– 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.…
Phone: 954-692-3553 OR 877-344-4300
Meet my friend Claudia Faust, Independent provider of recruiting services including executive search, professional staffing and passive candidate sourcing. As a recruiter and leader of corporate recruiting organizations for 14 years, Claudia Faust brings her passion for people and analytics to hiring and retention. Over the years she has recruited and managed staffing organizations for globally recognized brands such as T-Mobile USA, Amazon.com, Microsoft, Sprint PCS, and Burger King Corporation; her expertise includes executive search, staffing, recruiter development and training, metrics development and implementation, workforce planning, recruiting technology and vendor selection.
Claudia took this opportunity as a featured member in our interview series to do something those who know her are quite accustomed to: she shared of herself for others, and in the most personal, poignant way. When you venture forward, her responses regarding home and history, - be it children, marriage, and career, - she shares the type of deeply personal and introspective flashbacks that good friends do on a warm summer night sharing a few spirits under a full moon. When all is said and done, you leave refreshed and empowered someone cared enough about you to entrust a part of themselves. For anyone who knows Claudia, it is a familiar take away in what it is to befriend her. She is entirely authentic and even more formidable if you recognize her wisdom is not solely pertaining to a certain day in a week.
Truth be told, I look forward to conference season each Fall and Spring, it gives me an opportunity to see friends new and old, and in each venture I get a hug from my friend Claudia and that endearing smile that is so sincerely welcoming. Claudia is many things, not least among them a class act and someone who so consistently provides value to her industry. More importantly, Claudia is a friend to something far bigger than you or I - she is a confidante and mentor to the daily visitors of RecruitingBlogs.com, not to mention the spotlight featured guest sharing "Wednesday Wisdom"
Improved Experience builds feedback portals to help companies measure and improve the engagement and retention of their best talent. From earliest contact and throughout the employment life cycle, the Better HiresTM suite of products measures and benchmarks critical indicators of workforce engagement, employer brand, and recruiting effectiveness. Improved Experience products are real-time and subscription-based, utilizing patent-pending survey technology. Sales, operations and customer support are provided from Dallas, Miami and Copenhagen
Q&A with Claudia Faust
Six Degrees: Tell us of your home world, Claudia.
CLAUDIA: I currently live in Plantation, Florida, about 10 miles inland from Fort Lauderdale. I say “currently” because my husband and I speak often about other places we’d like to live, and who knows where we’ll be five years from now.
My husband is a brilliant, kind, wonderful engineer, and we’ve been married for three years; it took me forever to find my match (you’d think that as a matchmaker I would have been better at choosing a life partner for myself, but that wasn’t the case for me), so he sits firmly at the top of the list of blessings I count every day. I also happen to think he’s the cutest boy in the world, but that’s another story.
I didn’t know my husband when I moved to Florida six years ago, and the story of how we met is too good not to tell you. At the time I was actually dating someone else: an Italian Count I had met while on a cruise from Venice to Istanbul; I dated the Count for over a year while thinking long and hard about what I wanted next from my life. In the summer of 2003 I decided to leave T-Mobile and step headlong into his world; we traveled frequently between his homes and businesses in Italy and south Florida for many months before I concluded that this nomadic life was not for me; I missed my kids and my friends, and even my work -- alas, I was living someone else’s fairy tale; it seemed only fair to acknowledge it and move on.
It was the middle of January by then, and I had a choice: I could return to Seattle, or stay in Florida for a while. I chose the second option (no brainer), and took a condo on the beach for a much-needed sabbatical. It was a life-changing four months: I ate when I was hungry, slept when I was tired, and even recruited a bit here and there to replenish my savings account. But mostly, I walked the beach for hours every day. Family and friends came to visit, and I began to feel like an improved version of my old self once again.
It was at sunset on one of those beach walks that I had a chance meeting with the cousin of one of my neighbors, a dark-eyed Turk with a quiet smile and a European accent wasn’t easy to place (turned out to be Denmark, where he had spent many years on his own journey). We chatted for a moment and then I went for my walk, returning an hour later to discover that he was gone, but a note in a bottle was carefully tucked into my sandals. The rest, as they say, is history; we were married two years later at sunset on that same beach, and my life feels like it has come full circle.
Our blended family is split between two continents: in Denmark it includes a son, two daughters, and four amazing grandchildren, and here in the US, two sons and two more amazing grandchildren. Note the underscore on amazing , and yes I do love being a Grammie.
Last summer our family expanded again with the adoption of three feral kittens that have since domesticated well and taken over both the house and our hearts. Life suits me just fine these days.
SIX DEGREES: Tell us about a day in the life, what is that eclectic past time that makes you tick? Make us believe, Teresa “We Hardly Knew Ye!”
CLAUDIA: Travel is perhaps the most visible pleasure for me – it doesn’t matter where I go or how I get there: I can be packed in a heartbeat, and if I forget something they probably sell it there too. There are so many beautiful places to see in the world, and fascinating people from every culture to meet. How can my feet not itch to start the next great adventure?
