Ooqio Spotlight: Preparing for your Next Best Career Move with Allen Partners

How do you get a foot back in the door if you’ve left the workforce? What about when you’re unexpectedly out of a job? To answer these questions and more, we sat down with Debbie Oberbillig, founder of Allen Partners Recruiting and Staffing, in this week’s Ooqio Spotlight.

Debbie Oberbillig Allen Partners

You say the best time to find a great opportunity is when you have a job. Why is that? And what should you do if you’re not currently working?

It’s not fair, but it is a very real thing that people who are already employed are viewed as “hotter commodities,” so to speak. If you’re not currently working, there’s a natural response for people to wonder why.

If you have a good reason for being unemployed, you might put it directly in your cover letter. For example, “recently relocated and seeking new opportunities” or “returning to work after a family leave.”

The other thing you can do is to look for contract-to-hire roles. If you want to start working again, it’s a great way back in and it also helps build your resume.

Many times companies don’t have authorization to hire a full-time employee yet, but they anticipate they’re going to get it soon. In these cases, they’ll look for contract workers to fill that role in the interim. It’s perfect for someone who’s not working because they get that exposure and a foot in the door, and it also makes them more marketable because they’re working.

Some people might shy away from contract work because they view it as temporary, but you’re saying that’s often not the case.

Right. It turns into a permanent position more often than people would expect. Another thing people are surprised by is the power of their own network. A lot of times people feel funny about asking around, putting out feelers for new opportunities, but so many times that’s how new doors are opened.

You don’t have do it in a desperate way. You can be diplomatic about it and say “hey, I’m in a flexible situation and I’m open to new opportunities. Do you happen to know of anything that might be a good fit?” If you show eagerness for new opportunities, people tend to send them your way.


You believe it’s best to work with a talent adviser before you need one. How does that work?

Unemployment in Seattle is under about 3% for a degreed candidate. So, qualified candidates are getting offers all the time. But if you’re working, it’s hard to respond to those inquiries because how often can you leave work for a “coffee meeting” or a “dentist appointment?”

By working with a talent firm, the person can learn more about what opportunities are out there in terms of salary, benefits, etc. We say we offer “employment intelligence” because we know what’s going on in the marketplace. We know a LOT about the companies in and around Seattle.

So, let’s say we know a company has a reputation for its employees working long hours. We’re working with a candidate who just had a baby and is looking for a little more work-life balance. We can advise them on how to respond to an inquiry from that company, because we know from experience that it might not be the best match.

We can also give a candidate advice like “stay at your current job a little longer” or “hone in on skills X, Y and Z” to make themselves even more marketable when they do start interviewing.

What type of criteria might a candidate give you when deciding what they want in a new position? Do they say “I want to make this much money” and you go out looking for it?

Well, no, and let me talk a bit about that. If a candidate is only driven by money, the problem is that they’ll likely stay at their current job despite any opportunities we find for them. Here’s why.

We’ll go through this long process of finding a good fit, they’ll go through the interview process and receive an offer, and then they’ll go to their current boss and try to resign, but they’ll receive a counter offer matching the new salary. If money is the only motivator, it’s much more convenient to just stay in that same position and that whole process was for nothing.

If a candidate is looking to make more money, I’ll often coach them on exactly how to go about asking for more from their current employer. If they’re truly ready to make a move, there will be underlying factors other than money like opportunities for advancement, company culture, etc.

What are your favorite tools for helping make a perfect job match? Is it an innate skill? Is there a certain software you rely on?

It’s a little bit of a secret sauce made up of all of the above: intuition, experience and the right tools.

Each company has its own culture, and I’d say that’s really important. I personally might really like a company, but it’s all about whether the candidate will feel the same way. You can’t just read a job description and decide whether or not a position is right, because that description was made up by HR and not in the actual environment in which the person will be working.

It’s most important to get the candidate and the employer together, face to face, to experience the environment and the chemistry firsthand. I can’t stress the importance of this enough.

Debbie Oberbillig grew up in the business working in her family’s recruiting company prior to joining a national firm. She started Allen Partners in 2003. For more information about Debbie and her company, visit AllenPartners.com.

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