Business Q & A

October 7, 2012

A conversation with Brian Campbell

Brian Campbell’s job gives him insight into the health of the local economy.

Brian Campbell’s job gives him insight into the health of the local economy.

Chief financial officer for the Specialists Group, a recruiting and staffing firm specializing in executives, professionals and administrative staff, Campbell knows who is hiring.

He has seen a lot of ups and downs in his 31 years at the firm at 105 S. Broadway. It’s been his only place of work since college.

Campbell even met his wife, Elaine, soon after starting there. He went across the street to Fourth National Bank to open an account. They both came from Oakley in western Kansas and she verified his identity. She still works across the street at the bank, now Bank of America, as vice president.

They have three children.

How does your firm work?

Companies hire us to find specific types of backgrounds and experience in a candidate they are looking for. We have an extensive database of resumes that we have developed over the years. We have an active database of roughly 50,000 resumes, just from this area, probably a 100-mile surrounding area, that we have mined and databased all these years. Of course, being in business for 55 years now, we have quite a following.  Those companies that are searching for specific backgrounds or smaller companies come to us that don’t have an HR department or have resources, mainly time constraints, to run their own ad, search through the resumes and try to make a decision on their own. We receive 100 resumes per day based on the job postings we have out there.

Do you really look through all 100 resumes?

Yes. It is very labor intensive. We look at every one individually. If there are duplications we don’t keep looking at those. We actually print out each one, and it is logged into a database that is searchable with key words  This is a free service to applicants. You are not able to charge applicants a fee to help locate them a job in the state of Kansas. So all of our fees are company paid.

Most of your staff has been with you for decades. How have you kept them so long?

It has a lot to do with how we treat employees, with things such as flex time. We work very well together. We’ve molded a good team, here. What’s been amazing is that we’ve been able to keep them all through this economic downturn because business has been tough for a lot of companies through the last three or four years, especially in the employment industry.

Aren’t more companies trying to do the hiring on their own in the downturn?

We’ve heard from companies that have tried to hire on their own, post an ad on CareerBuilder or in The Eagle, and what we hear is: “We ran an ad for a receptionist and I’ve got 300 candidates.” How do they make a decision, and how do they find the time to peruse those resumes? It’s a huge time-saving service that we provide. Companies are doing it internally because they want to keep their HR departments busy. Maybe they’ve got the time on their hands, but as the economic climate improves those HR departments will have less time to find those candidates on their own.

Doesn’t your firm also do headhunting, where you approach people for jobs who haven’t applied?

We like to call it recruiting. Headhunting is maybe an older generic term, but that is in some cases the most effective, fastest way to find a credible candidate before your competitor does. Running ads on job boards takes a lot of time. We do it for exposure and to attract that candidate who might find us. We’re at an advantage because we know so many people. With our length of experience, we recruit more for accountants than any other area.

How else is the database helpful?

It is very difficult to get references on employees because few companies want to give out either positive or negative references of any kind for liability sake. We still ask for references, if we can obtain them. But based on their word, we have a work history. We have to verify that in some way and we can do that by comparing their resumes from year to year as they’ve applied through us. It’s kind of a trade secret. Most companies will refer you to an 800 number which is a database that has dates, and possibly salary history and that’s it, and position title. We’re able to go back to match dates of employ. Granted they construct their résumés from memory and those dates are not there to defraud somebody, so sometimes they’re a month or two off, but if you are six years off, that’s a discrepancy.

Are you seeing the economy improve?

Gradually, It has been pretty flat for the last three years, until six months ago. We’re staring to see an influx in new hiring going on that we really hadn’t expected, mainly in the sales arena.

That sounds optimistic. Doesn’t that mean that companies believe revenues can improve if only they push harder?

It does. Which then leads to increased sales, which leads to other positions opening up, admin support, accountants on up. We believe the oil industry has helped somewhat, with $100 oil, and the ag economy as well with high crop prices. The trickle down to our economy is huge.

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