the blog2017-11-09T13:23:28-06:00


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A post that was 18 years in the making

Hi everyone. My name is Michelle Pairitz, and like many of you, I am currently acting as principal, administrator and home-school teacher to my four daughters (8th, 7th, 5th and 4th grade.) But up until a few weeks ago, my main credentials were being a twenty-year veteran of the staffing industry and the majority owner of smartdept. inc.

It’s difficult to craft a meaningful message that isn’t somehow related to COVID-19 or a Stay at Home order right now. So, to each of you taking the time to read this, I appreciate your time and hope you and your loved ones are safe. And before I get to the good news portion of this post, does anyone remember how to divide fractions? Asking for a friend.

Okay, onto some good news about smartdept. inc. Because we could all use a little right now!

Earlier this year, I was encouraged by one of our largest clients to apply for certification as a Women’s Business Enterprise. This certification affirms that smartdept. inc. is an organization owned and entirely operated by a woman and earning this certification would prove to be no small task. After filling out the initial application, I had the next three months to provide all critical information to tell the story of how smartdept. inc. came to be. This trip down memory lane (and into some very dusty flat files) included everything from sharing our latest financials, contracts with my stamp of approval, rental agreement and equipment lists, to rediscovering the corporate documents we created nearly two decades ago. And everything in between. In addition, I was quizzed on every aspect of our creative staffing business. The goal was to prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I was in control of every process vital to successfully operating the company.

On the day of my site visit, I was asked to connect all the dots. What was my inspiration for starting the company? What was a typical day and week at smartdept. inc.? How had I helped push the organization forward? How exactly did I get from a two-person staffing company in Seattle in 2002, to a staffing company spanning nationally with thousands of placements?  The conversation was long, but reflective. And it gave me the chance to think honestly about my journey as a business owner and appreciate how my organization, with the help of so many along the way, has been able to achieve some very unique goals.

As a woman in recruiting:
When I started this company at 27, I looked and sounded young for my age. (Oh, the good old days!) But I remember struggling to overcome doubters and naysayers – both women and men. And I vowed I would not treat others that way. I earned respect, I gave respect and I lifted others up every chance I got. At smartdept, our culture is based on encouragement and kindness. What we do is more than just recruiting, it’s creating an environment of confidence and support for our clients, candidates and each other.

Michelle pictured with her four girls.

As a mom:
When I began, I was part ignorant and part fearless, and I am proud of it all. I want my girls to have the same confidence and be fearless in making something happen. It doesn’t have to be big, it doesn’t have to be a company, but I want them to know that anything is possible.

As a business owner:
Some of our biggest clients were my candidates just starting their careers 18 years ago. Long-standing relationships and treating people with respect means everything to me, and to us. We are all humans, and it’s important to really get to know people beyond what position they’re looking for or looking to fill.  We take the time to do that, so each person could potentially work with us for the next 18 years whether they are a client or candidate.

I am proud to report that on Thursday, March 19th, 2020 (at 3pm CDT), smartdept. inc. received its Women’s Business Enterprise certification! It represents so much, and to receive it during Women’s History month made me even prouder.

So, thank you to all who have played a part in our growth and this milestone achievement.

It’s a little something that allows me to pause, to celebrate how far we’ve come, and have hope for better days ahead.

Be safe, be well and best of luck with all the math homework.

Love, Michelle



By |March 30th, 2020|

Welcome to “Hipsturbia” – Millennials are leaving the big city for the suburban lifestyle

Millennial’s coming to age, we all knew it would happen, but what does that mean for business and the creative candidate pool? Millennial’s are approaching a different stage of their life. They are at the age of settling down, moving away from the city to the suburbs to buy a home and plan for a family. Welcome to “Hipsturbia”! (Axios Cities)

While suburban growth decreased during the financial crisis in 2013, Millennials were just graduating college and migrating to big cities like Chicago, where jobs were concentrated. Now, suburban businesses get ready because the millennials are heading back! Suburban organizations of all sizes – start-ups, mid-size, and large corporations need to take the “if you build it, they will come” approach to attract and retain talent.

