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Grand Rapids celebrates first anniversary!

I’m very happy to announce the one year anniversary of our Grand Rapids office. We opened up on April 11th of 2016 to better support a large client in the area. Over the past 12 months we’ve had the pleasure of developing so many new relationships with clients, talent and various organizations. Hannah Staal, who is also celebrating her first anniversary with smartdept. inc., has done a tremendous job building our talent pool at the local level and building our brand in the Grand Rapids community. We are very proud to be the only niche creative, interactive and marketing staffing company in Grand Rapids and look forward to continued growth and success in the years ahead. If you work for a company that hires talent in Michigan or are seeking new opportunities, then please don’t hesitate to reach out! 

From the desk of Matt Crook, smartdept. inc. President

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Advice for Companies Looking to Attract Top Talent

 

The beginning of a new fiscal year always brings new project budgets, additions to headcount and unexpected turnover — all resulting in the need to identify good full-time and temporary talent. As a 20-year veteran of the staffing industry, I’ve been approached many times by companies to discuss what attracts good candidates. There are many factors that can influence a prospective candidate’s decision, including salary, benefits, location of company/potential commute, off-site work options, and work-life balance. Companies have gone to great lengths to put together great packages and attract good talent, only to lose them due to a very simple reason — the hiring process takes too long.

There’s an old expression in business: “Time kills all deals.” And this holds very true for hiring top candidates. Think about it — top candidates are consistently being recruited (even when they may not be exploring a new job). Often they are juggling opportunities with multiple companies. A lengthy interview process and the inability to make quick hiring decisions can impact the odds of landing a top candidate.

It seems the hiring process has become more drawn out since the Recession of 2008. For several years afterward, companies redefined roles to keep headcount down, and many employees took on additional responsibilities. Employers wanted candidates who fit every criterion of a job description — from industry experience to very specific software skills — and, of course, they also had to be a cultural fit with the organization. This added steps to the interviewing process, from executives scheduling interviews with non-direct reports to panel interviews with various team members. Today it’s not uncommon for the average role to take three or four steps between phone screens, in-person interviews and skill assessments. The average life cycle of an open position is now typically about three months or longer.

And it’s not just full-time roles that have developed a long hiring cycle — it takes much more time to on-board temporary help than it did five years ago. Many assignments of three months or longer in duration require an interview process very similar to that of a direct placement. At the very least, there are two interviews: a phone screen and an in-person. Add on skill assessments, waiting for hiring managers’ feedback and pre-employment screenings, and it can easily take up to four weeks just to start a temporary employee. Working in the creative, interactive and marketing niches, we staff a variety of roles in which talent is in great demand — especially anyone with digital experience. Often these candidates are sought out weeks before finishing a contract and have little or no downtime before starting somewhere new. They won’t be available long enough to endure a month-long interview cycle.

My advice for companies that are looking to obtain top talent more consistently is pretty simple: Go back to the basics and examine your hiring process. How long does it take you to vet resumes? How many people need to be involved in a new hire? How efficient is your company at getting quick feedback after interviews? How quickly can you make a hiring decision?  

While taking time to appropriately vet potential hires is very important, be aware of the parts of the interview process that stall. Try to structure interviews so candidates don’t need to come on-site more than twice during the hiring process. Block interview days and times so multiple candidates can go through the process at the same time and comparisons/feedback can be drawn more quickly.

And if you identify the perfect candidate early in the hiring process, don’t stall things by comparing that person to others who are not as far along in the process. Candidates are very aware of companies that move too slowly. Good talent tends to have strong networks, so word gets around. And good candidates appreciate companies that move the process along quickly and show consistent interest in them. Again, “time kills all deals” — so once you identify a good candidate, don’t let them get away!

From the desk of Matt Crook, smartdept. inc. President

15th-anniversary

Happy Anniversary to…Us!

