Sam Sparks

Mastercard Director of Talent Sam Sparks LIVE in London

Sam SparksMastercard Director of Talent

Hello London! We are live! And we are thrilled to welcome you to this Talk Talent To Me special edition: the Nightclub Rave Recruiting podcast. Joining us today at the magnificent Steel Yard nightclub is the Director of Talent at MasterCard, Sam Sparks. We take a look at Sam’s professional background and how she ended up at MasterCard, before diving into the complexities of acquiring a business, from a TA perspective. Our panelist gives us the makeup of her recruitment team while letting us know how she is able to ensure that they are getting involved with their clients and candidates. Sam prefers to silently observe interviews and meetings, and she lets us know what she wants to hear from her team in those situations. You’ll learn about cross-department partnerships, what it’s like to hire as a globally recognized organization, understanding what a candidate wants, the pros and cons of building a recruitment management team, and the importance of social media for big corporations. After getting an idea of Sam’s future career prospects, Rob steps into the audience to give them the chance to ask our guest a few questions. The impromptu interviews help us understand Sam’s views on how TA will evolve in the near future, the best ways to assess the technical skills of candidates, and how you can build a company culture in a remote-work world.

Episode Transcript


[00:00:05] RS: Welcome to Talk Talent to Me, a podcast featuring the most elite talent leaders on the front lines of modern recruitment.

[00:00:12] FEMALE: We actually want to understand the themes of someone’s life. We want to understand how they make decisions where they’re willing to take risks and what it looks when they fail.

[00:00:22] RS: No holds barred, completely off the cuff interviews with directors of recruitment, VPs of global talent, CHROs and everyone in between.

[00:00:31] FEMALE: Once I went through the classes and the trainings and got the certifications through diversity inclusion, I still felt something was missing.

[00:00:39] MALE: Talent Acquisition. It’s a fantastic career. You are trusted by the organization. You get to work with the C-suite and the security at the front desk and everybody in between, and everybody knows you.

[00:00:52] RS: I’m your host, Rob Stevenson, and you’re about to hear the best in the biz. Talk Talent To Me.


[00:00:59] RS: Hey, London. How the hell are we? It’s so good to be here. I’m so pleased you all came. Thank you for joining us here at our Nightclub Rave Recruiting podcast. I should point out actually this is the very first time I’ve been on a nightclub stage while not also wearing mesh. This is a first for me. If it starts going poorly, we’re just going to turn on the Steam Machine and these lights and play Mr. Brightside on repeat until y’all get happy. I know what y’all really want. I will begin by addressing the subtle air of disappointment tutting its way through the crowd right now. Yes, I’m American. I am tonight’s Yankee Doodle Dandy. I’m hoping though. Here’s the thing, I am half British, actually, on my mother’s side. I’m hoping that that counts for something with you all. Thank you. I should probably not say y’all. I’ll do that one more time. I’m half British on my mother’s side. I’m hoping that counts for something with you lot. Nailed it. This is going great.

If you’ve ever been to a industry networking/panel discussion event, clap politely. This is going to be nothing like that, I hope. I hope we’re going to have a little more fun with it. We’re going to drop some F bombs and make fun of the French and just generally have a good time. I have a great guest lined up for you, we’ll get to know her in just a little bit. Before we do that, I will set a little bit of context for the podcast and what you can expect. If you’ve ever heard, Talk Talent To Me, say ‘woo’ really fucking loud. For the rest of you, here’s all you really need to know about the podcast.

Every episode, I sit down with directors of recruitment, VPs of talent, CHROs, Chief people, officers, all sorts of folks, really. If they had anything to do with hiring, I will get them on the podcast. We will flip on the microphones, just go for it. Hopefully at some point they—thank you one in the back. I’m so glad you’re here and you alone. You did it. Thank you. So we’re going to get into here in just a minute and have some fun.

One order of business, if you came specifically to see Steve from Wayfair, he tragically had to drop out at the last minute. He told me that he got sick, and then he insisted that we get on a zoom call so I could see exactly how sick he was. I got to tell you, he looked like an extra from The Walking Dead. He sounded like, Arthur Shelby with a cold. So the fool really is sick, he couldn’t be here. That’s the world we live in, but that just means we’re going to get to know some of you all as well. We’re going to have an awesome panelist come up here in a minute. Then we’ll have a nice long Q&A session.

