Vice president, Robert Half, 100 B St., Ste. 220, Santa Rosa 95401, 707-578-3355, roberthalffinance.com

Age: 44

Residence: Rohnert Park

Education: B.S., business management, with an emphasis in human resources, San Francisco State University

Staff: Three

[caption id="attachment_94218" align="alignright" width="221"] Amanda Howell[/caption]

Tell us about yourself and your company: I am a recruiting professional with over 20 years in the field. For 12-plus years I have been with Robert Half, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm. With more than 340 locations worldwide, we have a comprehensive network of highly skilled talent to assist clients with even their toughest business challenges. For more than 15 years, we have been named to Fortune magazine’s list of Most Admired Companies, and we are traded on the New York Stock Exchange. 

One thing that truly distinguishes us is our specialized approach -- each division has a separate focus: Accountemps, Robert Half Finance and Accounting and Robert Half Management Resources, for temporary, full-time and senior-level project professionals, respectively, in the fields of accounting and finance; OfficeTeam, for highly skilled office and administrative support professionals; Robert Half Technology, for IT professionals; Robert Half Legal Legal for the staffing of attorneys, paralegals and legal support personnel; and The Creative Group, for interactive, design, marketing advertising and public relations professionals.

Is there a major accomplishment in the past year or so that you would like to share? I recently ranked No. 1 in the world for President’s Club at Robert Half’s annual achievement awards, based on my contribution to the company in 2013. Being based in the North Bay, I was so proud to have ranked above colleagues in large markets in Germany, United Kingdom, Dallas, New York, Los Angeles, San Jose, etc.

What is the achievement you are most proud of? Attending the annual achievement awards is certainly one of my biggest career highlights. On a daily basis, I am most proud when clients I worked with years ago call and ask for me because of the successful placements I made with them. Similarly, when I am able to play a role in finding a candidate his/her dream job that is extremely fulfilling.

 What is your biggest challenge today? The current employment market is characterized as "the great skills divide." Those with specialized skill sets are in high demand and short supply. For example while the national unemployment rate sits at over 6 percent, many positions in accounting and finance have unemployment rates in the 3 percent--5 percent range and the rate for college degreed workers over the age of 25 is only 3.3 percent. Ensuring that we have an unparalleled selection of qualified candidates for every search we work on is the biggest challenge we face right now. This is where our extensive network plays a key role, from a local perspective all the way to up to global. 

Words that best describe you: Tenacious, diligent, hard working, and quick to laugh.

As a successful female professional, what were the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?: Earlier in my career, I was a single mom, so the balance between being strong in my career, and being a good parent was tough. We definitely had to penny pinch. In November 2001, I was laid off from my job in the Silicon Valley, but within two weeks I had “marketed” myself to Robert Half in Santa Rosa and landed the job. Twelve and a half years later I am at the top of my field and putting my daughter through college without taking out any loans. Hard work is the best way to overcome obstacles.

How do you think your profession will change in the next five years? As the economy continues to gain steam, we know that companies in most industries will need to add resources to help keep up with the growth. We expect that many employers will want to proceed cautiously and employ a flexible staffing approach. This could mean a combination of full-time, contract and temporary hiring to help minimize fixed costs and yet still take advantage of opportunities to increase revenue/profits. With the specialized skills shortage that I mentioned earlier, we also expect to see an even more significant focus on recruiting and retaining talent.

Who was your most important mentor? And tell us a little bit about that person: I think both of my parents were excellent mentors in work ethic. They were self-employed retailers and they taught me that you have to earn what comes your way. Also, in my mid-20s, I had a boss who told me that everything doesn’t have to be black and white -- there are a lot of shades of grey. And successful business people work on what they can change, and let go of frustration about what they can't change. I am much more patient as a result.

What advice would you give to a young woman entering your profession or the work world today?: I would certainly tell anyone entering the staffing industry not to give up if you hear a few (or a lot of) “no’s.” The most successful people I know in staffing kept at it for more than two years -- that is about how long it takes for clients to remember your name and call you first when they need help. This advice applies to any career -- commit to your profession and give it your full effort for at least two years before expecting a promotion. The committed employees are often tapped for more responsibility sooner. If you think only in short term success, you may find yourself constantly changing professions.

Most admired businessperson outside your organization: I can think of several business people I admire, so it’s hard to narrow it down to my “most admired”. There is a CFO who I’ve worked with for years, initially in Sonoma County and now in her current role in San Francisco, who is a very intelligent and accomplished businessperson, so much so that I was a bit in awe of her when we first met. As I got to know her better, I realized that she has a generous spirit and goes out of her way to help people. I’ve been impressed, and sometimes humbled, by her generosity.

Current reading: The White Princess by Phillipa Gregory. I love to escape into fiction after a hard day at work.

Most want to meet: There are lots of interesting people, but I think Ellen DeGeneres might be the most fun to meet.

Stress-relievers: Laughing, reading, neck and shoulder massages, and snuggling with my son.

Favorite hobbies: Did I mention reading? Also, we recently took up kayaking, which is a lot of fun.

Anything to add?: Well, I wouldn’t be a good recruiter if I didn’t invite your readers to connect with me on LinkedIn.