Meeting the Barden Team…Jonathan Olden

Meeting the Barden Team…Jonathan Olden

Jonathan Olden is Managing Partner of Barden Munster He began his career in the legal sector, spending the first 6 years with James Riordan and Partners, one of Cork’s largest legal firms. During his time there he qualified as a solicitor and gained experience advising and representing a range of clients.

In 2010 Jonathan moved to the recruitment sector specialising in the legal, accounting and finance space. In 2017, together with Ed Heffernan and Elaine Brady, he established Barden Cork and a number of other Barden Practices. He now works with a team of 18 experts covering accounting & tax, financial services, IT and legal recruitment.

We chatted to Jonathan recently to find out a little bit more about him…

Where are you from and where did you study?

I am from Cork, Inniscarra to be exact and I studied at UCC. I chose to study law in college, not really knowing what I wanted to do, but it seemed like good advice from my career guidance teacher at the time as she felt it was a good broad qualification.

What are your best memories from your time in UCC?

I met some really good friends during my time in UCC and have some great memories. Many of them involved playing hurling and football with UCC, and the bus trips home from matches. We underachieved but talked a great game!

What was your first job and what age were you?

I started working at 16. My first job was in Morley’s dress hire and Black Tie. Even though I am colour blind the lads trusted me to pick out suits for people’s weddings, graduations etc! They had to keep an eye on me for obvious reasons! I gained some great experience and I loved it there.

Can you tell us a bit about your professional background?

After my studies I worked with a very good legal firm based here in Cork, James Riordan and Partners. They are great people and they did their best to mould me. I’ve very fond memories of the firm, and my time there, but I knew long term that law wasn’t for me. I didn’t love the content enough to become a real expert in the space. Therefore, I began wondering as to whether there might be other careers out there that I would really love.

So, how did you get into recruitment?

As I was trying to ‘find myself’ I spoke to a number of different people. In particular I spoke with David Burke, Ronan Hill and Bryan Hyland (in Morgan McKinley), and during that chat they asked had I considered recruitment. To be honest at the time I’d no idea what recruitment was but I did some more investigation, I liked who I met and decided to give it a go.

At that stage I had been a solicitor for 6 years, and at the age of 30 I decided to make what seemed like a radical move and started my career in recruitment.

What’s your role in Barden?

My role is to lead the business in Munster. We really have a great team so I give them a hand when they need it. I also love trying to help senior candidates with their careers, and to provide solutions and retention strategies to our clients.

Can you tell us what kind of professionals you work with?

I work predominantly with senior finance professionals, legal and IT professionals and others who may need a steer from time to time. If I think we can help someone I find the right expert within our business to meet their requirements.

What should professionals be aware of when starting to look for a new role?

Be very self-aware. Know what your strengths are but most importantly know the areas where you need to improve. It’s very easy to help people who are self-aware. Dream big, but it’s really important to acknowledge the reality from where you are starting. (It’s always good to ask for feedback too.)

Has that changed during your time in recruitment?

No, despite technology etc. I think it’s just human behaviour, if there’s things you need to work on it’s important to know what these are. None of us are perfect.

What makes Barden different? 

I think it’s the calibre of people we have in the business. We aim to make it as easy as possible for the professionals who deal with us and we try not to complicate things. We like to figure out how people would like us to interact with them and we aim to tailor our approach according to what people need from us. We’re very much a work in progress and we are constantly trying to improve both what we do as a business and also improve ourselves as individuals. Hopefully we will get there eventually!!

What has been the biggest challenge and biggest lesson from starting the business in Cork?

Biggest challenge… Building a reputation in a very competitive space. It took time. Like everything success doesn’t happen overnight, it takes consistency, ongoing self-reflection and a lot of hard work.

Biggest lesson…You’re only as good as your last game! The necessity to be consistent is vital. We don’t take shortcuts; we are constantly aiming to be consistent in what we deliver. I think that’s why we work well together as a team. We all have similar values and these values have become part of our culture…it’s a way of being and of working.

When we get positive feedback its incredibly rewarding……we live off that……for a while!

Is there an achievement or contribution that you are most proud of?

The Barden team. We really enjoy working together. Sure, we all have our own quirks and faults but everyone is united in a common goal and it’s always good craic. When you’re having a tough day it’s really nice to come back to an office of colleagues that you really like.

What three words best describe you?

Work in progress.

Glass half full or half empty?

Glass half full.

Outside of work what are your interests?

I love sport, cheesy music, and spending time with family and friends.

Do you have a role model, or someone who inspires you?

My parents.

You often refer to the 1% difference…can you tell us a bit more about that?

 Everybody can improve, but you can’t do it overnight. You need to do it in little phases (1%’s)…you have to bite off small chunks of the elephant if you’re doing something big.

Sometimes it’s as simple as taking a step back to examine what you have, and see where you can improve it that little bit. Over time you get there. However, “the Why ” must be compelling enough!

Need help achieving your ambitions?

Are you a professional looking for help in achieving your ambitions? Or a professional looking to build a world class team? If so get in touch with Jonathan at, and he’ll take it from there. Simple.

At Barden we invest our resources to bring you the very best insights on all things to do with your professional future. Got a topic you would like us to research? Got an insight you would like us to share with our audience? Drop us a note to and we will take it from there. Easy.

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