 

This month, smartdept. inc. is celebrating our 15th anniversary! It’s hard to believe it’s been 15 years since we began our lives as smarties back in Seattle, with just me and Michelle. Boy, have we have come a long way! We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, and in between we’ve managed to accomplish a number of positive things that relate to staffing – like matching more than 3000 creative professionals with more than 500 of our clients! And, while not quite related to staffing, we witnessed the Cubs win a World Series.

We would not be here today (still going) without YOU, our amazing clients and creatives. You are (all) the reason we keep those creative wheels turning. So, as I wipe a tear from my eye, thank you for the past 15 years and cheers to 15 more! High fives all around (or a fist bump if you prefer)!

For fun, we decided to look back and pick our top 15 highlights from the past 15 years. And yes, there will absolutely be a Cubs World Series win in there! Enjoy!

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from the desk of Eric Pairitz, smartdept. inc. Principal

 

 

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Hannah Morgan – Getting around in Grand Rapids

from the desk of smartdept. inc. Principal, Eric Pairitz

Hannah Morgan, our newest creative consultant in our Grand Rapids office, is a Grand Rapids, MI native and a proud Grand Valley State alumna. She is excited to be connecting her creative community with top clients in the area. 

Hannah familiarized herself with AMA (American Marketing Association of West Michigan) through one of her creative candidates. Most recently, she was given the opportunity to create the AMA blog post highlighting  the last meeting of the year. The topic covered this time around was “How the Digital Age has Changed the Marketing and PR Game”.

We are thrilled to share this with creatives alike! 

How the Digital Age has Changed the HR Marketing & PR Game

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Grand Rapids, Michigan is about to…

GET SMART!

You can call it River City, Furniture City or Beer City (because it’s known by all three). And now, you can call it the newest home of smartdept. inc. That’s right! Just like LeBron took his talents to Miami (and then back to Cleveland), we are taking our creative, interactive and marketing recruiting talents to Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Effective April 15, 2016 the second largest city in the great state of Michigan, located 30 miles away from a lil’ lake with the same name (that’s Lake Michigan), will be the next location of smartdept. inc. Grand Rapids is a diverse city known for healthcare, consumer goods and the arts. It’s growing and people dig it (we have this in common).

If you know anyone in Grand Rapids who would find our service useful, tell them we just arrived and we need some help unpacking.

 

 

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Introducing our new blog series – Interview Don’ts

from the desk of smartdept. inc. Principal: Eric Pairitz

I would like to formally (or informally) introduce smartdept’s new blog series — cleverly entitled, Interview Don’ts. This eight-part series was created to help give potential candidates an edge by making light of a few “don’ts” that we occasionally see while interviewing.

Accompanying these short bits of useful knowledge are video performances depicting, in a (not so) real way, how these scenarios might play out.

In addition, I am pleased to introduce, The Not Ready For Bedtime Players, a small, but mighty group of performers who took the stage in these budget-busting depictions.

Stay tuned for the first installment tomorrow, and enjoy!

 

 

 

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Happy Holidays, It’s Nice to Meet You (and Other Fun Traditions)!

From the desk of smartdept. inc. Principal: Eric Pairitz

The holidays have returned once again. And, just as in years past, I made the most of my opportunity to fill our environment with holiday cheer. The tree is back, the lights are up and the stockings are once again hung by the front door with care. But this year’s celebration had a new twist. For one thing, we doubled up on the parties! “Wow, party animals,” you’re saying to yourself. Well, maybe. But actually, smartdept. Vice President Matt Crook (sdVP for short) and I made a visit with a purpose — to Tulio’s restaurant in downtown Seattle to celebrate the season with our wayward team.

As some of you are finding out, the Seattle smarties have two new teammates. Yira Martinez and Hannah Schwartz (or Yannah, if you want to go the celebrity couples route) joined our team just after Thanksgiving. These ladies are professional, passionate about creative, and eager to find new opportunities for people in the Pacific Northwest. We’re very excited to have them aboard.

