Smarties participate in Food Frenzy and look at one of the Food Lifeline programs it helps support

Our ongoing partnership with Food Lifeline has been very rewarding to our team. We continue to be inspired by the staff and volunteers at Food Lifeline that work day in and out to find new ways to feed hungry families. And this year, thanks to the wonderful staff at Food Lifeline, we got a look into the newly expanded Kid’s Café Program. This summer program brings meals to children who normally rely on the free or reduced lunch programs in Western Washington schools. With the help of many volunteers and staff, along with and fundraising efforts like Food Frenzy, kids from 1 to 18 are able to fuel their summer fun at 18 sites across Western Washington! The growth of the program is allowing more and more children to be served healthy meals every day. This June, the program served 12,298 meals and snacks over the first two weeks of operation. That is almost as many meals in two weeks as they served all of last summer – nearly 1,230 meals every single day! That’s exciting stuff, folks!

“Last week I went out to a Kids Cafe site. It was a Friday and after the kids were done eating and getting ready to go home, Sarah the site supervisor put out all of the fresh fruits and vegetables that would otherwise go to waste over the weekend and let the children know that they could take as much home as they wanted to eat over the weekend. I watched as almost a dozen children ranging from 5 to 13 years old ran to the fresh produce and began to fill the plastic shopping bags with food. One little boy came up to me and very excitedly told me how much he loves apples. It’s been a very rewarding experience to see first-hand how our Kids Cafe program is benefiting children throughout Western Washington.”

– Stephanie, Food Lifeline Kids Cafe Coordinator

If you want to learn more about the Kid’s Café program, here’s a wonderful cartoon that illustrates how the program works.

Meantime, you can help out this great program! This year, as part of the Food Frenzy fundraising competition, our Seattle smarties decided to mix things up (quite literally) and have a bake sale (July 13 and 14) as part of the fundraiser. If you happen to be in the Seattle area, specifically Pioneer Square, you can stop by, say hello and get a sweet treat courtesy of our in-house bakers and The Seattle Cookie Lady. And, if you’re not in Seattle, you can still support Food Lifeline. Check out our crowdrise page to donate for a virtual treat.



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 Seattle bake sale!



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!



Interviewing Tips from smartdept. inc. Recruiters

From the collaborative desk of the Chicago and Seattle smarties

Almost anyone who is actively looking for a job, whether you’re a recent grad or have years of experience under your belt, know the basic “to dos” to prepare for your interview. Our team compiled some of their favorite tips that might not be top of mind for some job seekers.

Come with Questions – Amy Amato
Always come to your interview prepared with questions. If you have concerns about the role or the company up front, you should always ask about it. It will help you make a more informed decision if and when an offer comes through.

Double Check Your Resume – Leah Burkhardt
Ask someone else to proofread your resume to make sure it is free of spelling errors, grammar flaws and typos.  Errors in your resume can be a red flag to employers and hinder your chances of obtaining an interview.

Networking – Leah Bye
To stand out in a crowd, it helps to have someone on the inside, whether it’s an old colleague, a recruiter, or your Dad’s college roommate. You never know what opportunities may open up from connecting with others and showing your interest. LinkedIn and Networking Groups are great places to start!

Cell vs. Land Line – Meghann Kern
If you’re doing a phone interview with a potential employer, always use a land line when possible, or make sure you find a cell-friendly zone where reception is good and there’s no background noise.

Attire for the Right Hire – Chessjuan Monk
Always dress for success! Start an interview off on the right foot by dressing appropriately.  It’s okay to ask the interviewer in advance what the dress code is, but when in doubt, dress up, not down.

LinkIn is Your Friend – Alison Lepek
Be sure to create a detailed LinkedIn profile that includes specific information on your skill-set and software skills. Recruiters and potential employers will have a much easier time finding you and reaching out if you are searchable on LinkedIn.  Include things like your job title and target job title, certifications, industry-specific software, education details, etc.

