An interview with our Keynote speaker Akbar Karenga

Akbar has recruited across the world, across 4 continents actually. He has moved from hiring for massive corporates to focusing on a portfolio of early start ups. We caught up with him to talk about what lessons he has learnt on that journey.


B: What’s the biggest difference between talent acquisition at Education First, who have 50,000 employees, to the portfolio of startups at Founders Factory?


A: EF has operational knowledge that goes back 30+ years, either there were procedures in place or there was a specific stakeholder personally responsible for a recruitment function. Whereas, the level of impact, influence and responsibility at a startup is greater.


B: What things did you do differently?


A: I am a massive sports and film fan so I took on “Moneyball mentality”.


  1. Your default position should be what can I do differently from X? Copying the industry leaders practices will mean you will lose since they have the brand and budget advantage
  2. Measure and track everything religiously. Hunt for numbers beneath the numbers. For example, track velocity from stage to stage instead of just time to hire.
  3. Look for examples beyond recruitment and bring them to the table. Specifically, how marketing and sales functions work


B: How can talent professionals demonstrate value to the wider business?


A: Talent have real insights beyond recruitment that we could get better at sharing. Here is a quick example from my time in Shanghai:


  1. I was able to notice an increase in inbounds applications from a competitor.
  2. Through me interviewing the candidates and investigations from the sales director we were able to find out they had lost a large client.
  3. This allowed us to engage before the official RFP process started.


B: Without revealing too much before your keynote, what is a key takeaway message?


A: A lot of talent best practice comes from well-funded established B2C brands, they have specific advantages that can not be replicated. We need to lean to the strengths that come with our smaller size. If you do not play their game you can not lose.

You can also listen to Akbar in an podcast. Listen to it here.

Have you already ordered your tickets? Buy them here, before it’s too late!