Jason is an English-born, Kiwi-raised Talent Partner at Backbase, via WeAreKeen. Backbase is a fast-growing product company within the financial industry, where for the last 5 months, Jason has helped scale their talent teams across continents--sometimes building teams from scratch. His entry into the world of recruitment is a story of self-discovery and Google searches, which helped him find a career path that offers work-life balance, challenges, and provides that “good deed”-feeling. (Sound familiar, recruiters?)
Growing up with brothers, Jason was active in sports and very competitive in his younger years. Now that he’s older and has chilled out (his words!), in his free time Jason hits the gym, enjoys visiting new places, and is learning German.
We had a chat with Jason, so let’s learn more about his experience as an RPO.
WeAreKeen: What does being an RPO Recruiter mean to you?
Jason: It begins with having a service-oriented mindset. When I come in as an outsider with a neutral mindset and position, I can provide a service or pitch an angle that an internal worker cannot. My partners understand and give me space, and are respectful of my role in the process.
RPO recruitment is unique in the way it offers opportunity and responsibility that you would not get from a traditional internal/external role. I am "part" of the partner company (company login, in the office, etc.), but distanced and separate enough to work objectively, which is the missing piece in most internal setups.
Can you expand on what it means to “separate” yourself?
It means I can understand the delicacies of a partner's internal environment (culture, people, struggles, etc.) and truly appreciate it, whilst remaining relatively impartial and offering an objective point of view. Therefore, RPO recruiters should be focused on both “sides”--truly appreciating and being a part of the internal environment and all its uniqueness, whilst being able to step away and focus on the best possible solution, when necessary. There are numerous examples of potential conflicts of interest creeping up in internal setups (i.e. my salary vs. team members, who should get promoted, whose ideas are actioned) and we have to handle these as diligently and respectfully as we can. Being able to jump back into my KEEN persona is very valuable in these cases.
So you’re playing the role of advisor.
Yes, a good RPO recruiter is not solely a role-filler, but an advisor. This ties in with the whole internal-external dynamic. What can I see that perhaps the internal team has missed? What can we improve? How can I add value? I can look at other issues within the company and find solutions while working with those people. I take pride in being able to float between teams, and taking a birds-eye view that helps me find things we can improve upon.
Tell us about the company you’re working for now, and your role there.
Backbase builds software solutions for banks with a focus on digital transformation--moving old, outdated, or in-office processes to fully-digitalised ones through the software solutions they offer. In the last five years they have grown considerably, from 50 to nearly 1500 employees across the world. (I wrote a piece on what life is like at Backbase here).
Initially, my role was finding recruiters within our European hubs, but that transitioned to building talent teams for our locations across the world. I have helped find everything from junior recruiters to seniors, team leads and managers in India, Poland, Mexico, and Canada. Plainly speaking--I recruit recruiters! For some this can be a bit monotonous and less exciting, but I love to relate to the people who do my job. We are usually a different breed and full of fun!
How has your role at Backbase evolved?
These last few months have seen me step more into the role of advisor, where I can really have a voice within the company when it comes to talent hiring. The advisory aspect developed over time with the relationships I've built, and with that came trust. I have a greater stake in how we move on certain hiring decisions, and I am a fly on the wall in most discussions that have to do with our recruitment teams. This kind of input is something that takes time, naturally, and is driven by the relationships you build and the results you achieve--or at least the effort you visibly demonstrate.
This is where being “on the ground" within the team is so important. From the internal team’s POV, it can be difficult for an outside advisor to offer suggestions, while not having experienced all the struggles, triumphs, and more that one encounters in the trenches with the rest of the team/stakeholders. Thankfully I have been with the team long enough to get to a level of understanding and trust where things flow and everyone supports each other for the best result. Having a great team to work with also helps!
What did your first month on the job look like?