Resume and Portfolio Design – Beth Miller
As a designer, it’s great to show your skills on your resume/portfolio and come up with a unique design that expresses who YOU are, but make sure that it doesn’t distract from the content of your resume/portfolio and what you’ve actually done and can do.



Email Colin >
Colin is a graduate of Northern Illinois University, GO HUSKIES! He took the traditional route to recruiting by teaching PE after graduation. Soon after, he was introduced to creative recruiting and never looked back. Colin is fond of our local sports teams, especially the Cubs, Bears, & Blackhawks. He likes to cook (which will be handy at our next pot luck), play golf and loves all things Marvel Comics. And, my guess is that he would whoop you pretty good at Madden Football.



Email Hannah >
A Michigan lifer, Ms. Morgan is chock full of pride for her home town of Grand Rapids. Hannah is a graduate of Grand Valley State (100 points if you can name their mascot), where she studied Spanish and Hospitality Management. After some wayward studying in Costa Rica, Hannah entered the recruiting world in the educational space before finding her way to smartdept. inc. Hannah is a foodie, who boasts of being ridiculously organized and makes happy people jealous because she smiles so much!


The “Paint Your Neighbor” Challenge

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

Last week the smarties took on the Paint Your Neighbor challenge. Using 5 colors, 1 brush, a canvas and 30 minutes, each one of us turned our head 90 degrees to the left (or right) and painted (portrait style) the person nearest to us. We had a grand time admiring each other’s imagination and effort as each of our artist visions were unveiled. To mark the occasion, we thought it would be fun to share the results with the creatives that we represent.

Which painting(s) do you like the best?

– Eric





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



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).


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




Email Danielle >
Danielle arrives at smartdept. inc. Seattle via television, film and, new media. This former San Diego Stater (yes “stater” is a word) fell in love with recruiting because she likes helping people find awesome opportunities. In her free time, she loves playing her guitar, exploring the city, and drinking craft beer. Sup! Oh, and if you have a dog and Danielle sees it, there is a 100% chance she will pet it.



Email Yira >
Yira is an experienced staffing professional who thrives on making the perfect match between candidate and client. A friend to the animal world, she will stop at nothing to try and “goat” you into a game of shuffleboard or Wii bowling (yes, that just happened!). And, after she’s done whipping her friends on the shuffleboard court, Yira likes to savor the sweet taste of victory with a glass of red wine—so civilized.

Amy champion

A Little Friendly Inter-office Competition

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

We have greatness among us. Our very own Amy Amato has now scored inter-office victories in 2 straight Oscar pools, our SD Fantasy Football league and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. That’s right, she had the Badgers (not Kentucky) in the final! Obviously these are strange occurrences, so I immediately sent her file to the White House where I’m certain they will be involved in the future monitoring of the situation.

In the meantime, I’ve been inspired by Amy’s ability to win literally any inter office competition she has been involved in. So, in the spirit of great sports promoters like Don King and Vince McMahon (two people who may also have their files being looked at by the White House), I would like to introduce the Wild and Wacky Exhibitions (WWE) Championship Series. 

You got it, buddy! Each week our Chicago, Seattle, and National offices will come together to compete against each other in a wild and wacky challenge. The winner of each challenge will receive the honor of sporting the WWE Intercontinental Championship belt. The winner of the current challenge will remain in possession of the belt until the next challenge is completed and a new champion is determined.

Oh, by the way, in honor of Amy and her ridiculous ability to win the past challenges, I am officially naming the belt after her. You read me right, from this day forth the belt will be referred to as the Amy Amato WWE Intercontinental Championship Belt. And, for her NCAA tourney victory Amy has earned the pleasure of being the recipient of the very first presentation of the Amy Amato Wild and Wacky Exhibitions Intercontinental Championship belt (okay, let’s just call it the AAWWEICB). 

Congratulations, Amy, on you most recent victory! 

P.S. Since this was originally written, Amy was defeated in the championship match of our rock, paper, scissors tournament by Leah Bye.


