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Q& A with Jason Leonard – Managing Director, Talent Maze

Jason Leonard serves as Managing Director, Talent Maze.

Prior to TalentMaze, Jason developed a distinguished corporate career. He served as Director, Staffing at Citigroup for over three years leading the Recruiting function for Citi's Consumer Lending businesses (mortgage, auto financing, educational lending & home equity) consisting of 16,000+ active employees and hiring 3,000+ new employees per year. Jason nntegrated the Staffing function for five disparate business units into one unified Recruiting team consisting of 45 staffing professionals. He reduced external search firm usage from 84 to 23 vendors and moved from a legacy job board methodology by cultivating a variety of non-traditional sourcing tactics. He earned the 2007 Citi Presidents Club award recipient and was a 2006 Citi Quality Excellence award recipient.

Jason was also a Director, Talent Acquisition at Mosaic, a privately owned, direct customer sales / marketing / merchandising / training / data collection solutions provider at the retail level with 13,000+ employees serving global, world class brands such as Microsoft, American Express, Wal-Mart, Nike, AT&T, Best Buy, Disney, HP & Reebok. In addition, he has served as a Director, Recruiting at Caseta Technologies and Director, Recruiting at Spherion (dba Resulte Universal).

Six Degrees: Tell us of your home world.

Jason: I have been with my beautiful wife Michelle 5+ years, married 3. We have a beautiful 20 month old daughter named Maya. She’s at that age where everything is two speeds – stop and run. Seriously, she is an absolutely wonderful child and has been a God send. Michelle and I love her very much.

Six Degrees: Tell me something others may not know about you.

Jason: My father was actually killed in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. My father was a Secret Service Agent and they were housed in the federal building that was bombed. That single event truly has shaped the rest of my life. To this day I miss my father tremendously and will always have a void in my life without him here.
On a more positive note I not only played football growing up (and am an avid fan at all levels), for a few years I coached little league football. I did not have any kids at the time, but I truly have a love for the game and wanted to give back in some way. I’m still trying to figure out how I can convince my daughter to play football when she gets older. Give me time…

I was actually a semi-finalist for the very first season of Survivor. Needless to say I did not make the final cut, but I was absolutely intrigued by the concept and am a diehard competitor at heart. I wanted on that show so bad I could taste it. Ironically, everyone I told about Survivor before it came out thought it was one of the dumbest ideas for a TV show they have ever heard. I guess history has proven who had the better foresight on that one, eh?

Between helping to run a startup, handling a 20 month old and keeping my wife and myself sane, I can’t really say I have time for hobbies or interests. Back in the days before parenthood and entrepreneurship I would have said traveling, sports and wine tasting. I have always been a big football fan (I have both played and coached over the years) and have been a Dallas Cowboys and Oklahoma Sooners (my alma matter) fan since childhood. I can’t say I get to watch a complete game anymore, but I do love football season.

Six Degrees: How many years were you a practicing recruiter?

Jason: I started in recruiting May, 1998, so I just had my 10 year anniversary this past Spring.

Six Degrees: How did you get started as a recruiter?

Jason: I started as a Recruiter for a boutique headhunting firm called Resulte Universal. (They have since been acquired by Spherion.) I spent about 6 months on the candidate’s side when the owners deduced I needed to be on the client side. I flipped to account management, eventually management and on to a Director role over permanent services before I left the agency side. After 3+ years on the external side I flipped to the corporate side and went to work for Mosaic as their Director of Talent Acquisition. Four years later I left (via a headhunter) to join Citigroup as their Director of Staffing. I stayed with Citi for 3 years before leaving to join Talent Maze.

Six Degrees: What single event had the most impact on your sourcing/recruiting career?

Jason: I would have to say simply getting into the industry. I was in sales and sales management for 8 years before I moved into the recruiting profession. What intrigued me about recruiting was the uniqueness of a model where I had to sell both sides of the equation (the candidate on the company and the company on the candidate). Once I tried it, I was hooked. I’ve been a member of the community ever since.

