5 Talent Acquisition and Retention Tactics from a Fireside Chat 

Julie Curtis was recently invited to Minnesota State Mankato, her alma mater, to speak in their food entrepreneurship lecture series. The schedule of events culminated in a fireside chat on talent leadership for students hoping to become entrepreneurs. Afterwards, as we discussed the event, we realized much of her advice to these students was equally relevant for HR professionals.  

Here are the top five takeaways from the conversation and how they apply to their HR counterparts. 

1. Be Proactive

Advice to students: Students were encouraged to apply early and often and take all interviews. A proactive attitude ensures application materials and interview skills are always sharpened and ready. It’s also great experience that helps job seekers feel prepared when “the” job comes along. 

How it applies to HR pros: Likewise, good talent acquisition strategies start with proactive planning and preparation. Keep up on industry trends and internal business goals that could affect workforce needs and identify gaps early. Also, don’t wait until a role is open to start scouting—keep an eye out for potential talent so you can reach out to qualified candidates early. A recruitment partner can be a big help in this area because we’re always growing our network of qualified individuals. 

2. Differentiate Yourself

Advice to students: Be prepared to answer the question “Tell me about yourself” in a meaningful way. Think about what makes you different than the next candidate, how it pertains to the role you want, and put together a narrative that demonstrates that. You can include personal details, but always tie it back to how your personal qualities can support the role.  

How it applies to HR pros: Companies need to know who they are and what makes them different just like candidates do. Selling yourself as a business goes much further than candidate interviews, of course. Your brand story needs to be broadcasted out so top-level candidates are familiar with you. Branding and PR efforts are as important for attracting top-level leaders as they are for marketing to clients or customers. 

3. Network

Advice to students: The most important thing you can do is participate, so reach out and get involved. Be proactive in going to jobs fairs, volunteering, joining student organizations, and reaching out to alumni, as just a few examples. These activities help to build out a network of people you can rely on in the future.  

How it applies to HR pros: A network you can rely on to attract and source top talent can’t be overstated, especially when the current labor shortage may continue till 2030. As a retained search firm, Curtis Food is committed to long-term partnerships, and we have access to an extensive network of proven executives—even if they’re not currently on the job market. 

4. Clearly Communicate your Needs

Advice to students: Think about what you want and what you’re comfortable with in a job. This goes beyond compensation and benefits to things like work-life balance and management style. Also think about what you don’t want—what are deal breakers for you? Ask questions to make sure the potential role and company are both a good fit. 

How it applies to HR pros: HR professionals have a lot to juggle. From writing job descriptions to budgeting, interviews, onboarding and more, you are tasked with balancing the needs and wants of both the business and candidates. Is a request for a hybrid work environment acceptable, or do you need daily office interaction in the role? Is there a cultural fit? 

5. Never Stop Growing

Advice to students: Great leaders and entrepreneurs are always working on improving themselves. They are humble enough to understand there’s always something to learn. They find ways to improve and add to their hard and soft skills. After you have a degree or land your dream job, don’t assume your learning is done. 

How it applies to HR pros: Provide development opportunities and programs. In studies of the Great Resignation, many employees stated job enrichment such as training opportunities or tuition reimbursement were highly valued. Making sure they feel acknowledged and appreciated was also a big factor in retention. 

Whether you’re an HR professional looking for your next leader or an entrepreneur scaling up operations, an executive recruiter can help. We’re dedicated to meeting both client and candidate long-term expectations, and by focusing solely on food and retail we have unmatched market reach. To learn more about how a retained partnership with Curtis Food Recruiters can help you, call us at 763-428-1888 or send us a message.  

Julie Curtis founded Curtis Food in 2006 to focus exclusively on executive recruitment for food and retail companies. She has over 25 years of talent acquisition experience, including HR strategy, workforce planning, sourcing, and employee relations.  


ALDI through the Perspective of a College Student

I went to ALDI once as a child, retained a faint memory of being confused about the shopping cart system, and never went back. That is until I went to college and got a reality check, seeing the store through a new perspective. Now, I consider ALDI to be my “go-to” grocery store.  

