Case Study: Meet Jack Barber, Founder of Yet To Be

Thank you so much, Jack, for taking the time to speak to us today. Before we dive into your thoughts on recruitment, the market and your personal journey into becoming an independent recruiter, could you tell us more about yourself and Yet To Be?
I’m Jack, founder of Yet To Be. I spent nearly a decade recruiting for top employers including but not limited to Meta (across Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp, both in London and the US), PrimaryBid, Capgemini and TSB. I have recently gone independent and am currently focussing on supporting businesses with their requirements in terms of Design leadership recruitment.

"Empathy is key, it’s really important to be value minded. To me, the worst recruiters are the people who are pushing agendas on candidates and businesses. That always ends in failure."

About you and recruitment

Can you tell us more about your approach to recruitment?  

I try to approach everything in a very human centered and empathetic way, whether we are talking about candidates or clients. I don’t see candidates as a commodity for clients, I take time to understand who they are, and I always try to be valuable to them beyond job opportunities. With clients, I apply the same level of empathy. Whether it’s a founder, a hiring manager, a talent partner, I understand that they are in a position of pressure to secure talent and do my best to adapt my approach from there. In any case, I always try to build strong relationships, understand their goals, put myself into their shoes and from there formulate a plan and a strategy to best serve those needs. 

Why is recruitment fun to you?  

I studied psychology. I’m really interested in culture and in people. I really love speaking to people and learning about them. So when I speak to candidates from all walks of life, it’s a really nice added perk to me and it makes recruitment really fun for me to learn about them, their backgrounds, the nuances in culture, etc. 

What do you like particularly about Design recruitment?

I come from a creative background and prior to working in recruitment, I used to hire freelance creatives and artists to work with my music promotions company. So design recruitment felt like a natural extension of that.   I love that design recruitment requires an element of subjectivity and that’s where I feel I can really add value. For me, reviewing portfolios is fun and as I understand the work, I’m able to pick up on nuances that others might miss, leading to a much more refined shortlist for the client.

What is your proudest placement?

That’s a tricky question! I would probably have to say a highly senior Creative Director who I placed at Reality Labs, whilst working at Meta. As a recruitment team, this was the most senior placement  we made during the entire year, so it was a big deal. I managed the end-to-end recruitment process including a very difficult close. The thing that made it extra special was the great relationship I built with the candidate, who I still speak to regularly. 

According to you, what makes a great recruiter?

Empathy is key, it’s really important to be value minded. To me, the worst recruiters are the people who are pushing agendas on candidates and businesses. That always ends in failure. The second most important thing would be emotional intelligence. We deal with many different people so we need to have a level of EQ that enables us to work with all these people. Lastly, resilience is very important. When times get tough, a lot of recruiters tend to change industries. Kudos to any recruiter who has over 5 years of experience because they are usually quite good by that point, they have seen ups and downs and still stuck through everything despite many opportunities to jump out of the industry. 

Do you have some insights on the market you would like to share?

A trend I am seeing is that, with the current climate, businesses are being more open to fractional hires, especially at senior level. Many companies don’t have the risk profile to hire on a permanent basis but they still need expertise to grow through these tough times. So they try to get that on a fractional level. Synergistically, we are seeing the same phenomenon on the talent side. After the rounds of layoffs that we have seen, candidates are increasingly approaching the job market from a contractor point of view. They are taking real ownership of their skills, their experience, because they have seen that they can be viewed as a commodity that can be dropped when things don’t go so well in a permanent position. So they build a business around themselves as opposed to treating themselves as an employee. I think this is going to be a longer term trend.  

What piece of advice would you give talent looking for a Design role in the current market? 

It’s tricky to provide a blanket piece of advice as there are so many types of designers at different levels. But what would apply to all and what would be the most important is extreme attention to detail. With a highly competitive and candidate heavy market, one really needs to think not only about what their candidacy could be selected for, but also what could companies reject their application for. And having a really high attention to detail, a real ownership of digital profiles, portfolios, CVs to make sure they only showcase the best of you as a candidate can be really helpful in that regard. 

What is one thing you would like hiring companies to know about you? 