I’ll come out there with a microphone, stick it in somebody else faces and we can we can learn a little bit about some of the problems you all are facing and what’s going on out there in the talent ecosystem recruit-o-sphere. Before we get too deep in the weeds, let’s bring out our first panelist. She has had a load of roles across the talent space. Now she heads up recruiting as the Director of Talent for MasterCard. Give it up for Sam Sparks. Welcome. Hey, Sam.

[00:03:55] SS: Hi.

[00:03:56] RS: She’s said, “God. Let’s pray.” Yeah, you’re on stage. How are you Sam? What’s going on?

[00:03:59] SS: I’m good.

[00:04:02] RS: Yeah. What do you think of this venue, first of all? Is it nice to be here in the nightclub? What do you think?

[00:04:04] SS: I mean, it’s amazing. It’s funny, because I said to my team, “Today, I’m going to Steel Yard. They were like, “Oh, that’s an epic nightclub. It’s really good.”

[00:04:14] RS: They’re like, “We didn’t know it was open before midnight.’

[00:04:16] SS: Is that right? Okay. I’m thinking that literally, I didn’t even know it was a nightclub. But it’s cool. It’s really good.

[00:04:21] RS: Yeah, yeah. It’s been great. I would love to learn a little bit about you and your background and how you wound up at MasterCard.

[00:04:29] SS: You fall into it, don’t you? I mean, I did. I went into agency side. I think that’s where you learn the most and actually all of my team are ex-agency hires. I think it’s a good foundation, and just worked my way up. I think agencies are very salesy and I love the interaction with people, but I hated the KPIs. I hated the fact that I had to do all the sales calls, even though I had a great customer base. Then I thought, “Oh, what about internal?” Sometimes it’s hard to make that jump, sometimes internal teams or the internal experience and when you’re an agency recruiter, it’s like, “Well, how’d you get that?” I was lucky that I knew someone at Mothercare. Yeah, so at Mothercare, which is sadly, no more, which is very, very sad. They’re just built up.

I was in retail for a couple of years, then went on to another company called Essential, which was an event space. Then found the job at MasterCard, and I’ve been here for years. Yeah, started off as a manager, managing an acquisition, which was horrendous.

[00:05:41] RS: Why? Why did you feel that?
[00:05:43] SS: I didn’t really understand the complexities of acquiring a business, from a TA perspective. You think how a company, you acquire another business, and they automatically just fall in line. It’s not like that. It’s a journey. It’s a mindset journey. It’s a change for managers. We bought a company that didn’t have a TA function. They did all the recruitment themselves. So when I came in, I was like, “Hey, I’m your TA recruiter. I’m going to do all of your agreement.” They were like, “Who the hell are you? You don’t know about my business.”

[00:06:17] RS: Fun is over. Now we have processes and a TS that sucks. Yeah.

[00:06:19] SS: We hate MasterCard. MasterCard have bought us and the world is over. You have to win, I hate saying this it’s so corny, but the hearts and minds. But you actually do, you have to really get them to be able to trust in you that you understand what you’re doing. You have to evidence that. For us, we are an extension of the business that we recruit for. I pay a lot of attention to how the hiring managers feel about how they interact with my team, the candidate experience, and really that relationship piece sometimes gets missed in TA. It’s not the focus. When you talk about KPIs, it’s time to hire cost per hire, diversity. We could talk about diversity all day long. For me, I think the biggest indicator is what is that feedback? Are you really partnering with your business? Because a good TA function, partners, and all of the other things will naturally fall in line? So yeah, that’s my biggest KPI.

[00:07:22] RS: How are you going about, when you say partners, do you mean hiring managers? Do you mean heads of their departments? What does that look like for you?

[00:07:28] SS: Yeah. So how my team is split up is that they each look after an area of the division that we look after. They have key stakeholders that they will recruit with on a daily basis. What I encourage them to do is get to know that business, whether it be job shadowing, sitting down with the engineers, because we’ve got quite a big engineering population in PNE. Really understand what they do, get them involved in the recruitment process, understand what the execs at that level want, really, truly embed yourself in the departments, because I think, in order to recruit effectively for those teams, you need to really understand what they do, in order to sell it to a candidate. You don’t have to be an engineer, obviously.

