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smartdept. inc. Seattle moves to the historic Pioneer Building

In case you hadn’t heard, the Seattle smarties just got a shiny new office! We’ve achieved the dream of every couple on House Hunters gotten a new space in our current neighborhood. We even got the elusive open plan kitchen!

We’re now in the historic Pioneer Building on the corner of 1st and James. Don’t let the vintage exterior fool you though, inside we’ve got all the latest amenities including elevators and air conditioning! Our new building can be a little confusing if it’s your first time visiting us so here’s a crash course on how to get to the coolest staffing office in Seattle.

Once you’ve found the building (600 1st Ave), your going to have to find your way inside. At first, you might think the big, fancy doors with “Pioneer Building” written over them are the entrance, but those are just for decoration. The real entrance is the much smaller door off to the side with “Level” written on it.

Once you get inside take the first right you see and then take another right. Now you’re in front of our elevators! They may look old, but don’t worry, they’re very safe. Push the button for the sixth floor and then “door close.” Don’t forget to check yourself out in the mirror on your way up!

Once you get out of the elevator, the hard part is over. We’re across the atrium in Suite 618. You’ll know you’re in the right place because the door says smartdept. inc. and the entrance looks just like in the picture. See you soon!

smartie spotlight: Jennifer in Grand Rapids

I’m Jennifer Wallace, a Business Development Intern. I’m a lucky wife, a doting mommy of two, and an USAF intelligence veteran who graduates from Grand Valley State University with a bachelor’s in public relations this April.

What got you into staffing? (Or how did you become a smartie?) 
I was assigned smartdept. inc. in my Advertising and Public Relations Capstone course at Grand Valley State University. I researched the staffing industry and smartdept. inc., and formulated a campaign to suit smartdept. inc.’s needs to reach a narrowed target audience in the Greater Grand Rapids Area. When I heard about this job opening, I jumped on it.

Do you have any pets? 
I have a pug named Gidget and an ornery cat named Indiana “Tiny Paws” Jones. They’re both naughty.

If you were stuck on a desert island, what 3 things would you take with you? 
A machete, a hunting rifle with ammo, and a case of whiskey. I would like to survive.

What is the best thing about being a smartie? 
All the people I get to meet and know!

What is your favorite band? 
I don’t have a favorite band, but my favorite composer is Tchaikovsky.

What is your favorite type of pizza? 
Hand-tossed with garlic crust, thick-cut pepperoni, maitake mushrooms, and banana pepper slices.

What is your favorite movie? 
Burn After Reading

What is your dream job (not in staffing)? 
Chief Communications Officer for a large corporation or investor relations practitioner at a public relations firm that operates nationally.

Top tip for any job seeker: 
Apply to jobs you’re passionate about and talk about what facets of that job interest you (and why) during the interview. Being passionate about the job and displaying your knowledge thereof will work in your favor.

smartdept. inc. is indeed Good for Grand Rapids, Business as a Force for Good

What does it feel like to be deemed “Good for Grand Rapids” you ask? It’s that moment when Grandma walks in the door with her famous blueberry pie, and she baked it just for you (it feels awesome)! When we got involved with Local First and Good for Grand Rapids, we had no idea the knowledge that the organization would be able to share with us, and the impact it would have.

The process of being recognized as a Good for Grand Rapids business was completed in two steps. We first met with Dana of Local First to learn more about the initiatives the team was working on, and how we could get involved. The second step was a bit more intricate. We completed a thorough assessment that asked for our deepest and darkest secrets i.e. environmental impact, employee satisfaction numbers, community involvement, and most importantly our dedication to our local community.

The Good for Grand Rapids initiative celebrates companies using business as a force for good. These companies have a demonstrated commitment to positive environmental and social change. They create high-quality jobs, stronger communities and a healthier Great Lakes region. To be accepted into this group of celebrated businesses after taking the assessment was certainly an honor.

Once accepted, Local First supplies you with an incredible visual tool to show you where you’re located on the scale of environmental impact, social impact, employee satisfaction, and more. The team offers multiple networking and workshop opportunities to learn and improve. Because it’s never good to stay stagnant, even when you’re GOOD – you should be working to be GREAT, right!?

On February 8th, we attended the Lakeshore Annual Meeting and Local Motion Awards, where we were recognized as one of the Top 8 Finalists in the running for the Good for Grand Rapids Awards.

We are honored to be involved with Local First and Good for Grand Rapids, and look forward to continuing our efforts of positively impacting our GR community! Good for Grand Rapids is open to all Grand Rapids local businesses and we definitely recommend getting involved, and hey, maybe we will see you at the next workshop! Information on Local First can be found at www.localfirst.com.

