of why you jump. Like relationships, sometimes the best opportunities come when you least expect them, and the universe has an interesting way of sending you what you need, when you need it. Be patient.

Sources: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Diana Di Cecco, the fractional CMO @ Ministry of Mktg


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