I think in order to truly sell what the team does, what the growth potential is, what the experience they can get being as part of that team, you really need to live and breathe it. I really encourage my teams to do that. They have full autonomy to go ahead and speak to who they want within their division. I’m not precious. They can speak to EVPs, all the way through down to senior specialists, managers. I think it’s important for them to have that ownership and that responsibility across the whole hierarchy, because I need to have that key relationship all the way through the ranks.

[00:08:45] RS: Yeah. What does that ingratiation look like for the individual contributors, the other recruiters on your team? What meetings are they going into? How are they structuring these conversations? How do you make sure that they’re getting involved?

[00:08:56] SS: Yeah. I think obviously, the standard ones are the job taking meetings when obviously, vacancies come up. I think for me, it’s more about those strategic meetings that happen, and I will be there. I’ll be present. I will remain silent. I try to remain silent. I pretty much remain silent for most of them. It’s about what is their plan for the year ahead. MasterCard aren’t great at doing workforce planning. It’s quite hard to get that plan, but for me, I want my TA team to be present in those meetings and manage those meetings from a TA perspective.

Understand what the plans are. What the growth potential is. Are there going to be any expansions? What a roll was going to do? Are they going to change? What is the makeup of the team? What does good look like? We do a lot of those meetings where we recalibrate what is a good engineer? Do we have examples of that in the current team? And we benchmark that and that’s our blueprint for when we recruit, and they own that. That’s for individual contributions in my team and managers. Yeah, they do really get that responsibility.

[00:10:07] RS: When you’re in those meetings silently lurking in the corner. What are you listening for? What are you hoping that your team is going to go and ask about?

[00:10:15] SS: I think, it’s just trying to have more of—I hate the word strategic, because everyone bands strategy, the word strategy, around that line. It’s like, what does it mean? But I think it’s more making sure that they think more holistically, not just thinking about the roles that they have to feel, but thinking about bigger picture, and really being part of that journey. I think, the one frustration I found in TA is that we’re always the last to know. We’re always the last to know, if there’s going to be any structural changes, if a team’s going to grow.

TA’s are always the last to know and I think, why? No, we should be present at those conversations. We should be A, trusted. B, we have the insight in the market to say, “What you want to recruit for doesn’t exist. Or if you want to recruit for that, you’re going to have to add 20 grand onto that salary, because you’re not going to find anyone.” It’s empowering my team to be able to have the confidence to push back, ask those questions and manage those conversations. You have to do that in partnership with HR, rightly or wrongly. I don’t know if any HR people in the in the audience. But you do, because these conversations are important.

[00:11:28] RS: Yeah. It’s a tragedy when talent is the last to know, because surely they have input for those conversations about headcount about capacity of your own team. What are the partnerships you can enact to make sure that you’re not the last to know? Is it with the finance? Whose door do you kick down here so that you make sure you’re in the conversation?

[00:11:46] SS: For me, and just so in my experience has been HR. I mean, finance are very much fed by HR in the organizations I’ve been at. I appreciate structures may differ, but we try at MasterCard to have a united front with HR and have a partnership, and try and make sure that the conversations are free flowing between the two departments. We have catch ups every month, the senior leaders of HR, PNA and for TAs and myself, for my directors. We will have regular catch ups to try and talk about this stuff. But also for us to have a see, to feedback information about the market, what the challenges are, what we’re seeing, because sometimes it’s hard to get that platform to be able to feed that back. Yeah, I would say probably HRs, the main one there.

[00:12:37] RS: Yeah. There’s surely, there’s HR people here. Now you just made enemies—

[00:12:42] SS: I know. I’m so sorry. I don’t want to offend any HR people.

[00:12:46] RS: You can find Sam after the show, if you want.

[00:12:48] SS: I’ll make a swift exit after this.

[00:12:51] RS: Just right over there. Sam, so MasterCard, a pretty well-known brand, right? When you get on the phone with candidates they know who MasterCard is. Is that helping? Is that a differentiator, even though it’s really hard out there right now to please people?

[00:13:06] SS: Yeah. You know what, it’s funny, because I think, everyone’s seen that the market has changed massively since COVID. I think before COVID, I’ll be honest, and say, we were very lazy. We relied on the brand. We relied at MasterCard. Why wouldn’t you want to join MasterCard? It’s a global organization. Everyone knows us. Okay, they think we’re a credit card company, which clearly we’re not, but they know who MasterCard are. I feel that we’ve used that. We’ve relaxed in how we attract talent. Then obviously COVID happened. We were one of the few companies to hire through COVID, because we didn’t really see a dip in revenue, and coming out of COVID.