Exactly one week later, we enjoyed Christmas party #2. This time, it was Penrose Brewing Company in Geneva, Illinois. The fine folks at Penrose opened their doors to our Chicago team and treated us to a brewery tour and access to a private room, which was lined (wall to wall) with barrels of beer. Yeah, it was pretty cool.

Once more, I’ll take “Getting to know you” for $1000, Alex! The new additions in Chicago in 2015 include our HR Generalist, Angi Budnick, and Jaime Sklar and Nina Strolia, who joined our recruiting team. In addition, we extended an invitation to our trusted in-house creative catch-all, Jamie Brizzolara. Even though we were familiar (by now) with their work, it was great to get to know them (and a couple of their spouses) in such a quaint and laid back setting.

Finally, we added another first to the holiday docket this year. At the request of Chicago’s own Jaime Sklar, we held a gingerbread house building competition. I’m calling it, “The smartdept. inc. First Annual Gingerbread House Building Competition.” Yep, came up with that one on my own. Who won? Maybe you should decide.

Happy Holidays!

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Cupcakes Change Lives

From the desk of Seattle recruiter, Beth Miller

I’ve always been a firm believer that cupcakes change lives. This sentiment became a reality as smartdept. inc. partnered with Food Lifeline for Food Frenzy, Food Lifeline’s summer fundraiser.

Last year for the fundraiser, our Seattle office hosted an open house and the raffle prize was a fabulous painting by our very talented principal, Michelle Pairitz. This year, we decided to take a different route, and host a bake sale. We invited our neighboring offices in our building, our clients, candidates, friends and families to drop by for a treat.

Over the course of our two-day sale, we had a few “repeat customers” coming back for another slice of Meghann’s pistachio cake. Overall, we raised $1,062.00! Every dollar we raised equals five meals for Food Lifeline’s programs – that’s 5,310 meals for hungry kids!

For the second year in a row, smartdept. inc. secured first place in the “Per Capita – Kitchen Sink Category” (Professional Services, Technology, Marketing). Overall, Food Frenzy raised $620,000 this year, and it continues to be an honor to be a part of something that’s making a tangible difference in our community.

Thanks to everyone who donated via our Crowdrise page and stopped by our office to visit and pick up some treats during our bake sale!

 

Welcome to the 5-Year Club, Meghann

From the desk of smartdept. inc. Principal: Eric Pairitz

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“Meghann Francis Kern” is what we affectionately call her (to her face). But you might know her as the Branch Manager of the smartdept. inc. Seattle office!

Now, we can include “5-Year Jersey Club member” in the list of ways you can search for her on LinkedIn. On June 22, 2015, Meghann Francis became the second smarty in two months to garner the coveted 5-year jersey. Although it doesn’t come with a jelly-of-the-month club membership, it’s still something to be proud of.

I knew almost immediately, during our very first conversation, that Meghann would be a great fit for our environment. She was hired without staffing experience to be the Creative Consultant for our Seattle office. Meghann is a fast learner, and a short time later was promoted to a senior position. Over the years, Meghann has continued to display not only good business sense, but also outstanding leadership ability. These qualities earned her the opportunity to manage the Seattle branch — and her willingness to take on new challenges opened up the opportunity to change her focus from recruiting to business development, where I’m certain she’ll once again succeed with great enthusiasm.

Meghann, congratulations on this great accomplishment, and thank you for everything you do for us here at smartdept. inc.!

 

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Getting Ready for Our July Fundraiser to Support Food Lifeline

From the desk of Seattle recruiter: Chessjuan Monk

1,290 lbs has little meaning when placed all on its own, but when talked about in regards to keeping children from being hungry after school, and its correlation to providing 1,075 meals for the hungry in Western Washington, it really does bring a heavier significance than just weight. Last Wednesday, June 24, I had the pleasure of volunteering with my new Seattle team at Food LifeLine’s food distribution warehouse in Shoreline. Being able to be part of an amazing organization that is providing such a great service to the community was priceless, and I’m looking forward to helping fundraise for this awesome group July 10-24.