From the desk of Hannah Staal, smartdept. inc. Grand Rapids Branch Manager

What are the best (and worst) questions to ask during an interview?

An important part of preparing for an interview is thinking through (and writing down) questions for your interviewers. While there is such a thing as asking too many questions, coming in with a short list of smart questions will go a long way to both understand the role and impress the hiring manager. It’s always best to focus on the role, the team and company – not the vacation package.

Great questions:

  • What are the biggest professional challenges that the person in this role is likely to encounter?
  • What are your long term goals for this role and department?
  • How is the team structured?
  • How closely will I work with a supervisor or mentor?
  • What types of employee tend to succeed here? OR – What qualities are most important for success in this role?
  • Are there opportunities to take on new projects and challenges that may fall out of the actual job responsibilities? 
  • Is there any experience you’re looking for that I haven’t yet spoken to?
  • What are the next steps/best way to follow up after our meeting?

Avoid asking:

  • How long will it take for a promotion? (You seem like you’re only interested in climbing the ladder, not focused on being successful in the current opportunity)
  • How long until I can take vacation? (Wait until offer stage or a conversation with HR to ask about benefits, PTO, etc.)
  • How soon can I apply for another job here? (Don’t jump ship so quickly! Stay focused on the one position.)
  • How much PTO do I get? (You shouldn’t be planning your vacation before you even get the job.)
  • Flexible Schedule or special privileges (Save these for when you actually have an offer.)
  • Anything generic – So…. What do you like about working in X industry? (Really, how is this helping you evaluate the job?) 

Start Off Your 2018 Job Search in Style With These Classic Blogs from smartdept. inc.

If your 2018 New Year’s Resolutions include a new job in the Creative and Digital world, the creative consultants at smartdept. inc. are here to help! We’ve ventured into the archives to pull some of our favorite tips to get your search started out right. As always, we’d love to be a part of your journey to a new career (and even included a blog for that too!), so get in touch with a real-life smartie today!

Give your resume an overhaul: Read more >

Spruce up your LinkedIn profile: Read more >

Upgrade your portfolio: Read more >

What NOT to do on an interview: Read more >

What to expect from working with smartie: Read more >

 

Find a job in Chicago >
Find a job in Grand Rapids >
Find a job in Seattle >

Get Smart

Having choices is generally a good thing. When it comes to staffing resources, we recommend that job seekers take advantage of several options (as long as smartdept. inc. is one of them). If you’re a hiring manager searching for candidates niched in creative, interactive and marketing, however, we would prefer you look no further. 

Started by a couple (literally) of former creative professionals, smartdept. inc. is a staffing resource that specializes in creative, interactive, and marketing placements. We have been operating in the Chicago & Seattle markets for 16 years, and in Grand Rapids, Michigan for just under 2 years. While we compete with the largest staffing companies in these markets, our boutique approach to service sets us apart. 

Our goal is to develop meaningful relationships with people, so that we can accurately and efficiently make a match. How do we do it? Well, we are accessible! We don’t have voicemail and we answer your call even if it’s after hours. And, by asking the right questions and putting on our listening ears, we efficiently get to know the people we represent. It’s no different for our clients! If we know you better, our results will be better. So, we’re always curious about how you’ve been successful in your organization, we love seeing your environment and digging deeper about how people work best with you.

Making good relationships takes time and effort and I’m proud to say that the people at smartdept. inc. take the time to do what it takes to move our relationships forward in a positive direction.

My name is Colin Wodarski and I am an Enterprise Business Development Manager here at smartdept. inc. I believe in our process because I have seen it work.

So, if you haven’t already, get smart and give us a try! Reach out to me any time at colin@thesmartdept.com to talk about or your next hire or your job search.

smartie spotlight: Colleen in Seattle

Colleen Walton is smartdept’s resident expert in all things glitter, and she works in our Seattle office. She has a sunny disposition and an unyielding passion for Disneyland, Harry Potter and Starbucks. 

What got you into staffing?
I basically fell into staffing. I knew that I wanted to be a recruiter, and I interviewed for a position through an agency. Even though I didn’t get that job, the agency hired me for an internal position. So it worked out. 

Do you have any pets?
No, but whenever I see a dog tied up outside I come up with a strategy for taking it home with me.

If you were stuck on a desert island, what 3 things would you take with you?
I was going to be smart and say a boat… But I could be happy anywhere with a lifetime supply of Diet Coke, McDonald’s chicken nuggets, and my Nintendo Switch.