Millennials grew up in a time of rapid change, which has given them a different worldview perspective on how to conduct business and expectations of the ideal workplace. From the luxury collaborative culture of Google to the free breakfast and lunch buffets at Facebook. Suburban businesses are going to have to think like the big time city-biz and upgrade their work environments – “if you build it, they will come.” Here are 5 benefits/perks to attract and retain Millennials during the Hipsturbia wave.

  1. Remote flexibility/ flexible schedules
  2. Health Insurance/Dental Insurance/ 401(K)
  3. Vacation/paid time off/paid sick days
  4. Maternity/paternity leave
  5. Gym Membership or Wellness programs

Another adaptation of the Hipsturbia wave that suburban companies need to adjust is the speed in which they can identify top talent and on-board candidates. Millennials have taken the act of “ghosting” in dating to their professional endeavors. We are working with a candidate-driven market, Forbes stated: “businesses are reporting anywhere from 20-50% of applicants are pulling no-shows in some form during the hiring process, according to USA Today”. The creative talent pool is already shallow, multiple rounds of interviews and extending the process to longer than a week will present a challenge in winning over top talent against competing companies.


– by Heather Gouldsberry


For more smart insight, industry tips and other tidbits, check us out on Instagram @smartdept.inc.

By |October 14th, 2019|

All Sides – What is the most stressful part of the hiring process?

Welcome to our newest blog! We like to call this an ALL SIDES. That means we asked the same question to three different people to see how their responses compare and contrast. The question — what is the most stressful part of the job search. Our participants represent a hiring manager, a candidate and a smartdept. inc. staff member. Enjoy!

Hiring Manager
“From my perspective, as one of the hiring managers, the most stressful part of the job search is reviewing the resumes and seeing that the skill sets do not match the job requirements. Filling a creative position is difficult and especially challenging when the portfolio isn’t specific to our industry. Although, since we have been using smartdept. inc. as our hiring resource, the resume searching is no longer an issue. Your team is able to filter and screen the top-notch candidates and send them our way!”

smartdept. inc. Staff Member
“As a Creative Account Manager with smartdept. inc., my favorite part of this job is collaborating with clients to identify top talent for their team. In a candidate driven market, it’s critical to have a detailed job description to help successfully fill a position. In order for me to successfully identify top talent it would be ideal to know the skill sets needed, what the top responsibilities of the position will be, the ideal years of experience, budget for the role, a good understanding of the culture/environment and (last but not least) the preferred interview process and start date. When presenting candidates, time is of the essence and feedback is necessary. An open line of communication with my client is essential to customizing a strategic sourcing plan, especially if my candidates are not hitting the mark.”

smartdept. inc. Candidate
“As someone who has been in the working world for many years, I have seen a real difference in the process of looking for a job. When I started my professional journey, it was all about who you knew and how to get your resume in the hands of decision makers. Today, the opportunities come straight to you via online recruitment tools, virtual networking and the internet. But with these new tools come new challenges: the sheer volume of information and opportunities available via digital mediums is overwhelming and misleading. Every day I receive dozens of emails from online recruitment companies listing thousands of ‘real’ job opportunities seemingly curated just for me. While I appreciate access to these leads and the implied ‘foot in the door,’ the reality is that I am one of millions who receive these emails for these same positions. My resume gets placed on top of a big pile along with the other numerous, qualified applicants. In the end, it still comes down to who you know and how to get your resume in the hands of decision makers.”

Building relationships is key in making a successful placement. One of the most effective ways to work through the challenges of the hiring process is through communication. In order to make the best match, it is crucial that the person you are partnering with during this process has all the information. While technology is offering many innovative solutions to finding top talent and new opportunities, the most effective solution might still be to reach out to an expert in your field, take the time to give them the details and trust that they have done the same with people they are considering for your open position.