Corporate Culture Helps Determine Fit

From the desk of Seattle recruiter: Beth Miller

Corporate Culture. It’s the newest catchphrase for employers and job seekers alike. As the job market evens out, candidates are more concerned with work/life balance than finding a job they actually enjoy rather than just a number on a paycheck. Similarly, employers understand that happier, more engaged employees will stay longer and produce more, creating a shift toward culture fit and soft skills in many of the creative and marketing roles we’re staffing. I’ve experienced both sides of the culture equation – a great culture fit (thank you, smartdept. inc.), and a lousy one (we’ll be vague on the specifics). I’ve found a company with values that are similar to my own personal goals of professional growth and philanthropy, and I feel supported in my role.

But what does “culture” look like when you’re a freelancer? Here are a few things I like to keep in mind to gauge whether a candidate is a good long-term fit for a client.

First, take note of the physical space of the office you might be working in. Is it loud and bright, or mellow and dark? Is it an open area, or cubed? Is there music on or does everyone have ear-buds in? As much as skill set is a factor in determining whether or not a candidate is qualified for a position, it’s equally important to ensure a candidate can work in the physical space.

Second, ask process-focused questions. Having a firm understanding of how projects and tasks are managed, what the daily workflow looks like and understanding how your peers, managers and teams will interact is important. As a recruiter I do my best to set clear expectations at the beginning of any interaction with our candidates. Communication is key, and understanding how communication works within an organization can determine whether a candidate will be a good fit.

The final thing to keep in mind when assessing culture fit is whether the core values of an organization are similar to your own values. Employees come and go, and yes, corporate culture can (and probably should) evolve as there are advances in technology, organizational growth and new hires joining a company, but if you agree with the core values of an organization that’s a huge indicator that the role could be a long term fit.

Spending time thinking about culture fit, whether you’re a candidate or employer, is an important piece to the hiring puzzle.

– Beth


smartdept. inc. Chicago Kicks Off Their 2015 Volunteering with a Day at Lakeview Pantry

Inspired by the Seattle team and their involvement with Food Lifeline, one of the Chicago team’s goals for 2015 was to get more involved with the community and volunteer our time to a local charitable organization.

Last Thursday marked our first group volunteer activity of the year! We spent most of our day at the Lakeview Pantry, one of the oldest food pantries in Chicago. Their mission is to eliminate hunger and poverty in the community. They do this by providing on-site food and clothing distribution as well as offering food deliveries to homebound clients. They also have a social services program that helps clients connect with other services they need to address the causes of food insecurity.

We helped the team unload deliveries from the Greater Chicago Food Depository and other grocery stores in the area. We also restocked and repacked food, organized, cleaned and washed windows! It was nice to get out of the office and work our muscles for a good cause. I think I speak for everyone when I say that my arms are just starting to recover from all the lifting. We’ll need to get in shape for next time.

We’re looking forward to more volunteer days with Lakeview Pantry in the future!





Inspiration In the Open Air

Ethan Jack Harrington is a plein air painter who lives in Seattle, Washington. Plein air is a French term meaning “in the open air” and is used to describe the act of painting outdoors (I Googled it). Raise your hand if you’re from Seattle and have walked past a guy with his easel set up in the middle of a busy sidewalk. THAT’S ETHAN! I knew you knew him.

One of my first memories of starting the smartdept. inc. was walking down the street in Pioneer Square, and seeing Ethan working on one of his amazing paintings—right there, out in the open. We chatted about how Michelle and I were also artists, and we certainly appreciated his entrepreneurial spirit. Well, a baker’s dozen of years have passed, and you can still see Ethan out there painting in the open air. And, if the outdoors aren’t your thing, you can visit his gallery in the Pike Place Market (because it’s inside).

Alas, If you’re too impatient for a chance meeting in the street or just too busy to visit the market, you can check out his online gallery at Give it a look! Maybe you’ll be inspired like Michelle and I were, oh so many years ago.