The first 2 weeks was just an information overload! I was exposed to everything new--new processes, meeting team members, coffee catch-ups, understanding processes/tools, getting to know people (critical people), onboarding material (sourcing tools, ATS, reporting, etc.) After these hectic two weeks, I became more familiar with the role and the processes, and could begin sinking my teeth into the job. I became proficient in prioritizing my roles--really getting on good terms and developing relationships with stakeholders, and knowing who to go to if any issue should arise.
After month one, I began looking for applicants, posting job ads, and sourcing, whilst trying to fit in with the culture and building those relationships.
So it looks a lot like an internal recruiter’s role the first couple weeks.
Yes. And it does take some time to understand the company culture and the position of the company before moving out of “newbie” status. It’s all based on gaining knowledge and trust.
Tell us about your daily work.
I’m communicating with my Hiring Ms, I'm sourcing, trying to fit in with the company culture, scheduling, managing my own time while understanding the working rhythms of colleagues.
Has it always been that process, or has it shifted to the advisory side?
Depends on the situation. When it comes to the advisory aspect, I always look beyond the situation and problem-solve. I try to be of service, and make an effort beyond filling roles. It’s all in the name of improving the overall process for my partners.
How did your process change when working with partners in different geographic areas?
The main thing is time management and understanding cultural differences, which includes understanding the local market, as well as hierarchies. When I worked with India, I needed to know who the “important” people were, the priorities there, who needed to be hired by when, and then understand what the local market looked like for these roles (e.g. salaries, notice periods).
I also arranged my time based on the time differences. India is 4 hours ahead so I would talk with them in the morning. For Mexico or the USA, I would talk later in the day, as it would be their morning.
What do you enjoy most about being an RPO Recruiter at backbase?
Advising and solving problems, especially when there are difficult roles to fill. I enjoy getting involved, listening to people, and taking their input and building something great!
What are your main challenges and responsibilities at Backbase?
It’s important for me to understand cultural differences with different markets, and understanding the local work environments, managing expectations (theirs and my own); and of course the time zone differences!
The greatest challenge is building relationships. To go from being viewed as a newbie to becoming a respected advisor, you have to be able to showcase what you can do and gain respect in a short amount of time. Part of the challenge is the continual repetition of this process.
Different companies, different teams and different people will see you on different levels. It’s my job to convince every stakeholder that I am also a stakeholder, and I’m in it to win it as much as they are.
What’s the best advice you would give your fellow RPO recruiter to succeed on a project?
Get to know the people in the team as soon as you can and--relationships are everything.
You can be a great sourcer, but if you cannot motivate people, and you cannot persuade people to adopt a different style or take a different approach, you can’t get that far. Don't be shy, speak up, and believe in yourself!
If people like you and appreciate you, they will respect you and help you.
What else would people love to know about being an RPO?
People will disagree with you. Don’t expect people to always be on board. There are different personalities on different teams, and you might not get along with everyone. It’s not easy--we know that, but neither of us are going anywhere, so let’s find some common ground! And even when you don't get along with everybody you need to use your sensitivity and emotional intelligence to work with them.
Learning to communicate with people who perhaps do not have the same personality type as you or general life-outlook as you, or maybe do not see you in the same light as others do, is a skill that builds and enhances over time. Don’t take things too personally.
While working on a project at Backbase, how do you manage to stay connected with WeAreKeen?
Because of COVID, it was a little tricky, but we have organized Keen events, video calls, and we are using technology like Slack to check-in, which makes a big difference. At the very least I have a weekly call or check-in with Keen, and I am very social, so I like to put in the effort to keep in touch. I guess you could say I’m an “extroverted introvert.”
Do you feel supported by WeAreKeen?
Definitely! When I go on assignment I do become more self-reliant and can work relatively unassisted, but I always feel supported. Annemarie is always there to help, and collaboratively I think we are good at finding solutions.
What's next for you at WeAreKeen?
We are expanding to Berlin, so that could be a real possibility (and a good excuse to keep up with the German lessons ;).
Who knows in the future but I'd see myself managing some partners or coaching in a lead role.
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