Six Degrees: Do you have a mentor to whom you attribute your overall outlook on recruitment, capabilities, and/or model your career after?

Jason: Interestingly enough, I do not. I have met some really visionary and enlightening leaders / managers / recruiters over the years, but none I would single out as a large contributor. I prefer to glean a little something from every candidate / recruiter / boss / peer / partner / client I interact with and leave each encounter with at last one good take away. I would describe my mentorship as an amalgamation of a thousand people and ten thousand interactions.

Six Degrees: Tell us about your position at Talent Maze:

Jason: I am the Managing Director for Talent Maze. They have brought me on board to help provide the strategic vision and tactical implementation of the company’s goals. Talent Maze is a startup changing the way hiring companies leverage external search firms and the business model is evolving rapidly. I relish the opportunity and believe my unique set of experiences on both the external agency and internal corporate sides of recruiting have well prepared me for this opportunity.

Six Degrees: (A) What other companies' recruiting operations do you admire or have heard are best-practice examples?

Jason: I have been a big fan of LinkedIn and Recruiting Blogs for quite a while now. I was an early adopter of both (I seem to recall being in the first 100 people to sign up for Recruiting Blogs and I have been using LinkedIn since 2005) and feel each is helping to crystallize a critical slice of the recruiting space.

Six Degrees: (B) In what aspects are they superior?

Jason: I am sure most of your readers are familiar with both companies, so I won’t go into the value adds they provide. Their contributions to our industry are clear. I will say I think what has set each of them apart for their competitors is the way by which they have both effectively delivered on their underlying model and continue to refine their product in ways that bring additional value to their users.

Six Degrees: What recent general news story or industry trend do you feel will have an impact on your work in the future? Why?

Jason: Especially since I most recently came from the Financial Services industry, I think the current financial meltdown is going to have long last effects on not only those of us in the recruiting space, but all consumers / employees in general. Unfortunately, I believe the financial mess is going to get worse before it gets better and we will end up with another busted bubble a la the Internet bust of 2000 / 2001. The good news is these “cleansing” events are a great time for superstars to differentiate themselves as it typically culls out those individuals who shouldn’t be in our industry. As they say, the strong survive and get stronger.

Six Degrees: Have you been involved in speaking events, awards, publications, where you have you represented your company:

Jason: I have been a speaker at Taleo World, Kennedy Information, and EMA and in the Spring I will be speaking at SHRM’s Annual Staffing Conference. I have won quite a few internal awards at Citigroup, Mosaic and Resulte / Spherion, but not industry recognized awards as yet.

Six Degrees: What is your next career goal? What do you need to do to get there?

Jason: In my opinion, I am living it. After spending 7+ years on the corporate side of recruiting I was really looking for a game changing, entrepreneurial opportunity. I think Talent Maze is every bit of that and then some. I relish the opportunity and truly believe our business model will fundamentally change the way our industry operates. I look forward to what the next five years bring.

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Replies to This Discussion

Hello Jason ~ well.. your interview really "sets" a great tone & vision for the week for me. How remarkable. I thank Dave for all this and it's truly wonderful to see different facets to a professional.. and rock. BTW - loved my times (briefly) at Citigroup (in ny) way back when.. and I look forward to seeing T A L E N T M A Z E grow & be successful as ever. Best wishes! PS - yes.. I like to joke around. :) but I do "admire" talent and I'm very serious when it comes to work. It was nice meeting you briefly at Recruitfest ~ :) Susan

Wow, what a fascintating Bio! I have no doubt that you will make TalentMaze a force to be reckoned with in the industry. I really enjoyed our conversations at recruitfest. Just let me know if you need anything.
BTW - Jason - just read your interview again.. You were a semi-finalist for Survivor? I have always "wished" that I can even enter LOL - kudos to you.. I admire folks with great fitness.. and survival skills. That's wonderful. Thanks again Jason for sharing. Best wishes ~ Susan

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