I mean, our budget is a war for talent, because it literally is a battlefield out there. I’m hoping it’s going to tee off a bit, because of what we’re seeing in the economy now, MasterCard as a brand is not enough. It’s not enough. We see a lot of declined offers more so than we saw before COVID. It’s trying to unpick, okay, well, why is that? Yeah, it’s all well and good working for a great brand, but you need more than that now, I think.

[00:14:13] RS: One of the differentiators then, beyond this, is MasterCard. You should want to work here and have pitch.

[00:14:18] SS: Why do you want to work at MasterCard? I think we needed to firstly understand what is the market telling us? I think before the usual thing, or the main thing is salary, right? Everyone’s like, “Oh, I want more money.” It’s now I think it’s trying to understand what the candidates want. What are the main things they’re looking for when they’re looking for a new job, and it isn’t just salary. It’s that flexibility. It’s being able to choose where they work from and when, and not having someone telling them, “Oh, you have to be in the office X days a week.” It’s parental leave, that flexibility of managing work life and home life, and for me, as a mom of two, that for me is really important.

I probably didn’t realize the importance of that until we went through COVID. I was homeschooling, although maybe I shouldn’t use homeschooling, because that was awful, but having time with my kids, because I never had before. I was in the office really early. I was out really late. So it’s trying to find, what are the key things that candidates are looking for and at MasterCard, we are extremely flexible. I go in once every other week. I can log off and log on when I want. We have four weeks working from anywhere. We need to use all of that.

But I think the main thing is, how do we share that? Sometimes, when you’re in a global organization, it’s quite hard to get that message across and managing the complexities of working in a global organization, because a lot of stuff is US centric. That doesn’t necessarily resonate with the UK market. So we have to adapt our messaging and our social media strategy and our recruitment marketing campaigns to really make sure that it resonates with the markets that we’re recruiting in and pulling out these key messages. Yeah, so—

[00:16:06] RS: Does that fall on recruitment? Because that localized marketing is a very specific niche of marketing. It’s being left up to talent, I think a lot of these cases.

[00:16:15] SS: We’ve only just started to build out our recruitment marketing team. We had a recruitment marketing team in the US, and it was all very much US based. I guess the problems we had was that the campaigns were like I say, very US centric. They didn’t land in, not so much the UK, but in the Nordics. I mean, the Norwegians, they had no idea what we were talking about. It just didn’t resonate. So, MasterCard have started to hire more local marketing specialists. We now have two recruitment marketing managers that are based—ones based out of the UK, ones based out of Dublin, and they are responsible for the European marketing for TA.

It’s purely TA, and really working on, okay, well, what things can we do? Should we do sponsored campaigns? Should we link up with communications and do some interviews in certain locations and try and work together in what should our messaging be? Which is super exciting, because sometimes they force the TA and it’s so nice to have—It’s like, you want to do all this stuff, because it adds value. Sometimes when you’re recruiting for 30 roles, when would you have the time to do that?

[00:17:25] RS: Yeah. You’d end up doing it on top of all of your regularly scheduled programming, right? It’s tremendous to have that much marketing support installed in talent. I think a lot of places probably don’t have that luxury, but if it’s making an impact, then you could make the argument for it at any size, right. So at what scale, do you think it becomes important to have that role?

[00:17:45] SS: Yeah. You know what, you don’t necessarily need to have the roles. So when I was at Mothercare, we did, “’Why Do You Like Working at Mothercare?” campaign. I literally went round with a mic to the head office in Mothercare with our social media team that worked on just general social media for Mothercare. We did a video and it was really raw and it was really emotional. It really captured what it was like to work at Mothercare and we put it out on we worked with LinkedIn, we did sponsored content, we put it on our careers page, and we had that on the bottom of all of our recruitment adverts.

You can do something as simple as that, if you think it’s going to add value. I’m a firm believer in thinking outside of the box. I think sometimes recruitment can be so boring, and we don’t make, we don’t make the most of what we can do. So at the moment, I’m like, “Let’s do a video job spec.” Let’s get the hiring managers to do really raw edit on their phone of, “Hey, I’m recruiting for software engineer. This is my team. This is the environment. Here’s the office.” We really try and capture that culture and you can do that yourself. You don’t have to have a separate team to do that. I think it’s all about finding the EVP, the value add, why should you do it? If you have to get it signed off by someone? How is it going to increase your attraction? What is the end goal to try and get it signed off? But you don’t need a team to do it?