I’m not athletic by any stretch of the imagination, but my interests are eclectic; I like to bike, ski (the jet-, water-, and downhill variety), snorkel, sail, and go for road trips in my Z3 (straight six, open road, let the big dog eat…you know what mean). I’ve also started working on a dive certification this year because the Bimini Road is both in my back yard and on my Bucket List. I love baseball (to watch, not to play); hate pub crawls (although hanging out for a while is lots of fun); love dancing (took belly dancing lessons my first year in Florida); and learned to hate golf the minute someone insisted I had to keep score. Pretty much a classic Gemini.
SIX DEGREES: How many years have you been in the staffing industry?
CLAUDIA: It feels like a lifetime, but it’s only been 14 years. Even though I’ve run a software company for several years now I still tend to think of myself as a recruiter first.
SIX DEGREES: How did you get started in recruiting?
CLAUDIA: I took a job at an executive search firm in Seattle back in 1995. The owner wanted to train someone to do candidate development for his clients in the wireless telecom industry; I spent the next two and a half years working beside him on what I like to call my hands-on MBA. I didn’t know much of anything about how big business worked before I met Marc, and I soaked up everything he was willing to teach me. It was an excellent education, and I’m thankful for it to this day.
In 1997 my curiosity about the software industry drew me to a consulting firm that placed contractors at Microsoft; it was my introduction to technical product development and the “back office” side of the Internet, and I grilled the developers and architects I placed there to understand how all the parts fit together. This is where I also accepted what a geek I am at heart: my recruiting library contains books like “C for Dummies,” and “From Cloud to Code” that opened for me the world of a well run software organization.
There was no shortage of recruiting opportunities in the late 90s in Seattle; I was recruited to Amazon.com next (where at one point my work load exceeded 400 requisitions); rather than obsess over the obvious, I mostly focused on sourcing and headhunting executive talent for new lines of business. This part of my job was pretty funny, by the way. Recruiting as a function was new to Amazon at the time and there wasn’t a lot of respect for the role there yet. So I was instructed to “go find candidates for the executive team to talk to” – but new business lines were so top secret before launch that I wasn’t even allowed to know what they were. So calls to prospects were interesting to say the least (“Hello Fortune 500 Executive, we’re looking for exceptional leaders with full P&L experience to lead business lines that I can’t tell you about or I’ll have to kill you. Interested?”). Lucky for me the Amazon.com brand was powerful even then, and the doors that it opened with candidates were truly amazing.
In 1999 I joined yet another great Seattle company, T-Mobile USA, where I had the good fortune of leading Corporate Talent Acquisition for several years. If my time at the executive search firm was an experiential MBA, T-Mobile was my final exam. TMO was in a massive growth mode that year that came to a screeching halt when the Internet bubble burst in the economic recession of early 2000, and then rebuilt with locomotive speed in the years that followed.
TMO gave me hands-on experience as a recruiting leader; I worked with an amazing team of recruiters, and had a front row seat to the effects of both good and bad HR and recruiting practices on every functional area of the business. It was, as Charles Dickens penned, “the best of times and the worst of times” as the company grew from fewer than 10 thousand employees to more than 22 thousand in four short years, and simultaneously grappled with stunning turnover rates in many departments. There’s a silver lining to every cloud though, as what I learned there became the catalyst for product development that would follow at Improved Experience.
SIX DEGREES: Tell us about your company, “Improved Experience”
CLAUDIA: Improved Experience is the company I founded with Alise Cortez in 2006, to provide enterprise feedback solutions for HR and recruiting.
Some of my biggest frustrations as a recruiting leader came from the incredible lack of data (and data collection systems, for that matter) that were available to feed the decision making process when allocating recruiting resources, or planning outreach initiatives. It occurred to me that if I could somehow capture feedback from all of the stakeholders in the hiring process – candidates, new hires, hiring managers, recruiters, even my boss sometimes – and present it in a simple and compelling way, I could put critical business intelligence into the hands of recruiting and HR leaders to measure and improve business performance.
So we built an online “feedback portal” technology – a diagnostic platform that measures and manages perception in the hiring process, after onboarding, and throughout the first year of employment. It took two years to finish the engine and the interactive survey technology that feeds it. Since then, we’ve released two products: Get Better Hires, a tool that explores candidate and new hire feedback and engagement; and Make Better Hires, a tool that explores feedback from the internal business customer about Quality of Hire, recruiting services and support, and talent market conditions.
SIX DEGREES: What single event had the most impact on your career?
CLAUDIA: I don’t think that for me it was a single event; rather, it was the opportunity to see recruiting from so many different perspectives: executive search, contract agency, corporate recruiting and corporate leadership. Each has its own unique drivers for success, and that understanding has powerfully impacted my view of recruiting as well as the business solutions my company offers today.
SIX DEGREES: Do you have a mentor?
CLAUDIA: I’ve been fortunate to work for some great companies along the way, and some very smart people. Janice Dilworth hired me at T-Mobile, and I still consider her a mentor; I wasn’t sure if it would work so well at the beginning, because she was a veteran HR administrator and I had a lot of assumptions about HR that came from years of working in a third-party environment (the old “us versus them” mindset). Janice trusted my expertise when it came to setting a bar of excellence for the team, and I came to deeply to trust her abilities to set broader strategy and protect us from the politics inherent in really big, rapidly growing companies. I learned not only from her knowledge, but by her example.