I have received over 50+ LinkedIn recommendations from some of the best designers, both leaders and individual contributors, over the years. Those testimonials are not just evidence of the strong network that I have that can be leveraged for delivery against clients requirements, but also show a glimpse of the way my work is delivered, the value I bring, the credibility I have in the space and so forth.

"As an independent, you are faced with different challenges, many of which aren’t necessarily recruitment related. You get to be more creative because you have to think about building your brand, your website, coming up with content, etc. And you have other matters to think about such as the legal and finance side - not that I do any of that, ReEcho does it for me!"

About your journey as an independent recruiter

When did you first realise you wanted to become independent?

Actually, I thought about this 2 years ago, before joining Meta. I had always been entrepreneurial and interested in setting up my own business. But around the time I wanted to finally take the jump, I was headhunted by Meta. And I had always told myself that being an internal recruiter for a FAANG would be an interesting and valuable learning experience. So I put my plans of going independent on ice for a bit to build that inhouse experience. 

It sounds like you had been thinking a lot about it. What was your biggest apprehension about going solo? 

I think a month or two after setting up, once you’re past the honeymoon phase of doing the exciting things like creating a brand, strategising on big picture plans - I certainly had many ideas when I started out, some of which have changed, some of which are now longer term plans. But after a month or two, especially in a down market, it’s easy to be apprehensive. That’s where resilience comes in. You just have to stick with it, work hard and believe that results will come soon after. I no longer feel apprehensive, I only feel positive about the future now. 

So we understand that the first month or two were a little challenging. Can you tell us more about how things unfolded for you once you finally made the jump?

Things have unfolded really well. I have onboarded clients both in London and in the US. I have made successful placements which include a Head of Design for a leading B2B Saas platform in the commodity space in London.  I have already received fantastic testimonials from senior people I have worked with for those placements. And I am currently working on exciting other roles such as a VP Design for a New York based company. Those successes have comforted me in the idea that my focus should be on leadership appointments in Design. 

What is the main difference between being in a firm or being internal vs being an independent recruiter?

Agency life gives you a great foundation to be a great internal recruiter, it builds the right skill set when it comes sourcing abilities, gathering knowledge of diverse industries… And there is also a different culture within that type of business. 

Then when you are an internal recruiter, you have a much closer relationship with hiring managers. You also work on a broader array of complex problems to solve - we are not just looking at sourcing but also working on DE&I, organising recruitment events, working constantly on perfecting parts of the recruitment process and so on. 

And finally, as an independent, you are faced with different challenges, many of which aren’t necessarily recruitment related. You get to be more creative because you have to think about building your brand, your website, coming up with content, etc. And you have other matters to think about such as the legal and finance side - not that I do any of that, ReEcho does it for me! It has been a really flexible solution. And of course, you also get a lot of flexibility and can do whatever you want really! 

What was the hardest thing for you as someone who recently went independent? What were the things that helped you overcome those challenges?

To summarise, I learnt that being a one person business does have its challenges. When I first started, I wanted to be more focussed on the events side of things. But I quickly realised I am only one person and I was stretching myself too thin across many things. So I learned that as a small business you should really focus on what is the best value you can add to your clients. 

What do you miss the most about being a part of a firm or internal? 

I am missing the camaraderie with the colleagues and the great culture that you get to be part of as an agency recruiter. When it comes to being an internal recruiter, I miss Meta’s benefits [Laughs!]. But in all seriousness, I miss the broad array of challenges that you have to solve as an internal recruiter, some of which I mentioned earlier. 

If you are comfortable with sharing this, how are your earnings as an independent vs an employee in a firm?

Based on success to date, my projected earnings for this year are around 3x the salary and commission scale I would have gotten as an internal recruiter or an agency recruiter. 

What piece of advice would you give someone who wants to become an independent recruiter? 

I would say, lean on your network as much as possible. People are very willing to help so don’t be afraid to ask - whether it’s people you know or people you don’t know. For my part, I spoke to Alex Elliott, another recruiter who went independent and he suggested that I get in touch with ReEcho to help me set up my recruitment business. 

What are your plans moving forward?

For now, I really want to keep doing to good work and establish Yet To Be as a reference when it comes to hiring support for leadership roles in Design, as well as build as much cash as possible in the business so that we can perhaps look at expanding the business in terms of headcount further down the line and keep growing from there.