[00:19:14] RS: Yeah. The gorilla approach I think can really work. If you think of the way that people consume content. You don’t need the glossy corporate, here comes the ukulele backing and the xylophone backing. MasterCard, we know it’s important to blank. No one’s going to see that ad and then think, oh, I should go work there. The way people consume content a lot is like think of Instagram reels, and think of TikToks and think of your average social posts and the thing that someone would stick around for 30 seconds to two minutes. You can rattle that off with a smartphone.

[00:19:44] SS: Yeah.

[00:19:45] RS: You maybe you don’t need to give an agency a couple million and a quarter.

[00:19:47] SS: Definitely. I think that’s the problem we had with our global approach to content. It was very professional. It was quite stilted. There was not a lot of personality coming through. It seemed too fake. It didn’t really resonate. It didn’t represent what we are in Europe. It might be what they like in the US. I mean, I haven’t gone over there to visit. It could work well over there, but it certainly wasn’t working in Europe.

It’s like we’re not getting across the culture. That’s important now. That’s really important. People want to know, what is it like to work there? What is that culture? How do you get that across in a job spec and a standard job ad, or a really stilted, professional, streamlined video? I mean, you’re not going to get that across. We’re trying to do a bit more of this and push the boundaries a bit. I’m a bit of a maverick. I like to do stuff like that and just basically annoy my manager and say that we should do it.

[00:20:45] RS: Yeah. The more people who get involved, the more bosses, bosses have to sign off on something. The worse it gets, right? The safer it becomes, but the less impactful. If you’ve just read or something else, and posted I think you have will have more luck with that than just getting a million pieces to sign off.

[00:20:59] SS: Yeah. It’s not just LinkedIn. It’s like other platforms. I mean, I love Instagram. I love TikTok. I mean, I could just lose hours on TikTok a day.

[00:21:10] RS: Sounds like you do.

[00:21:11] SS: Honestly, I do. Once you open that app, I mean, I’m like, “Oh, no.” That’s me gone for an hour. It’s thinking about using these platforms as well, because the type of people we want to recruit in our engineering teams, they use these platforms. I probably sound really old and I am old. It’s like, I’m not used to TikTok really, and it’s trying to get to grips with all this stuff and thinking, recruitment just doesn’t have to be on a corporate platform like LinkedIn. You really need to think about, who you hiring, who you’re attracting, and what is your company culture, and is it fit for our purpose? It might not be, but for me, I’m like, “Okay, well, this is where all the cool kids are. This is where I need to be. This is what we need to do.”

[00:21:57] RS: Yeah. That’s smart. The kids these days, right? They’re not on LinkedIn, probably scrolling for jobs. Maybe I don’t know.

[00:22:03] SS: I mean, my son that follows me on TikTok. That’s just horrendous, isn’t it? It’s terrible. It’s terrible.

[00:22:08] RS: Typical.

[00:22:09] SS: I know. Someone asked me, how many followers have I got on Instagram? I’m like, “Stop.” I can’t just—

[00:22:15] RS: Yeah, the same amount as yesterday. Thank you very much. Sam, I want to ask about your own career goals a little bit and how you’re thinking about your own trajectory. Without revealing that you are about to quit MasterCard, I don’t know—

[00:22:29] SS: My boss isn’t here, don’t worry.

[00:22:31] RS: How are you thinking of just up scaling, developing, and then thinking about the next job for yourself?

[00:22:36] SS: Oh, God. I mean, I still feel I’ve got so much to learn. I’m not an expert. I’m definitely not. I think with MasterCard, I think—

[00:22:43] RS: I wish you told me that before we did this podcast.

[00:22:45] SS: Yeah. That’s the disclaimer. I think with MasterCard, there’s still so much to do. I don’t feel like I’m finished. I think there’s definitely still more room for me to grow in my current role. I’ve just taken on exact hiring, which I’ve mentioned. I think that, for me, is another realm of recruitment that I’ve never experienced before. It’s very different to that day to day recruitment that you do. It’s really unknown to me and I’m quite informal, as you probably have guessed.