If you’re in the Seattle Pioneer Square area, remember to stop by July 13 and 14 for our smartdept.inc. Seattle bake sale!

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Chicago smarties Celebrate the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup Win with 2 Million of Our Closest Friends

From the desk of the Chicago recruiter: Leah Bye

Last Thursday, the Chicago smarties invited our families to stop by the office in prep to hit the street and celebrate the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup win. Back in 2013 and 2010, we were able to watch from our office windows – as many of you know we’re located on Washington St. – but this time we gathered in the office before heading over to Monroe.

We were hard pressed to find anyone downtown that wasn’t celebrating, and it was thrilling to be in the heart of it all. Even if you aren’t a hockey fan, it would’ve been pretty difficult not to hop on the bandwagon. Chicago is a city full of dedicated and determined people that also know how to enjoy themselves, and we feel lucky to be here, working with – and for – such passionate and interesting individuals.

It’s times like this that we remember toughing out the arctic blasts of the winter are for a reason, because Chicago is such a spectacular city to call home. Congrats Blackhawks, on your huge successes in the past several years, and thank you for sharing your excitement with Chicagoans all around!

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The 5 Year Club has a new member!

From the desk of smartdept. inc. Principal: Eric Pairitz

The “5 Year Jersey” (Club) started with smartdept. Vice President Matt Crook. Many of our longtime friends and associates will remember a picture of Matt sitting proudly at his desk sporting his custom-made smartdept baseball jersey. This finely crafted cover-up was highlighted by an orange 5 year patch, stitched tightly into the left sleeve and driven home with his name and number 1 gloriously displayed on the back! The jersey was made and presented to Matt in celebration of five years with smartdept. inc. And, since that cold January day in 2012, I’ve been waiting patiently to distribute yet another.

Enter Leah Burkhardt, from the great state of Oklahoma (where the winds come sweepin’ down the plain). We met Leah in mid-April 2010 and were immediately impressed by her contagious brand of enthusiasm and her willingness to try her hand at something new. I recall being impressed that she had a mix of professional attributes we’d recognized in other successful smarties. So we went for it – and offered her the job of Junior Creative Consultant.

Fast-forward five years. Leah’s star still shines brightly, but now as a Managing Creative Consultant. Leah has blossomed into a leader, not only to her Chicago teammates, but to her coworkers clear across the country. Our entire organization is proud to call Leah a colleague and a friend and we congratulate her for accomplishing so much in the five years she’s represented smartdept. inc.

In ceremonies held earlier, Leah was presented with her very own smartdept. 5 Year Jersey. Finally, Matt has someone to share the honors with!

– Eric

 

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Life at smartdept. inc. Through One Recruiter’s Eyes

From the desk of Chicago recruiter: Leah Bye

Lately we’ve been discussing in our Chicago and Seattle offices the way the workforce is changing, both for employers and employees/job seekers (case in point, Beth’s last blog post).  While the job seekers are looking for extra perks in the workplace to engage them, employers also are looking at what job seekers are bringing to the table in addition to their career experience.  Look on any career information site, and you’ll see article after article about employers needing to be capable of motivating their employees to keep them engaged and happy. On the flip side, you’ll also see discussions that encourage hiring managers to bring on individuals that have inspirational attitudes, are a cultural fit, and can contribute something extra to the team. Obviously, experience is also part of the hiring process, and position details and potential to grow are players in the searching process (but let’s not worry about the minor details).

So, with that being said, I thought I’d share a bit about our workplace, how we keep engaged and how I, personally, have wedged my way in so my coworkers will suffer from sugar withdrawals if they decide they don’t need me in the office.