What is the best thing about being a smartie?
The people! (I know it sounds cheesy, but it’s true.) Even though I’m halfway across the country from the Chicago and Grand Rapids offices, I still feel like I’m part of the team. 

What is your favorite band?
Does Britney Spears count as a band? If not, then I’d have to go with ABBA. 

What is your favorite staffing story?
I got to interview my hero – a UX Designer who worked on the Starbucks mobile app. 

The call was going well until I admitted that I’m a huge fan of his work. I LOVE the Starbucks app, especially mobile orders (which he designed). This caught him a little bit off-guard. And then I causally mentioned that I tell every person I meet about the app and encourage him or her to use it. I really thought I had found someone as passionate about the app as I am… but I think I ended up scaring him a little bit because of how excited I was. 

I still hope that if he ever feels a little down, he remembers that one recruiter who totally fan-girled over his Starbucks work, and it makes him feel better.

What is your favorite type of pizza?
I’m sure everyone in Chicago is absolutely horrified, but nothing beats Domino’s pepperoni. #SorryNotSorry

What is your favorite movie?
It’s a tie between Legally Blonde and Clueless. 

What is your dream job (not in staffing)?
A back up dancer for Britney Spears. 

Top tip for any job seeker:
When you’re talking about your experience, highlight the things you’d like to do more of. If you have a portfolio, your favorite types of projects should be the first thing people see. 

Reach out to Colleen at colleen@thesmartdept.com.

So you want a fresh resume…. where to start?

In the 10 years I’ve been in staffing, I’ve looked at 3 million resumes (give or take a few 100,000). I’m excited to share some expert advice on making your resume excellent.

First at foremost, tailor your resume to align with the job you want, while keeping in mind that formatting, organization, and readability are important as well. Take a long look at the job description for the role you have in mind. What key words and ideas jump out at you? What have you accomplished in your career that makes you an awesome fit for the position? Do you have the software/technical skills reflected in your resume that are required? Your resume should reflect all of these things.

The closer your resume matches up with the job description, the more compelling it will be for a Recruiter or Hiring Manager to follow up with you. It may be easy to assume that having a certain job title means you have a specific kind of experience, but you need to spell things out for someone like a recruiter who might have many candidates in front of them with the same job title. If you are applying for a role that requires certain experiences, and you have that experience – add a specific section with examples of those.

LENGTH: Stick to a one-page resume if you have less than five years of experience, and expand into two pages if you’re more seasoned.

FORMATTING:

  • Stick with standard fonts like Arial, Garamond, Times New Roman or Calibri. They’re easy on the eyes
  • Choose size 11 or 12 font – making the font smaller to fit everything on one page is not ideal – it needs to be legible
  • Avoid script fonts. Use italics, bolding and caps sparingly
  • “Creative” formatting like using heavy graphics or running text diagonally across the page is never a good idea – sometimes your resume only gets a quick glance, make it count!

STRUCTURE:

  • Header: Your name, email address, phone number, city, state and zip code should be clearly listed at the top of the page. No need to share your street address.
  • Summary: A well-written Summary sets the stage for the rest of your resume. Five to seven sentences are ideal. Speak to your years of experience, area of specialization, and industries in which you’ve worked.  Do you have an advanced degree? Do you have staff management experience? Are you a strong project manager? Have you worked for a big name company or client? What are your technical or software skills?  Look at that job description again – and format each summary to each specific role you are applying for. What can you call attention to on a high-level to matches the things that the description calls for?
  • Tools/Skills: After your summary, make a quick list of the programs and skills in your toolkit – leading with those called for in the job description. Whether you’re a marketing analyst well-versed in Adobe Analytics and SQL or a designer skilled at using Adobe Creative Cloud, call attention to your familiarity with the required and nice-to-have tools.
  • Professional Experience:
    – List your experience chronologically, with your most recent job listed first.
    – If you have been working for an agency or freelancing, include the names/industries of your top clients. Unless your company is a house-hold name, include a one line description about your company. Are they national or global? This helps put your experience into context.
    – Lead with your company, title, start and end dates including months, not just the year.
    – When describing your role, think about the job description again. Lead with information that ties back to the job you’re applying to. More than just a list of tasks, speak to your measurable accomplishments. How have you impacted the bottom line?
    – Format these points in a bulleted list, rather than a big block of text.

EDUCATION: If you are early in your career (less than three years out of school), consider floating your Education as the first item on your resume. If not, the Education section should be toward the end. Include the name of your school, the degree earned, and your graduation date.

