With U.S. unemployment at record highs amid the global coronavirus pandemic, a Century City recruiting firm had to get creative.
Before the pandemic, Hire Options Inc. had roughly 150 direct-hire openings on any given day — not including temp positions, which change daily. Today, four months into stay-at-home orders in Los Angeles County with millions of people working remotely, that number has significantly declined.
Still, Hire Options co-founders Karen Chasalow Saken, Lisa Aronson and Ira Goldstein saw an opportunity.
The firm formed a Remote Temp Task Force that places recent college graduates and seasoned temporary workers with a specific skill set into temporary positions that can be done remotely. The jobs range from administration and marketing to IT.
“We have these temps out working remotely who otherwise wouldn’t have a paycheck,” Aronson said.
Not all companies have put hiring on hold. The recruiting firm recently placed a chief financial officer at a law firm, and other companies are looking for high-level human resources personnel with experience in diversity and inclusion, seemingly a response to the protests for racial equity that have swept the nation.
Saken, Aronson and Goldstein founded Legal Option Group Inc. in 1997 after working together at a larger recruiting firm. Their company focused on hiring for law firms for a range of positions, from administrators, paralegals and human resource directors to accountants and firm partners.
The pandemic is not the first time the company has adapted to changes in the job market out of necessity.
The partners decided to diversify and expand their client base from solely working with law firms, branching out to the real estate, finance and entertainment industries when the Great Recession hit in 2008 and the job market tanked.
In 2018, they renamed the company Hire Options to reflect their broader approach. The firm’s client list now includes Lions Gate Entertainment Corp., Platinum Equity, Sullivan & Cromwell and Hogan Lovells.
Aronson said she doesn’t see what the firm does as traditional headhunting. They’ve kept the company compact with 12 employees and have consciously chosen to remain small. Saken and Aronson said there is a camaraderie among the staff that starts with the close-knit relationship among the three founders.
“It’s competitive with yourself, not necessarily with each other,” Aronson said. “People are happy when Hire Options as a whole makes a placement.”
For example, four of the team’s recruiters were each seeking a candidate for the CFO position that the firm recently placed. When one of the Hire Options recruiters managed to fill the role, Aronson said, there was a genuine feeling of happiness among the recruiters for their colleague who made the deal.
The benefits for a job seeker using Hire Options’ services are significant, the founder said.
Working with the firm can separate a candidate’s resume from the pile of 100 or so that an employer might get because of the relationships the recruiting firm has established with that employer, Aronson said. She added that trust is a very important element. Hire Options gets many of its candidates through referrals.
The company’s recruiters meet with candidates to review their resumes and talk about what they’re looking for in their career. The conversations will be frank discussions about the reasons why they left a job, for example, which could become uncomfortable. Discussions can also involve how candidates should present themselves in an interview, like what not want to wear.
The recruiters will also help job seekers talk about their experiences with a potential employer. The process is the same whether they’re working with top executives or new college graduates. Hire Options also helps negotiate salaries.
“A lot of people are uncomfortable negotiating for themselves but also selling themselves in a way that doesn’t seem overly confident,” Saken said. “We can offer some insight in terms of how do you want to present yourself and give them confidence to talk about what they’re really good at.
“What you want to do is allow that person to be their best self and set them up for success,” she added.
Vetting both sides
Deborah Wasson, chief operating officer at Wolf Rifkin Shapiro Schulman & Rabkin, has worked with Hire Options for many years both as a candidate and a client. Recently, the recruiting firm placed an operations manager and executive assistant at the law firm.
She said using the firm saves a lot of time and provides a measure of safety because Hire Options is familiar with the job candidates.
When it came to her own career, Wasson reached out to the recruiting firm to see if they had any job opportunities as she was seeking to leave her role as a regional executive director at a large law firm.
“(Saken) found really what has been a very successful position for me,” Wasson said. “It’s been great. It’s really given me a chance to do what I want to do. She really heard.”
Aronson and Saken meet with clients at their workplaces and establish relationships with them to get familiar with the company’s culture in order to make the best matches with potential employers.
“They know that we’re not going to just give them a candidate to give them a candidate,” Aronson said.
Another reason why employers might want to work with Hire Options is that the recruiting firm does much of the research into candidates’ backgrounds for them, which can be time consuming.
And if a direct hire doesn’t work out, clients can be refunded the money they’ve paid to Hire Options — an option that sets them apart from other firms — although that has only happened a couple of times, Saken said.
May Odiakosa, a senior litigation paralegal recently hired by King & Spalding, said she doesn’t think she would have gotten her position without Hire Options. She was laid off from her job at a law firm when the coronavirus struck. The recruitment managers at Hire Options found her the new position and advocated for her even as hiring slowed amid the shutdowns.
“It was just one of those things that I really can’t say they did it as a job; they went above and beyond what a headhunter should do,” Odiakosa said. “They acted as if the job was for them or their sister or their best friend.”