Oliver Davies

Head of Talent, Employer Branding & D&I, Taboola

1. Do you remember a time when you were happiest as a child? Where were you, who were you with and what were you doing?

Summer evenings from my childhood are particularly memorable. I was outside our house with my sister and the neighbourhood kids, playing on a cul-de-sac street that led to a park until it got dark. Those moments of freedom and simple games are vivid in my memory. Life seemed simpler back in the ’80s and ’90s, and those days feel irreplaceable to me.

2. What seemed like an inconsequential decision at the time, but in hindsight turned out to fundamentally reshape your life?

At the time, leaving agency recruitment felt like stepping into the unknown, but I was moving more towards a People Operations role. Now, as a Talent and People leader, I’ve realised how crucial that decision was. I’ve come to truly enjoy my job, building out talent teams and implementing global strategies, working with like-minded individuals. It’s something I’m incredibly proud of, and I realise it wouldn’t have been possible had I stayed in agency recruitment.

3. What do you think is true that most people think is false? What do you think is false, that most people think is true?

I believe in the power of failure; it’s a crucial step towards success, a notion not everyone shares. My experiences in both my career and personal life have taught me that we can learn much more from our failures. This perspective has become more pronounced for me since having children over 8 years ago, helping me embrace mistakes at work and home alike.

4. If you wrote a ‘user manual’ for how people should interact with you, what would be the most important point in the manual?

The most important point would be to make me laugh. I find that humour is a great way to connect with people and navigate through various situations.

5. What is the number one thing you would recommend every person in the world to practice from now on in order to increase their happiness and wellbeing?

I strongly recommend everyone to get outside and exercise. It’s a powerful way to dispel negative emotions. Personally, hitting the gym or jumping on the bike has been a fantastic way for me to gather my thoughts, and it’s had a significantly positive impact on both my professional and personal life.

6. In current industry conversation, what is an example of ‘making a mountain out of a molehill’?

The industry’s focus on gaps in CVs as a significant concern is overblown. Given the events of the past few years, including the pandemic and various global challenges, it’s time to acknowledge that strong candidates may have had unavoidable gaps in their employment history through no fault of their own.

7. What do you think is acceptable today but will become taboo tomorrow?

I hope the mass obsession with social media becomes taboo. I would love for our kids to put down the phone and engage more directly with the world around them.

8. What app or tech product have you most recently fallen in love with?

The Garmin golf app has been a lot of fun; it’s somewhat humbling to see my golf skills (or lack thereof) displayed on a computer screen. It’s been an enjoyable way to engage with my hobby.

9. What’s the last image on your camera roll? Care to explain?

It’s a photo of my two daughters and my wife. Erin, who is 2, has been coming out with some hilarious gems recently, so I have lots of pictures of us laughing together.

10. Aside from family & friends, if you could invite any 3 people - living or dead - to your final dinner party before the end of the world, who would they be and why?

I’d choose Anthony Bourdain, Keith Moon, and David Bowie for my final dinner party. Bourdain would ensure the food was an adventure and provide enriching cultural insights. Keith Moon would guarantee a lively time with his wild, rock ‘n’ roll energy. And Bowie would bring depth to our conversation with his insights into the creative process and the art of reinvention. I believe they’d create a perfect mix of fine dining, entertainment, and thought-provoking conversation.

11. If you could witness one moment in history, which one would it be and why?

I’d love to witness the Beatles performing on the rooftop of their Apple Corps headquarters on 30 January 1969. To be part of that iconic moment in music history, experiencing their last live performance together, would be unforgettable.

12. What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever received? Who gave it and when?

The best piece of advice I’ve received wasn’t directly related to my profession but has greatly influenced my career: “Don’t be scared of hard work.” My dad gave me this advice. It has guided me throughout my career, encouraging me not to shy away from building strategies and projects from scratch.

13. Which 3 books would you unhesitatingly recommend to others, and why?

Creativity, Inc by Ed Catmull. This is about the creation of Pixar and how they have developed their way of working, some gems in there

Chimp Paradox by Steven Peters. Great in understanding you emotions and the emotions of those around you

Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis. This is the autobiography of Red Hot Chili Peppers vocalist – it’s a fantastic read and it really helps to keep you humble

14. What's a skill that isn’t on your resume, but your former bosses would recognize as one of the reasons you are successful?

I’ve developed a keen ability to read people and get along with them, a skill not explicitly listed on my resume. This ability to understand what makes someone tick has helped me to bring out the best in others and in return, they bring out the best in me.

15. What hiring heuristic do you generally go with?

Chemistry is my number one heuristic. It’s about more than just personal compatibility; it’s whether someone’s work style, values, and motivations can enhance the team’s dynamics and vice versa.

16. Have you ever been the weakest member of a team? How did you handle it?

Yes, I’ve been in that position more than once. I never pretend to be the cleverest person in the room. Having the luxury of working with incredibly bright and knowledgeable team members has taught me the importance of listening and learning from those around me. It’s a bit of a life hack; learning to listen has helped bring out the best in the people around me.

17. When it comes to our work and industry: what scares you most?

What really concerns me is how fast technology is changing everything in recruitment. While AI and machine learning are fantastic for efficiency and decision-making, my fear is that we might become overly reliant on them and lose the human touch in hiring. You can’t replace the gut feelings, real talk, and unique insights that come from people.

18. What’s one industry challenge you don’t actually think will ever get solved?

Eliminating all bias in hiring seems insurmountable. Despite advancements in diversity and inclusion, unconscious bias remains a persistent issue. It’s not just about changing hiring practices; it requires a fundamental shift in societal and educational systems.

19. If you could add a question for the next person to answer, what would it be?

If money was no object, what would you be doing with your life?

20. Who would you recommend to do the next 20 Questions With … ?

I’d recommend Faz Ahmed, the Global Head of Talent Acquisition at Impacte. I’ve previously worked with him and he’s a top bloke with insightful views on talent acquisition and management.

Thank you to Oliver Davies for taking 20 Questions for The Brainfood Tribune. Make sure to follow Oliver on LinkedIn




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