THINGS TO LEAVE OFF:

  • “References available upon request.” This is assumed.
  • Personal interests can be appealing to potential hiring managers, but avoid anything that is polarizing such as religious affiliations.

For feedback on your resume and a hand with your job search, get in touch with a real-life smartie today!

Find a job in Chicago >
Find a job in Grand Rapids >
Find a job in Seattle >

 

from the desk of Amy Porter, Sr. Creative Consultant in Chicago

Are you making the most of LinkedIn?

Whether you’re actively looking for the next step in your career or just open to hearing about new opportunities, LinkedIn is an excellent resource. But how do you make the most of it?

  • Check your status: The Privacy Settings in your profile includes a button labeled “Let recruiters know that you’re open to new opportunities.” Checking “Yes” helps you show up in recruiter searches matching your career interests.
  • Check your mail: Push InMails to your email. Under the Communications tab, set “Messages from Members” to “Yes” so you always know when a recruiter or hiring manager is reaching out.
  • Check your facts: Do the start and dates on your resume match up with your profile? Big discrepancies in dates and titles will be a red flag to recruiters and hiring managers.
  • Include an updated resume, your email address, and a current portfolio link (if applicable) on your profile.
  • Describe your current and past experience. Prioritize details that are relevant to the job you seek.
  • Expand your network in a thoughtful way. Send a short intro with your invite and respond with a purpose when your new connecting accepts.
  • Your Summary/Bio is the best place for your “elevator pitch.” This quick intro should leave a positive impression about who you are, what you do, and why you are doing it. Let people get to know you without having to read a novel.
  • Keywords: Fill your skills section with relevant technology, programming languages, activities, and certifications.
  • A clean headshot is all you need. Avoid unprofessional options like a car selfie (complete with SnapChat filter), a poorly edited group shot (whose arm is that?), or your cat.
  • Feel free to include a little bit about your hobbies, passion projects, and volunteer work.
  • Remove irrelevant jobs from your bio (food service, child care, etc), but do include volunteer work.
  • When a recruiter reaches out, take a moment to engage with them. Even if the job isn’t a great match, or if you’re genuinely not looking right now – things can change on a dime. You can always reach back out to them 6-months or a year from now if your situation changes.

If you’d like to get a jump-start on your search – get in touch with a real-life smartie today!

Find a job in Chicago >
Find a job in Grand Rapids >
Find a job in Seattle >

from the desk of Amy Porter, Sr. Creative Consultant in Chicago

Pumpkin Paint Night

One exciting thing about being a smartie is spending time with talented creatives. The Chicago team got to show of their creative skills during pumpkin paint night.

Harry Potter – by Sana  //  Owl scene – by Jaime  //  Cartman – by Nina  // Abstract – by Amy  //  Googly Eyes – by Matt

 

What recruiters want you to know

Do you ever feel like applying for full-time jobs is a full-time job in itself? You know the drill – shotgun your resume out to 50-100 online postings. Maybe you even read some of the descriptions. If lightning strikes, you’ll snag 2-3 HR phone interviews. With any luck, you may even hear back from one of them within a month, but maybe not, and that’s what you’re used to.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if you had someone in your corner who really took the time to get to know you? Who brought relevant jobs to your attention and made sure that your resume was on the right hiring manager’s desk at the right time?

That’s where we come in!

The creative consultants at smartdept recruit exclusively on creative roles in Chicago, Seattle and Grand Rapids. Meeting with the right recruiter can be one of the most rewarding and beneficial relationships you make in your career.

How can you make the most of the relationship?

  • Come prepared with your resume and portfolio, and be open to suggestions. Our recruiters have seen it all. They are experts in the creative space – and they know what their clients are looking for. If they have a suggestion on how to better your digital portfolio or resume, take it! If the smartie you meet with, doesn’t have much feedback on your resume, ask for it!
  • Be transparent and honest, always. We promise to be sincere and match you with not just any role, but the right role. In return, if you have other irons in the fire, if contracts aren’t what you’re comfortable with, we need to know! We build relationships with people and it’s our expertise. It is vital that we keep both our clients and our candidates on the same page.
  • Explain when you’re feeling unsure. There are a lot of murky waters to navigate here, and we’re here to help. Are you looking at multiple offers? Great! Talking out all of the options with your recruiters is the best way to weigh the pros and cons of each opportunity.

What can you expect when you meet with a smartie?

  • We will never force a job onto a candidate.
  • Honest and valuable insight into job opportunities – if we have something that sounds great to you, but we know from our relationship that it isn’t the best fit whether that means the culture, growth trajectory, or work style isn’t aligning – we are going to be honest with you.
  • Consistent communication and a smooth timeline (most of the time) – unlike those online applications you’re applying to day after day, we are going to keep you up to speed. If you’ve been disqualified from the role, we don’t leave you hanging. And if we are waiting on our client to review your application, you will know. We do our best to keep the process as seamless and hassle-free as possible.