Dealing with the likes of CEOs and presidents, I mean, that’s really nerve racking for me as massive impostor syndrome. I definitely want to learn more on that side. I love MasterCard as a company and I don’t think my journey there is done yet. I think one day I want my boss’s job, and he knows that, but I think I’m quite content where I am at the moment and growing my team.

[00:23:45] RS: I’m glad to hear that. It’s curious that you mentioned imposter syndrome, because you were very knowledgeable. It sounds you’re good at your job. You have a desirable title at a desirable company. How can you still have impostor syndrome?

[00:23:56] SS: I don’t know. I think it’s just me. I think it’s just a personal thing. I think when you talk to people that probably have more years-experience than I do. I don’t profess to know everything and I’m still learning as well. So yeah, maybe I should give myself more credit, but I just—

[00:24:11] RS: Yeah. You absolutely should.

[00:24:14] SS: Thank you.

[00:24:19] RS: This can become your therapy session if you want—

[00:24:22] SS: Now I know. I mean this is not where the podcast was supposed to go. I’m so sorry.

[00:24:28] RS: Sam. Well, this has been great chatting with you. I think we should get to know some of our friends out there in the audience. Before we do that, though, give it up for Sam everyone. She’s been great, right? Okay, great. I’m going to come down the staircase and then I’m going to find someone, so who’s going through some pain, right now? We have one fellow right here. I’m going to come around the staircase and stick this microphone in your face. Then we’re going to ask Sam to work just a little harder, and hopefully solve your problem.

[00:25:01] SS: It depends what problem it is.

[00:25:03] MAN: How do you anticipate talent acquisition evolving over the next two years? Do you see it changing much from here? Or do you see it saying very constant?

[00:25:13] SS: Yeah. That’s a really good question. I think it will definitely evolve, I think we’re taking the responsibility away from the managers. We’re making that recruitment decision for them and we’re putting people in teams. We’re having more ownership as the market gets more competitive, because I think the traditional way to recruit, when you take them through endless rounds of interviews and tests, just isn’t working and we’re losing people. I definitely think it will come more, yeah, kind of AI-led. Like I say, taking the responsibility away from the business. I definitely see it going that way. Like I say, we’re starting to dabble in that now. So yeah, I think more of that. I think the process is a big thing. That’s the one thing I’ve seen shift during COVID is that we really have to button up on what are processes and become really slick.

We have to feed that back to the business. We have to manage that and own it, because we are experts in TA, the business arm. That’s what I’m trying to tell my team the whole time. It’s like, they shouldn’t inform us what interviews they want to do and how many. What tests they want to do. No, we need to find out what level of experience do you need and we will tell you how effectively to assess that based on our experience of candidates and attraction and also the market. I definitely see that evolving more. Like I say, we’ve had to manage that a lot closely, because yeah, the endless interview processes and tests just aren’t working.

[00:26:44] MAN: Sure. I just want to follow up. I’ll put this in as Johnson said. You talked about endless processes and giving a bit of a choice, I guess. I do a lot of software engineering recruitment. It sounds you’ve got a solid background in that as well. What’s your view on giving candidates a, almost a menu of how they get assessed, especially at technical, as there’s a lot of debate in the industry among engineers about the best way to assess technical skills. I’d like to hear your thoughts on that.

[00:27:12] SS: Yeah, definitely. I don’t think we’re perfect at doing this. I don’t think we’ve got the right process. I’ll be very honest in saying that. I mean, we use Hired as our—

[00:27:24] RS: Plug, plug, plug, plug.

[00:27:25] SS: Plug, plug, plug. See I did

[00:27:27] RS: She’s earning her drinks at the bar over there.

[00:27:29] SS: I know. There I say we moved from Codility. There we go. There’s another bombshell. You know what? I think it’s important to assess the capability. I don’t think that should go away. I think it’s important to make sure we are assessing that. I think what is important to understand is how do you assess that? Is it in a test? Is it in a pairing exercise, and we do a lot of pairing exercises now. So in some of our teams, we do a telephone interview, but then we’ll get them in for a two hour session, where we’ll do a face to face interview and a pairing exercise. That’s the end of the process. I think it’s about consolidating the processes down.