– Eric


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

smartdept. inc. Seattle

Meet With a smartdept. Seattle Recruiter and Experience Pioneer Square Culture

We’d like to think of ourselves as trendsetters at the smartdept. inc., or even mildly psychic. So when The Seattle Times stated over the weekend that Pioneer Square is in the middle of a “not-so-quiet renaissance” we weren’t surprised!

Our Seattle office is located right smack dab in the middle of what’s becoming a bustling foodie’s haven and artist’s dream (galleries galore). Our building houses Bar Sajor on the main level, The Pharmacy (speakeasy) in the basement, Temple Billiards, and of course, your very own creative and marketing talent resource.

After a visit to meet with one of our recruiters, you can explore our happening neighborhood and get inspired! #smartdeptinspires

Click here to read The Seattle Times article.



Patrick Osborne Wins an Oscar

There was a time (for me) when the Academy Awards meant something more. You know, the anticipation of its start, who is watching with me, what’s on the snack menu and how many winners will I guess correctly. Ah, the memories. Now, I have 4 wonderful daughters who (strangely) don’t want to watch overdressed adults give speeches as an entertainment. Instead, this year our family watched a kids show which, like a river, flowed, one into the next, into the next, into the next (infinity). Which, truthfully, on most nights is entertainment enough for me.

While I was wading through I did manage, occasionally, to tune into the Oscars. On this particular awards night I saw something that caught my attention. The winner for Best Animated Short was a movie called Feast. It’s about a man who befriends a dog by feeding it (okay, it’s about a touch more than that). You may have seen it at the front of the movie Big Hero 6, which won for Animated Feature Film. Patrick Osborne who directed the film and accepted the Oscar is a graduate of my alma mater, the Ringling College of Art and Design. When I attended Ringling, I was one of 600 students (total). Two decades later it has grown into one of the most respected colleges of its kind and is a straight up powerhouse for animation related careers.

This was pretty cool to see! And, even though I had nothing to do with any of it, I am proud of my old school and “I too, would like to thank the academy.”

– Eric

What Inspires Eric Pairitz? Warmer Days Ahead



If you follow the comings and goings of smartdept via the web and social media, it won’t surprise you to know that baseball is something that inspires me. On a day like today, when the car dashboard reads a temperature of -9 degrees, it is literally heart warming to know that pitchers and catchers report to spring training today. While this obviously means that baseball (the game I am most passionate about) will be coming soon to a ballpark near you, it also means that warmer days, spring flowers and even your most comfortable pair of shorts are soon to follow. Good to know (in my opinion), especially on a day like today.

Check us out on Instagram, @smartdeptinc, and share with us what inspires you using #smartdeptinspires.

Happy Spring Training everybody!

Warmest (haha) Regards,

smartdept. inc.’s Beth Miller to Host Seattle SHRM Recruiting SIG in 2015

Over the past year and a half I’ve been continuing my journey into the wonderful world of creative and marketing staffing, learning from my colleagues at the smartdept. inc. and attending as many networking events as I can to connect with colleagues in my industry. I’ve been attending the Seattle SHRM Recruiting Special Interest Group (SIG) for over a year and was recently asked to take over hosting the monthly events and facilitate our meetings. I’m honored to be part of SIG and look forward to connecting with recruiters, HR professionals and others in our industry!

Each month we will be meeting at the smartdept. inc. Seattle office to share ideas and discuss recruiting trends. This is a great way to share successes, brainstorm ideas, and come up with ways to tackle staffing related obstacles. If you’re interested in learning more about the Recruiting SIG group, feel free to reach out to me directly via email,, or find the group on LinkedIn – Seattle SHRM Recruiting SIG. If you have topics you’re interested in seeing our SIG group discuss, let me know!

Upcoming SIG events:
February 6, 8.30-9.30 am, smartdept. inc. office, “Mobile Device Recruiting”
March 6, 8.30-9.30 am, smartdept. inc. office, topic to be announced