By |May 20th, 2019|

5 Trends We’ve Seen at smartdept. inc. in Q1

Marketing related roles are on the rise! During the first 13 weeks of 2019 we have seen a wide variety of marketing roles open up for both freelance and direct hire. A few of the titles we have done searches for include Marketing Associate, Marketing Analyst, Marketing Specialist and Marketing Project Manager. It’s a good time to be in marketing!

Healthcare is hot! We have seen a wide variety of creative, interactive, marketing and technology opportunities related to the healthcare field. Our healthcare related clients come in all shapes and sizes. Whether it’s in retail, advertising or associations, employment opportunities are up in Q1.

First half is prime for senior level opportunities! According to an article published by Monster, senior level opportunities are on the rise during Q1 (and Q2). We concur.

It’s a candidate’s market! Unemployment is at an all-time low and that means we have to work feverishly in order to have success. For us, proactive recruiting will continue to be a key factor for staying ahead under the current market conditions. Our direct hire candidates are available for an average of 10 business days before they find their next opportunity. This means if you identify a candidate that is a good fit, it would be best to act fast!

Company culture is key! Our candidates are expressing that work life balance is high on the list of  things they are seeking in a new opportunity. Additionally, our candidates are seeking some flexibility in schedules, opportunities to work off-site and unlimited PTO

Don’t hesitate to reach out to us directly if you’d like to discuss these or other trends that smartdept. inc. has observed during the first part of 2019.

By |April 2nd, 2019|

Adventures in Bookland

Here at smartdept. inc. our internal Smarties love to learn and grow both personally and professionally through reading. In the spirit of the always popular, “book club” we put together a quick list of our current (or favorite) reads.

So, have a look and share your book! Or, just let us know if you prefer to come to the book club prepared or are you just in it for the snacks!

MINDY MARVIN – National Director of Sales and Strategy
The Way of the HR Warrior by Monica Frede & Keri Ohlrich, PhD. 

Human Resources has immense power to affect an organization’s bottom line as well as its culture, but it gets a bad rap. The Way of the HR Warrior is a guide for HR professionals who really care to demonstrate the true power of the HR department to influence business strategy and the bottom line, especially in the changing landscape of business with a multi-generational and global workforce, the gig economy, the knowledge economy, the rise of conscious consumerism, and increasing regulations.

Why I chose this book – Being in the staffing industry, I was automatically drawn to the subject matter. And I hate the eye roll that often accompanies a conversation about HR. I like the straight forward, honest and conversational tone of the book, and am excited to put the authors’ advice in to practice.

ANDI PAFFORD – Senior Creative Account Manager
Mismatch – How Inclusion Shapes Design By Kat Holmes

Sometimes designed objects reject their users: a computer mouse that doesn’t work for left-handed people, for example, or a touchscreen payment system that only works for people who read English phrases, have 20/20 vision, and use a credit card. Something as simple as color choices can render a product unusable for millions. These mismatches are the building blocks of exclusion. In Mismatch, Kat Holmes describes how design can lead to exclusion, and how design can also remedy exclusion. Inclusive design methods―designing objects with rather than for excluded users―can create elegant solutions that work well and benefit all.

Why I chose this book – Having experience as both a personal who is both a creative professional and a creative recruiter, I was inspired by the subject matter and look forward to sharing it with the creative professionals I connect with every day.

MELISSA IMBROGNO – Creative Account Manager
The Art Of Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland

“This is a book about making art. Ordinary art. Ordinary art means something like: all art not made by Mozart. After all, art is rarely made by Mozart-like people; essentially—statistically speaking—there aren’t any people like that. Geniuses get made once-a-century or so, yet good art gets made all the time, so to equate the making of art with the workings of genius removes this intimately human activity to a strangely unreachable and unknowable place. For all practical purposes making art can be examined in great detail without ever getting entangled in the very remote problems of genius.”