SIX DEGREES: How do you personally expect to facilitate change within our industry?
CLAUDIA: I truly believe that if something can be measured, it can be improved. My work at Improved Experience is about leveraging perception to improve business performance. By creating a mechanism that collects and reports this data in a transparent and compelling way, we can deepen communication between all of the stakeholders: the internal business customers who drive the hire, the recruiters who make it happen, and the talented candidates and employees they want so dearly want to attract and retain. And if that helps to solve the problem of the dreaded black hole in recruiting, while building stronger businesses, I think we’ll have accomplished something amazing.
SIX DEGREES: What inspires you as you continue in your career?
CLAUDIA: I’m inspired by people who don’t give up, ever. Churchill once said, quite simply, “Never, never, never quit,” and I think that that is perfectly said. I’m inspired by the part of the human spirit that rises in adversity, that stands its ground, that finds courage, that clings to hope.
My youngest son spent ten years in the hell of drug addiction; watching in horror, I was there with him. My first year as a recruiter was his first failed attempt at recovery; he was 14 years old at the time. He tried again to get clean when he was 18, and failed again. At 22 he tried a third time; 60 pounds under weight for his six foot frame by then, we all knew that he didn’t have many chances left. He finally did it, and remains clean and sober 4 years later.
People who don’t give up are rock stars to me.
SIX DEGREES: What is your next career goal? How do you expect to get there?
CLAUDIA: You know, I still can’t believe I’m doing what’s on my plate today. In the past three years I’ve taken all I know of recruiting and built a couple of software products, filed a patent, and worked with developers all over the world to get it done. I still have two more products that need to be built to complete this suite of enterprise feedback tools. Who knows what will happen after that? All I can say is that I’m pretty darned sure I won’t be bored.
Recommendations For Claudia
“You have an amazing concept that will revolutionize the industry. Treating applicants with respect will allow a company to attract the best candidates, and maintain a large labor pool!” February 27, 2006
“Claudia is a very talented professional with the ability to make candidates feel relaxed during all phases. She follows up with candidates and lets him know the status in an inspiring manner whether the results are positive or not. Claudia is difinitely a champion among executive search professionals.” July 19, 2005
Jonathan Jordan, client
“As an executive recruiter, Claudia shines! She possesses all of the technical skills and knowledge of a superb recruiter, as well as the innate ability to align with clients and candidates. Her even cadence and unfaltering delivery have earned the trust of top executives world-wide. Claudia reels-in candidates that had no intention of "leaving home". With Claudia you truly get what you pay for.” June 23, 2005
Christy Miller, Senior Manager of Talent Acquisition, T-Mobile USA
“Claudia is the very definition of what recruiters can and should be. In a world where so much focus is placed on process, Claudia is always looking for the desired outcome and managing to it with her stakeholders. A true a thought leader in her field, and among the most genuine people I know. I would highly recommend as a trusted advisor.” May 21, 2008
Michael Gaul, Director of Compliance & Fulfillment, American Background
“Claudia was a great leader for myself and the entire recruiting team at T-Mobile. Her leadership and support never faulted and her consultative skills are beyond reproach.” August 6, 2007
Nathalie Becker, Manager, Talent Acquisition, T-Mobile USA
“Claudia Faust was more than my manager, she is my mentor. She is a strong leader and extremely relationship oriented. She truly understands the recruiting industry and how talent is a competitive difference for companies. She is strategic in her approach to bring people and opportunites together. I recommend her highly to do retained search work or consult on best practices. Judy Wright” June 21, 2005
Judy Wright, Employment Brand Manager, T-Mobile
“Claudia implicitly understands both the art and science of ALL aspects of recruitment. She is an incredible coach and mentor and very generous with her time and knowledge. I can’t recommend enough to partner with Claudia for any recruitment related needs. You are guaranteed a positive experience and solid results!” June 21, 2005
Annie Rihn, Sr. Recruiter, Zillow
“Claudia has shown time and again her ability to find not only the right skillset but also the necessary personal qualities for senior level positions. Her attentiveness to the process makes candidates feel honored to have been considered no matter what the outcome.” June 14, 2005
Sharon Fitzpatrick, SPHR (LION), Senior HR Manager, T-Mobile
“I worked with Claudia at T-Mobile. She is an exceptional recruiter and evaluator of executive talent. In addition to her great senior recruiting work she put together very good processes to improve the evaluation process and make the interview experience better for candidates. Claudia is very knowledgeable, and just as importantly, is a great person to work with. I recommend her highly.” June 10, 2005
Randall Birkwood, Director of Talent Acquistion, T-Mobile
“I am pleased to endorse Claudia on two counts. First, as my manager, she was easily the most professional, supportive, instructive, competent manager I have had in my 20+ years in the workforce. As a recruiting professional, she has the best command of executive recruiting I have ever encountered and is a true class act.” June 8, 2005
Alise Cortez, Technical Recruiter, T-Mobile…