Jason Hanold

Managing Partner of Hanold Associates

Jason Hanold is the chief executive officer and managing partner of Hanold Associates. Since founding the company in 2010, he has helped it grow into one of the most in-demand retained executive search firms in the US. Under his leadership, Hanold Associates has built a client roster that includes The New York Times, Google, Amazon, Kaiser Permanente, Arizona Cardinals, Under Armour, Tom Brady and TB12, NFL, Nike, Gucci, Ford Motor Company, and other major brands. Hanold and his team focus on CEO, chief HR officer, chief diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) officer, and board director searches. Ninety percent of the company’s successful searches are women or ethnically diverse.

Before establishing Hanold Associates, he served as Managing Director and Global HR Officer Practice Leader at Russell Reynolds Associates in Chicago. He co-lead the company’s High-Potential Partner program alongside LeadersQuest and was elected Partner. Hanold was also Global Head of Talent Acquisition at Whirlpool Corporation and Global Head of Recruiting at McKinsey & Company. Earlier in his career, he was the Americas Director of Executive Leadership Recruiting for Deloitte; he played a key role in forming the company’s first in-house executive recruiting capability. He began his career in the corporate recruiting division of State Farm.

Hanold serves on the Leadership Council of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and the National Advisory Council of Big City Mountaineers. He is also a Team USA Athlete Mentor with the U.S. Olympic Committee. He holds lifetime memberships with the Association of Talent Acquisition Professionals, Sierra Club, and United States Polo Association. In addition, he is a member of the NAACP and SAG-AFTRA.

Hanold earned his B.S. from Illinois State University and M.A. in leadership and organizational culture from Northwestern University. In 2021, he earned his Ed.D. with a focus on organizational leadership, learning, and talent from the University of Pennsylvania.

Where did the idea for Hanold Associates come from?

The foundation of my career was on the “other side of the table” from executive search firms, sitting in the client chair as a corporate talent acquisition leader responsible for the search firm partnerships for Deloitte, McKinsey, and Whirlpool Corporation. Some of the search firms I retained performed well, but mostly, I had disappointing client experiences. When I came into the executive search industry, I joined Russell Reynolds and eventually was elected Partner and served as the Global Human Resources Officer Practice Leader. I learned from some of the very best in the profession and served terrific clients throughout the world. Through my experiences in a well-established search firm and as a client, I had a vision of how one could model the firm, execution teams, and client experience differently for a better team and client result.

This shaped the idea for a very different kind of retained executive search firm—one where we “team-attack” assignments with a team exceptionally focused on great execution, rigorous assessment, understanding the nuances of fit and alignment with the micro-culture of leadership teams, and speed. It’s a model that benefits a team, in that they are supported to thrive in every dimension of life, while benefiting the client, because their search team is incented toward exceptional execution of the search, rather than spending time on business development. Our belief is that if you crush it on great search execution, that will be such a rare phenomenon and experience for the client that they will talk about it with others, and new clients will come and find you.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

No two days are the same, with new searches launching and others concluding. We are consistently meeting new leaders and learning about different organizational cultures. Working closely with senior executives of companies ranging from The New York Times, National Football League, Tiffany’s, and Cartier, to Under Armour, Tom Brady and his TB12, Ford Motor Company, Sonos, and Uber keeps it very interesting. I make each day productive by consistently consuming news on organizations and emerging cultural workplace trends and innovations. We are continually studying attributes of outstanding leadership and always building enduring relationships.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Say your ideas out loud to others you trust. It’s the first way that I begin to enforce my internal commitment and sense of self-obligation to action.

What’s one trend that excites you?

More women becoming CEOs, and more CEOs starting to ascend to a very diverse Chief HR Officer leadership pool of talent.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I have a difficult time achieving a sense of contentment, and I’m paranoid about the future, no matter how strong business is today or in the past, so I have a habit of constantly seeking the new and the next, but with a realist lens about whether it’s actually better. Sometimes, success is not about change or a new idea; it’s often about better execution of an aging idea. Learn and then question.

What advice would you give your younger self?

To my much younger self I would first reassure, “It will all be alright—life is going to get a lot easier.” I’d tell him to just keep being authentic and genuine, and let your compassion for others show. Formality will soon be overcome by the desire for the informal, authentic, and “real,” so stay comfortable with your inner “you” and less compelled to fit in.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Well, it will be true: the next generation of successful CEOs will ascend to the Chief HR Officer role. The thing that is currently true that no one agrees with me on is that I am better looking and smarter than my younger brother, Kile Hanold, who is a partner in our firm. (He’s my brother, not my son!)

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Take time to think—really calendar time in the day to walk and reflect. Always separate the important from the urgent.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Pay close attention to the kind of people you surround yourself with, including clients and colleagues. Life is too short to be exposed to bad human beings. Do what you enjoy and do not fear failure. Data is great, but there is no reliable replacement for good judgment.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I made a poor hiring decision for our firm over a decade ago. We addressed it instantly and moved on. You owe it to your best performers to never tolerate bad people or poor performers just because it’s easier to avoid difficult conversations.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I wish a restaurant would surprise me, confusing my sense of sight and taste. Imagine a restaurant that served something that looked like tacos, but it tasted of Italian spaghetti, or what looks like cheeseburgers that tastes like chorizo tacos.

Also, as a hockey parent who has to spend time running the scoreboard at the ice rinks, I really wish there was an app for that, so it was fool-proof, easy to run, and not stress-inducing.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

When I first launched our firm, I spent about $100 on an ad run on Google AdWords, and it yielded over $250,000 in immediate revenue.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

LinkedIn is our service backbone. It’s incredibly valuable in the nature of our work in executive recruiting.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. Read it first when you are young, again when you are maturing, and later when you have matured. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell is so relevant for life and business if you enjoy observing greatness in others.

If you care about your overall fitness and nutrition and doing what you love longer, read The TB12 Method by Tom Brady. OK, it’s a plug for a friend and client, but Tom shares what will be his legacy and how he was able to play so well for so long.

For a longer read, I recommend Rick Bragg’s All Over But the Shoutin’ as a good reminder of how many people in our country live in poverty still today…and they are us.

What is your favorite quote?

“Bloom where you are planted.” I was raised in a more diverse and rural environment, and I recently heard a more sophisticated executive say, “Adapt where you are.” Same meaning.

Key Learnings:

  • Don’t tolerate poor performers just because it’s easier to sweep problems under the rug. You owe it to your best employees to never tolerate bad people.
  • Share your ideas with the people you trust—it’s the first step in making them a reality.
  • You can (and should) gather data to inform your decision-making, but there’s simply no replacement for sound judgment.