Why I chose this book – Art is in the eye of the beholder. This book addresses coping with insecurities commonly felt by creative people and made me feel like all people should explore (and be proud of) their creativity.

ANNA LARSON – Creative Account Manager
What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith

America’s most sought-after executive coach shows how to climb the last few rungs of the ladder.

The corporate world is filled with executives, men and women who have worked hard for years to reach the upper levels of management. They’re intelligent, skilled, and even charismatic. But only a handful of them will ever reach the pinnacle — and as executive coach Marshall Goldsmith shows in this book, subtle nuances make all the difference. These are small “transactional flaws” performed by one person against another (as simple as not saying thank you enough), which lead to negative perceptions that can hold any executive back. Using Goldsmith’s straightforward, jargon-free advice, it’s amazingly easy behavior to change.

Why I chose this book –  This book reminded me of the importance of self-reflection and how making time for it can lead to personal growth.

ERIC PAIRITZ – Principal
Moneyball by Michael Lewis

Moneyball is a quest for the secret of success in baseball. In a narrative full of fabulous characters and brilliant excursions into the unexpected, Michael Lewis follows the low-budget Oakland A’s, visionary general manager Billy Beane, and the strange brotherhood of amateur baseball theorists. They are all in search of new baseball knowledge—insights that will give the little guy who is willing to discard old wisdom the edge over big money.

Why I chose this book – Of course, I love this book because it’s about baseball. But more importantly, it proves that, if you take the correct approach, an underdog operating on a small budget can out preform its most powerful competitors.

Dare to Lead by Brené Brow

Leadership is not about titles, status, and wielding power. A leader is anyone who takes responsibility for recognizing the potential in people and ideas, and has the courage to develop that potential.

When we dare to lead, we don’t pretend to have the right answers; we stay curious and ask the right questions. We don’t see power as finite and hoard it; we know that power becomes infinite when we share it with others. We don’t avoid difficult conversations and situations; we lean into vulnerability when it’s necessary to do good work.

Why I chose this book – I like all of her books. This particular book helped me put being a leader into a proper prospective and challenged me to re-examine my approach to being a leader in my own organization.

APRIL LEVINS – Accounting and Operations Manager
Bored and Brilliant by Manoush Zomorodi

In 2015 Manoush Zomorodi, creator of WNYC’s popular podcast and radio show Note to Self, led tens of thousands of listeners through an experiment to help them unplug from their devices, get bored, jump-start their creativity, and change their lives. Bored and Brilliant builds on that experiment to show us how to rethink our gadget use to live better and smarter in this new digital ecosystem. Manoush explains the connection between boredom and original thinking, exploring how we can harness boredom’s hidden benefits to become our most productive and creative selves without totally abandoning our gadgets in the process. Grounding the book in the neuroscience and cognitive psychology of “mind wandering” what our brains do when we’re doing nothing at all―Manoush includes practical steps you can take to ease the nonstop busyness and enhance your ability to dream, wonder, and gain clarity in your work and life. The outcome is mind-blowing.

Why I chose this book – The subject spoke to the operations side of my work here at smartdept. inc. And, the author sounded smart on NPR.

COLLEEN FUELLING – Creative Account Manager
The 7 Critical Principles Of Digital Marketing by Kasim Aslam

The 7 Critical Principles of Effective Digital Marketing is an attempt at establishing a baseline for one of the most tumultuous and change-ridden industries in existence. It takes a step back from the strategies and tactics that most digital marketing approaches start with and, instead, establishes a core and foundational structure from which all digital marketing initiatives can and should operate. The 7 Principles are simple without being simplistic and help to align digital marketers with a set of axiomatic, unchanging and foundational beliefs. In fact, these 7 principles may be the only thing about digital marketing that won’t change.

Why I chose this book – I’m interested in the marketing aspect of my job and love researching new ways to improve our marketing.

Book images via Amazon.

By |February 7th, 2019|