How a Leading Staffing Firm Has Set Itself Apart From Competitors

August 29, 2016

One of the biggest challenges that staffing firms face is how to attract quality hires when time and resources are spread thin.

Russell Tobin, a 65-person staffing firm headquartered New York City, with seven offices nationally, has built its entire business around solving this problem. How did they do it? By creating lasting relationships with candidates that set the firm apart from its competitors.

And, the beauty of this strategy is that it works. Over the last 5 years, the company has placed hundreds of leadership and executive hires at leading financial services and technology companies in some of the most competitive talent markets in the United States.

Here’s a look at the framework Russell Tobin developed to create meaningful candidate relationships and match high-demand candidates with tough-to-fill roles.

1. Align recruiters around shared values

The biggest investment that Russell Tobin makes is in its team, ensuring that all on-staff recruiters learn the firm’s values from the ground-up. For instance, all new hires at Russell Tobin, regardless of industry experience, start at the same level and go through the same training and onboarding process. Co-founder Tim Tobin likens the firm’s organizational structure to a martial arts dojo:

“Even if you come to us with 10+ years of experience, you’re going to start as a white belt,” says Tobin. “Our goal is to disentangle new recruiters from the bad habits and pressures of the staffing world.”

To do this, Russell Tobin has invested in a framework around the acronym AIKIDO.

“A for adaptability, I for integrity, K for knowledge, I for investment in others, D for drive, and O for outlook,” says Tobin. “The whole dojo construct is to create an ownership type of environment, where our people are treating the brand like it’s their own. Having a commitment to core values over individual performance helps keep our priorities in order.”

This structure gives rise to an organization-wide emerging leadership program.

“It’s tied into several frameworks, including Myers Briggs and Strengths Finder,” says Tobin. “Dealing with humans, all team members need to be adaptable. We aim to cultivate leadership around honesty, transparency, and self-awareness in the industry.”

2. Recruit for specific roles in order to give each candidate a positive experience

In an ideal world, every recruiter would take the time to get to know candidates on a personal level. But many staffing firms find themselves overloaded with too many client requests and roles to fill, with too limited time to spend with each individual.

“Recruiting is a business that doesn’t often lend itself to economies of scale,” explains Leo Russell, co-founder at Russell Tobin. “At the end of the day, matching a human to a job is going to involve a ton of direct and indirect face-to-face time.”

Instead of cutting corners and resorting to shortcuts, such as posting reqs aimlessly on job boards, Russell Tobin focuses on 11 distinct practices including accounting, creative services, sales, and more.

“This strategy allows us to remain memorable among candidates,” says Russell. “Even if they’re not interested in an open role in the immediate term, they’ll keep us in mind when they’re seeking new roles in the future. In some instances, candidates have even brought us on as their staffing partner.”

3. Use social media to nuture relationships and share their firm's culture

To maintain relationships with candidates and clients at scale, Russell Tobin maintains an extensive social media presence. With more than 37,000 followers on LinkedIn, the firm invests in sharing industry content on an ongoing basis. Here are some example status updates that have helped them generate the most engagement.

  • They created their own “Why do you recruit?” campaign, highlighting their employees passion for recruiting and why they chose the field.  

  • They share helpful tips on “Wisdom Wednesday,” adding value to their network and giving their followers something to look forward to every week.

  • They share their culture, giving candidates and clients insight into what it’s like to work with Russell Tobin. Who wouldn’t want to work with this fun team?

“In our world, you can get very inundated with the transaction,” says Kelly Shea, Director of R4R and Global Accounts at Russell Tobin. “But we actively take steps to go above and beyond, to prioritize the relationships.”

By prioritizing quality over quantity and depth over volume in relationship-building, Russell Tobin has grown its presence and evolved into a leading staffing firm. “One of the things we do to differentiate ourselves is to provide unique solutions to the entire employment ecosystem through panel discussions, symposiums, and networking events where even the competition is welcomed,” says Meg Catapano, Director of Events.

This community engagement model has enabled Russell Tobin to become recognized as a top supplier at some of the most prestigious firms on the planet and to continue to be thought leaders in the industry.

The bottom line

Prioritize quality interactions with clients and candidates. Get internal teams aligned around the same goal. Use social media to amplify your message. These three steps have enabled Russell Tobin to become a world class staffing firm.

Looking for more advice from the Russell Tobin? Learn how they’re using LinkedIn to scale their recruiting process with a small team. Get the full story here.

*Image by Sigurd Rage

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