I’m a strong believer in the fact that you do need to assess talent. I do understand that some engineers think it’s insulting. Some engineers don’t have the time to do it. Some engineers just frankly, won’t do it if they’ve got another company that won’t assess them on talent. I think we’re not just here to put a bomb on a see, for me, we’re here to increase the level of talent we bring in into MasterCard, and making sure that that performance level is increasing year on year, when it comes to interview reviews.

I feel like, if we don’t assess effectively, we’re not going to be able to do that. I think it’s probably just tweaking the way you assess talent from a technical perspective. Getting them to sit in a one hour, do a one hour test. I mean, I wouldn’t do it. Try and get them in into a pairing exercise with a manager. Get them to sit down and work with the manager and do something a bit more collaborative. I think we’re not only show them what the company is like. You get them to meet the manager, but you can assess the technical abilities as well, or you can do it virtually.

[00:29:14] RS: Great. Thanks, Sam. Who else is out here? Who else can we get to know? Anyone else who has a burning question that Sam can dive in for. One over here. What’s your name young lady?

[00:29:25] SARAH: Hi. Sarah here. Hi, Sam.

[00:29:28] SS: Hi.

[00:29:29] SARAH: I was just curious. You’ve talked a lot about culture and building relationships with the people to help build up the company culture at MasterCard. How do you do that in a fully remote or virtual world now? Yeah.

[00:29:44] SS: Yeah. I mean, virtually it was really, really hard. It was hard. I think a lot of our time is meeting managers face to face, so having to do that virtually was a real shift. I always encourage my team put your videos on. When we’re going through a virtual environment, when you’re interviewing candidates get your videos on, because that definitely helps. I encourage them, made them, when they’re interviewing candidates to do that and the same with managers as well. I mean, everyone’s in the same boat. It’s funny, because some of my team were like, “Oh, I have to do my makeup. Oh, no. I don’t want people to see me looking like this.” I was like, “I’m in my gym gear half the time, people see me without makeup, and it’s fine.”

I think you have to have that face to face and make that effort. Now we’re going back into the office, we all go in once a week or once every other week. I get them to clear their diaries. I don’t want them talking to candidates when they’re in the office, I want them to go out and meet their business. I want them to utilize that time to partner with their stakeholders, go out for coffees, have lunch with people and meet the people that they haven’t been able to see for the last two and a half years, because that’s really important.

[00:30:59] RS: Any other burning questions from our friends out here? Oh, right here.

[00:31:03] MAN 2: Hey, Sam.

[00:31:04] SS: Hi.

[00:31:05] MAN 2: Just wondering, when you said the piece about TA always being the last to know on these decisions—

[00:31:11] SS: Yes. Are you from HR?

[00:31:13] MAN 2: No. Maybe. How would you suggest as recruitment teams, as TA teams, we go about making the change for when TAs can actually become a business critical at the decision making table.

[00:31:26] SS: Yeah. So I will be honest in saying that it was really, really hard for me when I came into MasterCard. I had to build a relationship with the SVP of HR Vocalink, who we acquired. Not only did she hate MasterCard, but she hated me. It was a long time ago. I think you have to establish that relationship at the start and build the trust, but for me, it was getting her to understand the value add, getting her to understand what I’m here to do. I’m not here as a blocker, I’m here to work with them and partner with them. Then also I use the business.

When we were hiring people, we were getting really good feedback. The exec team were happy with what we were doing. I would repeat that back to her. I’d make sure that she was aware of what we were doing as a team and the inroads that we were making. Slowly but surely, those barriers, and those walls came down, but it is a journey and it’s not easy, it isn’t.

In Mothercare, I failed. They just didn’t want to know, and I thought going into MasterCard, I was like, we need to be partners in order for us to truly be able to work effectively and understand what’s going on in the business. I think you have to use all of those things and just don’t take notice of no. Be resilient. Keep on knocking on that door and booking in catch ups. I mean, she loves me now. She probably secretly hates me, but she knows I’m like a dog with a bone. I just won’t give up. I think you have to be a bit like that, as well.

[00:32:58] RS: Thanks, y’all. If you have any more questions that occurred to you, we’re going to be hanging out for a while. At this point, I’ll just say thank you all for being here. I’ve been Rob Stevenson. Sam Sparks has been Sam Sparks. You’ve all been amazing, wonderful, Talent Acquisition munchkins. Have a spectacular week and happy hunting.


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