So what do our services cost you, the job seeker? Nothing.

It will require your time, your engagement and a little bit of trust. smartdept. inc. is a free resource to our job seeking candidates. Now what are you waiting for – get in touch with a real-life smartie today!

Find a job in Chicago >
Find a job in Grand Rapids >
Find a job in Seattle >

 

from the desk of Hannah Staal, Creative Consultant in Grand Rapids

Portfolio Review: Expert Tips

When applying to a design role, one of the first things a hiring manager will look at is your portfolio. The creative consultants at smartdept. inc. review 100’s of portfolios each month and want to share their top tips on how to make sure yours stands out from the crowd.

Unsurprisingly, the one thing that everyone on staff wanted to talk about was organization. Whether you’re organizing by campaign, client, or type of medium, it should be very easy to navigate through and get to the right place.

See the rest of our expert tips below:

Hannah Staal, Creative Consultant in Grand Rapids

  • The most effective portfolio will tell your story, celebrate your brand. It will showcase your growth and development.
  • Flushed out campaigns: Does your messaging hold true for several different pieces? i.e. signage, logo, branding, sales sheets
  • Are you specialized? i.e. packaging, agency driven…or more generalized? Embrace it!
  • Concept to Execution: did you show process? That’s always a cool perk.

Jaime Sklar, Creative Consultant in Chicago

  • Functionality: Content and samples should flow naturally and easily. User experience is huge when looking at design portfolios especially. Nobody likes to waste time trying to click through different samples and images that are choppy and inconsistent
  • Layout and Design Aesthetic: If the color and design aesthetic is too bulky, showy, or flashy, it takes away from the work. Black backgrounds look outdated. The text should be easy to read on each page/sample.
  • Portfolio Site Used: Use a modern portfolio site and check it regularly. Coding changes and updates can pop up without warning.
  • Variety: I prefer portfolios that include several samples from each project, along with descriptions of that project and the work you contributed.

Colleen Walton, Creative Consultant in Seattle

  • Keep it simple! The background should be neutral and the navigation should be intuitive. Your site shouldn’t distract from your work.
  • Descriptions are key. They don’t have to be long, but one or two sentences about what the project is and how you were involved is very helpful.
  • Make it easy for people to contact you. Include your email or add a contact page. People can’t hire you if they don’t know how to reach you.

Nina Strolia, Creative Consultant in Chicago

  • Share some information about each sample to give the viewer context. What did you contribute to this piece? Was this an existing file that you updated or did you concept it?
  • Delete that distracting background. The highlight of the site is your work, not some crazy animated background. A simple, white background is always a winner.

Colin Wodarski, Business Development Manager

  • You should express your personality without it distracting from the main focus – your work!
  • Samples should include a pertinent description in an easy to find, quick, digestible format: where did you do the project; who was the client; if it was done as a team, what was your role; tools/software used; challenge & outcome (i.e. these direct mailers helped increase web traffic by 50%)

Amy Porter, Sr. Creative Consultant in Chicago

  • Hiring managers like to see a copy of or link to your resume on your portfolio. Put everything in one place. That goes a lot farther than the cutesy “about me” page.
  • Tread carefully with sensitive materials. Did you sign an NDA when you designed that nifty piece of internal software? Even if your portfolio is behind a password wall, your future employer may worry if you’re showing samples from legally protected work. Be sure you have permission before putting your work out there.
  • Building a responsive site portfolio site Square Space, Wix or WordPress using snappy template. Or if you’re targeting Web Design and UX roles, build the site yourself to push it the extra mile. Be sure to test it on multiple browsers, your tablet and mobile phone.

Eric Pairitz, smartdept. inc. Principal

  • When I am reviewing a portfolio I look for a clean and organized presentation.
  • Often the way a candidate presents their work in an interview setting can be a hint as to how they organize their work day.
  • Show up to an in person interview at the scheduled time. Late is never good, but too early can also be a deterrent for many hiring managers.

Michelle Pairitz, smartdept. inc. Principal

  • Present your work in chronological order. Most recent work should be first and student work you are proud of should be last.
  • If your portfolio lacks depth, it is perfectly acceptable to include well-executed spec work.
  • Be honest with yourself and your recruiter about what your role was on each portfolio piece. Elaborate on working with a team, the software used, and if any special circumstances were involved.