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John Saia, Chief Legal Officer at Guardant Health

John Saia, Chief Legal Officer at Guardant Health

September 20, 2023

How does your thought process around hiring change in a down market? It depends on what is happening within your company.  If your company is financially constrained, then I recommend prioritizing new hires on what is most critical for your company’s near-term success, and perhaps those professionals that have a track record of tackling multiple legal or compliance areas.  If you’re fortunate to have open roles, you also may also want to evaluate whether your needs have changed and if those roles should be repurposed for what the business will need in the next 12 to 24 months.

If your company is growing during a down-market, my experience is that our ability to attract key talent significantly increases.  Meaning, competition for high caliber talent decreases in difficult times, giving us a wonderful opportunity to elevate our expectations and potentially add key talent that would otherwise be difficult to secure.  At Guardant, we have seen a measurable change in the depth and quality of talent pools over the last 6 to 12 months.

How do you best prioritize the needs of your legal team and business constituents with constrained resources? As a service provider to the business, we always need to be mindful of how we utilize capital resources.  To guide ourselves on what investments should be made, we review all projects utilizing a two-pronged approach: does it advance key business objectives or mitigate significant risk.  It is not an easy task, but the two-pronged framework gives us a chance to assess our goals utilizing what should be key objectives for all legal and compliance organizations.  Often, what this means is that long-term projects or operational efficiencies are postponed.

Otherwise, if your team’s growth is constrained, you may need to have a frank conversation with your business leaders around realistic expectations on service levels.  Meaning, it may take a day or two longer to get a question answered, or a contract completed.  My experience has been most business leaders will be supportive, so long as you give them an opportunity to accelerate for genuine emergencies.

Can you provide job seekers a few tips on how to best position themselves in a candidate-heavy, job-limited market? I often meet with mid-career or senior candidates that have been laser focused on working for a brand-name employer and ensuring they have an impressive title within such organizations.  While that is certainly nice, it is not a determinant of long-term success.  Rather, I am much more impressed by candidates that have spent considerable time developing and acquiring analytical skills that will be valuable in the long-term.  Your ability to grow professionally and advance key projects is what matters most to me.   Another way of thinking of this, do you have a growth mindset with the drive to deliver for your company and team.

Has this ever affected you personally in your career? Do you have any inspiring stories to share about how you (or someone close to you) has navigated finding a job in a down market? Yes, I’ve certainly faced challenging markets in my career.  My advice in such circumstances is to stay positive and consistent in your outreach.  Approach the challenge like you would any important work project, schedule your days focused on key short-term goals (e.g., number of follow-ups, new applications, new industry contacts, etc.), while also staying focused on what you need to do long-term as a candidate (e.g., professional development, new credentials, networking with thought-leaders, market or industry research, etc.).  It can be incredibly difficult as rejection is never enjoyed and can be very demoralizing.  Perseverance is important as meaningful results can take months or longer, but if you stay focused and positive, you will find your dream role

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