How a New York Based Recruitment Firm Outsmarts Industry Noise 

When Leo Russell and Tim Tobin joined forces to build a Russell Tobin in 2010, the goal was never to scale into a large staffing firm. In fact, the two co-founders had a vision to achieve the opposite–an organization that would always put client and candidate relationships first. In an industry where placement volumes, profit margins, and time to hire tend to dominate the conversation, Russell and Tobin wanted their venture to bring something more, and something human, to the table.

"We have a $17 trillion economy. But even still, about half the jobs that are currently filled are not filled to the satisfaction of the employers. Meanwhile, half the people in their jobs aren’t happy. So helping people find new work, new ways to reap the fruits of their labor, is about as good as it gets in the world.”

But Russell and Tobin knew that this vision would come with logistical tradeoffs. For one, this level of quality career matchmaking requires close attention to detail–the antithesis to how many players in the staffing industry operate. And to build long-term relationships with top candidates, Russell Tobin would need to provide a level of customization that few staffing agencies are equipped to deliver. The founding team accepted this challenge.

Here’s how Russell Tobin is pioneering a new standard for client and candidate success in the staffing industry. 

Engineering Value – and Never Settling for Mediocrity

For Russell Tobin, success has never been about the hard metrics–while key performance indicators (KPIs) are essential to measuring progress and success within the business, the firm avoids the low-hanging temptation to chase short-term wins. Essentially, the company is like a racecar that wants to fine-tune itself to achieve even better performance.

“There are firms like ours, very successful firms, that are engineered around growth,” says Russell. “They focus on KPIs and bring in a ton of people. But then they churn or experience significant long-term turnover. I would be a richer man if I did that. But I’d also die of a heart attack. I wouldn’t love to come to work.”

Rather, growth comes from long-term relationships that have developed over time.


“Because of the relationships that we’ve forged over the years, it’s created a trickle-down effect that impacts every aspect of our organization,” says Tobin. “I’m a big fan of LinkedIn because it helps us make relationships with the right people. It decreases degrees of separation between me and a stakeholder. And therefore, it creates less anonymity and more accountability. We’re able to deliver a level of efficiency, as a result—it’s this reason why we continue to win big clients. We tackle staffing challenges by forging connections”

At the heart of Russell Tobin’s value equation and growth is a desire for continuous improvement. Rather than sticking to tried and true recruiting formulas, the company seeks to empower each and every client with a unique foundation for success. It’s a process that takes patience but proves meaningful in the long term. The heart of this successful equation? It’s always been about the people.

Strategic Culture Building–Aligning People–Power to Big Goals

In the staffing world—and across industries, in general—high attrition rates and competition for top-notch recruiters tend to be the norm rather than the exception. But Russell Tobin has created a culture in which employees feel personally invested. High performance is a natural byproduct, as every recruiter has clear alignment with the organization’s goals.

There are several steps that Russell Tobin takes to help their recruiting team and candidates shine:

  1. Investing in employee development. “Internally, we have a structure very similar to a martial arts dojo, in which every individual within the firm gets a belt card. When you start, you get a white belt, no matter your level of experience. We focus growth around each individual and make sure that everyone has an opportunity to learn,” says Tobin.
  2. Making every candidate and client touchpoint a learning opportunity. “Our mission is to optimize candidate experiences. To put this idea into practice, we prioritize thoughtful research at every stage of our process. In our world, it’s easy to feel inundated with the transaction. But we go above and beyond, regularly relying on market data and making concessions upfront to invest in long-term relationships with our clients and candidates,” says Kelly Shea, Director of R4R and Global Accounts.
  3. Prioritizing specialization. “From a strategy perspective, our anchor is specialization,” says Ben Jaksich, Director of Sales & Marketing Search at Russell Tobin. “Everyone has a particular role within an industry segment, within a particular department, with a particular location. This focus helps us maximize our value. So, while we’re not always the firm that’s going to get someone to the finish line, or not always going to be the person that places that candidate, I think our true testament of our growth is the value that we create, which then in return gets us referrals from both candidates and clients alike.”

With these processes and workflows in place, Russell Tobin can focus on optimizing relationships with clients and candidates.

Choosing Tools—Streamlining Operations, Optimizing Team Performance

To date, LinkedIn has helped Russell Tobin be innovative, with a new approach to an existing industry, in trying to be different. In a market that changes perpetually, Russell Tobin stays nimble and ahead of the curve.

Knowing how much every moment counts in the world of recruiting, the Russell Tobin team has given careful consideration to the tools that are supporting their processes. The company prides itself on culture, specialization, and relationships and LinkedIn empowers them to do that at scale.

Download the ebook

Interested in learning more? Download Making the Most Out of Every Candidate Interaction: A Tactical Guide from Russell Tobin.

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