I do understand the appeal of shopping at larger grocery stores; you are likely to find almost anything you are looking for. However, ALDI provides so much more than convenience. Although it may seem confusing at first, ALDI’s unique way of operating provides a fresh relief from the craziness of the mass retailers. Understanding the cart system, layout, product, and prices, all help make shopping at ALDI a great experience.  

I wanted to provide accurate personal opinions and observations, so in preparation for this article I did my grocery shopping at both a mass grocery retailer and ALDI, here are my comparisons. For those who aren’t as familiar with ALDI, I also included some tips to help understand and navigate ALDI to ensure a great shopping experience: 

Remember Your Quarter! (The Cart System) 

When you first get to ALDI, if you want a smooth shopping trip, my best advice would be as simple as making sure you bring your quarter. The carts are connected to one another, each by a small chain. By putting your quarter in the small slot, it will push out the chain and disconnect your cart allowing you to begin your grocery expedition. If you forget your quarter (something I have done numerous times) no worries, you can grab a box if you see one around the store, otherwise, a departing shopper is usually kind enough to give you theirs upon asking. 

I was at first confused why these extra steps were necessary but implementing this allows for less staff needed at a time, which in the end helps lower prices on food. It also keeps customers accountable for returning carts to help decrease the chances of a rogue cart hitting a car. Once your cart is returned and you hook the chain back in, it will pop your quarter out. Although my own random act of kindness has been to leave my quarter for the next person (helps me sleep at night). In short, bring your quarter, and don’t worry because you’ll get it back once you return the cart.  


When I went to a larger grocery store to shop and do my research, I couldn’t help but notice that when I was walking around it was easy to find myself in someone else’s personal space and vice versa. After thinking about it, I decided to attribute it to the fact that there was no steady flow of foot traffic. Everyone was on their own confusing path to the point that it was overwhelming. ALDI’s has a simpler organization strategy that allows for aisle-like walking space through the produce and bakery section, all without feeling too condensed. This creates a steady flow of energy, instead of the roaming and bumping you find in the vastly open produce and bakery sections of the larger grocery store.  

I love having a feeling of a collective community connection in a grocery store and ALDI promotes this friendly community feel by providing a welcoming, organized environment. Being a college student, I find that the sense of loneliness can tend to be a new concept for people in my age group. To be able to go somewhere I feel connected while having my personal space be for the most part respected, is a nice escape from the close-quartered lifestyle so many of us find ourselves living today.  


One thing that is important to note is that due to ALDI being smaller in comparison, it should be expected that they might not have everything on your grocery list. This frustrated me at first, but I was soon able to find relief in the smaller selection. Whereas when I walked down the chip aisle at the larger grocery retailer, I was greeted by what seemed like an almost staggering number of choices. At ALDI there was still a respectable amount to choose from, but not to the point of being overwhelming. I also appreciate the fact that ALDI tends to have many healthier options and offers a lot of food that is clearly labeled gluten-free and organic. Some of my favorite Aldi products are Friendly Farms oat milk, Choceur dark hazelnut chocolate bars, and Appetitos mozzarella cheese sticks. ALDI has a well-rounded selection of cheeses and high-quality chocolates; I always shop these sections when I’m in the store. I also like to check out the ALDI Finds aisle which has a constant rotation of new household products. 


ALDI’s prices are extremely affordable compared to the larger supermarket I visited. I appreciate this very much, especially during school when I am cooking for myself and there is an even greater emphasis on saving.  

As a student in college trying to balance a budget and prepare my own meals, I appreciate all that ALDI has to offer including affordable prices, quality food selection, and the sense of community that it creates. When grocery shopping, my personal routine is to first stop at my local farmers market (if the season permits) then ALDI. Since ALDI has a more limited selection, if necessary, I will make a quick stop at a larger grocery store to grab the remaining items on my list. I understand some may not like the possibility of needing to make more than one stop, however, I found what caters to my personal needs and wants, as a college student.  

