Exploring the science of recruiting, with savvy

Big picture: Entrepreneur Felicia Fleitman took her time launching Savvy Hires, and knows her recruitment consultancy's unique verticals won't develop overnight. (Photo by Bob Giglione)

Felicia Fleitman is in no rush.

Don’t call her “slow and steady,” because development of her first-ever startup, Westbury-based Savvy Hires, is not going slowly, but at its own proper pace.

However, there’s a certain deliberateness to Fleitman, who gleaned from early professional experiences that she wanted to start her own company – she even knew what kind – but recognized she wasn’t quite ready.

So she decided to get ready, charting a very specific professional course – years long –  that would give her the exposure and experiences she needed.

Her first professional tour, running campus-recruiting efforts for two different New York City law firms between 2005 and 2010, had already laid the groundwork. Fleitman managed summer-associate programs, handling both recruitment – working directly with campus-based career-services offices – and execution, including coordination of networking events.

She also helped develop strong evaluation processes, all with the goal of “creating a funnel of new talent to the firm.”

“That experience showed me the benefits of recruiting directly from colleges,” Fleitman noted. “And it really showed me what a strategic internship program can do for a business.”

It also instilled that entrepreneurial desire, though the young professional was savvy enough to know she still needed seasoning.

So, in 2010, Fleitman went to work for Manhattan-based BevForce (and its sister business, FoodForce), which staffs executive-level positions across the food and beverage industries.

She rose from recruiter to become the company’s first-ever recruitment manager and even launched a new business unit that leveraged digital interviewing technologies to help identify new talent. Including partnerships with high-visibility brands like Bacardi and Nature Made, the BevForce experience taught Fleitman the power of the niche consultant.

“They were so boutique,” she noted. “I really came to understand how an outside agency that does one specific thing can benefit a business.”

But still the future entrepreneur felt something was lacking.

“I felt it was really important, before starting a business, to sink my teeth into IT and also consulting,” Fleitman said.

That led her to NYC-based global IT innovator NTT Data, where she became director of recruiting – a stretch that taught Fleitman the ropes of recruiting technical talent and of working with contingent labor, such as freelancers and interns.

With a multitude of lessons learned, in July of this year, Fleitman finally launched Savvy Hires.

A resident of LaunchPad Westbury – Fleitman was among the first to throw down at a September Pitch Night heralding the newest LaunchPad – the recruitment consulting firm is designed to help companies and job candidates navigate the hiring process, with innovative approaches to internships, direct-from-campus hires and the autism-spectrum workforce.

Not all of those verticals are thriving yet. Phase 1 is just getting going, Fleitman said, with a beta run scheduled for January to test out a new digital “recruitment platform” that “uses data and machine learning to assess candidates at the application phase.”

“It’s based on the only three things that hiring managers actually care about: skill set, engagement and cultural fit,” Fleitman noted.

The general idea is to “replace a Monster or a Career Builder” with a more efficient, more scientific method of matching talent and opportunity, the entrepreneur noted.

“The idea of a candidate applying for a job and never hearing back is from the past,” she said. “We’re inventing more of a two-way communication system to give companies and candidates an ongoing level of engagement.”

Also starting to percolate is the consulting side of Savvy Hires, where Fleitman is “marrying” her law firm and agency-side experiences.

In addition to developing mentoring- and evaluation-heavy summer-recruitment programs “customized directly to the company,” the innovator is creating a “rotational internship program” that extends the benefits of interns to smaller companies that can’t always support them.

“Small businesses may say they can’t keep an intern busy and they certainly can’t put together an internship program,” she said. “So in this program, a group of students – marketing majors, for instance – rotate through a group of small businesses over the summer.

“Now we’re exposing students to not one learning opportunity, but four or five,” Fleitman added. “And companies that will normally get no interns, or maybe one, are exposed to a whole group of potential hires.”

Future phases will focus on developing hiring opportunities for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. It’s a potentially enormous, and largely untapped, employee pool, according to Fleitman, who’s been working with Adelphi University’s Bridges to Adelphi program – which helps ASD students transition from high school to college – to identify employment opportunities for upperclassmen.

“These students may not succeed in traditional job interviews, but they’re just as talented as their peers who aren’t on the spectrum,” Fleitman said, noting the “huge number” of autism diagnoses happening every day. “So we’re taking that mode of strategic internships and applying it not only to small and mid-sized companies, but specifically as it relates to students with ASD.”

Fleitman launched Savvy Hires with only a $500 investment, thanks largely to legal services provided gratis by her husband, Deer Park attorney Jacob Fleitman. She’s not looking for outside investments just yet – she’ll pitch seriously after the beta run, she said – but she’s already received “really great feedback” after her LaunchPad pitch and in private conversations with individual investors.

For now, the solopreneur is focused on brand-building. She’s on the board of directors at APICS, the professional organization for supply-chain management, and is a mentor for Long Island-based women’s business network Moxxie, among other networking opportunities.

It’s also “a little too early for the ASD program,” she acknowledged, but citing impressive statistics – including “92 percent (of ASD professionals) either unemployed or underemployed” – she predicted that situation will evolve quickly, along with her other well-planned verticals.

Sometimes, Fleitman noted, these things just take time.

“Once I launch the digital platform, it’s going to change the recruitment industry,” she said. “These models will prove valuable not only to our regional economic development, but to economic development in communities around the country.

“Frankly, I think Long Island needs us.”

Savvy Hires

What’s It? Innovative recruiting firm with a scientific approach to the hiring process

Brought To You By: Long-term thinker Felicia Fleitman

All In: About $500, because having a lawyer in the family rocks

Status: On the job

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