Here’s a little insight into what it’s like at smartdept. inc.:
As you may know, we have “boutique” spaces, both in Chicago, and Seattle. So, making sure that our teams work and interact together well is extremely important. On the work/motivational side, we keep each other in check, we encourage each other to push boundaries when applicable, and we always keep it constructive. On the interaction/frivolities side, you’ll occasionally see us at Cubs’ or Mariners’ games, or the Thai place around the corner. You may even see one of us walking around in our new “Winner’s” belt (see Eric’s last blog post). Our office competitions might sound silly, but the winner is always rewarded with something special, like pork rinds, which in turn creates a lot of running office jokes.

What I contribute outside of my job description:
Because I’m a narcissist, so why not talk about myself? I’ve positioned myself as the resident baker (in Chicago, sorry Seattle) – mostly birthdays, occasionally just because, always because I want to make something and can’t be trusted to keep it in my apartment. My contribution outside of what I actually do as a recruiter here at smartdept, inc. is that I make treats, hopefully well, and will even put together your own personal stash to take home if it’s your special day.  There have definitely been a few guinea pig moments. I’m thankful to have such an accepting crowd (especially Eric, don’t tell Michelle).

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I’m not saying your workplace has to be your everything, but, you do spend an awful lot of time there. So why not be somewhere that keeps you at your best, better than the rest?

– Leah Bye

 

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What Inspires Meghann Kern? Target Meals for Minds

Last Thursday afternoon marked our second volunteer adventure this year with Food Lifeline in Seattle. In the past we’ve worked in their warehouse repacking food for outgoing shipments, but last Thursday we had the opportunity to walk students and their families through a make-shift grocery store we helped set up at Northgate Elementary. Target Meals for Minds is a program that helps get groceries into the hands of elementary students in our surrounding schools. At our busiest we had students, anywhere from 5-10 years old, lining up with their parents, or patiently waiting by themselves, to walk through our assembly line. Some kids were in a hurry to catch their school bus so we rushed them through our line stuffing their backpacks and grocery bags with as much food as they could carry on their own. I have continued to be inspired by the staff and volunteers at Food Lifeline that work tirelessly to find creative solutions to get food into the hands of hungry families.

We were excited to have our neighbors (we share an office floor) from PlaceFull, Ben Kappler and Adam Lang, join our Food Lifeline volunteer efforts. Ben, Adam, Beth and I were on a highly trained team dubbed “the bag-ettes” – which is a really cool way to describe being on a grocery bagging team. We look forward to our next adventure with Food Lifeline!

smartdept. inc. Seattle | Food Lifeline | Target Meals for Minds

smartdept. inc. Seattle | Food Lifeline | Target Meals for Minds

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Volunteer Kick Off!

Mardi Gras kicked off for smartdept. inc. in a chilly warehouse in SoDo. “Produce to the people,” we chanted, as we sorted cherry tomatoes and bananas. We were there because we’d committed to join the Food Lifeline team in their daily routine of receiving food donations from manufacturers, farmers, grocery stores and restaurants, and then repacking them so they could be distributed to Food Lifeline’s network of food banks, food pantries, hot meal programs, shelters and after-school programs.

Our team of three repacked 1,342 pounds of produce and worked with another volunteer team from Seattle Academy on Capitol Hill to repack another 2,340 pounds of dry products. We provided 2,318 meals to western Washington families, and had a blast doing it!

We discovered some interesting things about ourselves today – our recruiters sort tomatoes faster than our business developer, and you can’t get Mardi Gras beads for packing dry goods on Fat Tuesday!
This year, Seattle’s smartdept. inc. is partnering with Food Lifeline to donate our time and help fundraise in July. We welcome any of our awesome candidates and clients to drop us a line if you’re interested in joining us on one of our volunteer adventures.

Food Lifeline March 2
Who knows, you might discover something interesting, too!
-This was an update from Meghann Kern, a Managing Consultant in our Seattle office!