If you are not familiar with shopping at ALDI, I gently encourage you to step out of your comfort zone, even just once, to better understand and optimize your shopping experience in a way that caters best to you. As a side note, I also personally suggest investing in an air fryer, to elevate your food experience and overall quality of life. You can thank me later!  

Sarah Lenz 

Curtis Food Recruiters Expands Senior Recruiting Team and Appoints Greg Sandeno as Executive Search Director

Curtis Food Recruiters is pleased to announce that Greg Sandeno has been appointed as Executive Search Director, effective September 19, 2022. Greg joins our team with impressive credentials including over 30 years’ experience in varied grocery, retail, and consulting organizations. “Greg’s knowledge and network within the retail grocery and food industry make him a perfect fit for Curtis Food Recruiters. His ability to add value in leadership development, strategic planning, and executive search within a wide range of business categories will be a key force in driving growth and improved financial results for our clients,” said Julie Curtis, President of Curtis Food Recruiters. 

Prior to joining Curtis Food Recruiters, Greg served in several high-profile senior leadership positions in industry-leading organizations throughout the United States, including the Fred Meyer Division of Kroger, where he began his career, and Nash Finch. Greg then enjoyed a progressive tenure as COO and CEO with C&K Market where he drove significant financial successes, noteworthy business growth, and substantial operational efficiency improvements. In his most recent corporate role, he served as Executive Vice President of Sales for Coborn’s, Inc. Here he assumed responsibility for full P&L results and designed all sales-driving initiatives.

With a comprehensive background in grocery/retail, wholesale/CPG, supply/logistics, pharmacy, liquor, convenience store, and e-commerce businesses, Greg has been consistently successful in identifying, implementing, and facilitating necessary business transformations and enhancements. In 2016 he successfully started and led, Jericho Consulting, working closely with private equity and venture capital firms. As Principal Consultant at Jericho, Greg focused on improving the internal organizational effectiveness of his clients’ companies in the key areas of people, processes, and technologies, with a focus on merger and acquisition planning.

Soon after starting Jericho, Greg began focusing on the Executive Search side of the business as well by joining PeopleSuite Talent Solutions as Managing Director. Concentrating on the Retail sector, he oversaw the Chicago office, working with Private Equity, Retail, Wholesale, and Supply/Logistics partners within the US. Here he also built a long-term partnership with the Kroger company, filling key leadership roles. Greg is tenacious, focused, performance-driven, and adept at determining the best routes to creating favorable outcomes for his clients. He enjoys spending time with his family, hiking, traveling and is an avid fisherman! We are excited to have Greg join the CFR team!

More details on Gregory Sandeno’s career and related activities can be found via LinkedIn.

About Curtis Food Recruiters

Founded in 2006, Curtis Food Recruiters is a national executive recruitment firm that addresses the challenge of engaging, assessing, and hiring leadership talent within the food manufacturing, CPG, and retail grocery industries. As a woman-owned company, we’re also committed to DE&I, and it shows –over 50% of our placements are women or racially diverse individuals. Our goal and guarantee is to find you the right candidate for your job.

 Let’s start a conversation about building your best team!

Building a Diverse Network in a Hybrid World

Key Takeaways From the NextUp Twin Cities Event

Julie Curtis was the featured speaker at a NextUp event about networking earlier this year. As a member for over 15 years, she was honored to be asked and happy to give back to a community that has enriched her career.

NextUp (formerly Network of Executive Women) is a nonprofit community focused on advancing all women, growing business, and transforming workplaces.

Leading an executive search firm requires constant networking and building relationships, so Julie was the perfect candidate for the job! If you weren’t able to attend the event, you’re in luck. Read on for her key takeaways on building a diverse network in a hybrid world.

Why build a diverse network?

Diverse networks add value. We all know that networking is an important part of building a successful career, but it’s also important to broaden your community. If you want to grow personally and professionally, you need to go outside your comfort zone and hear different experiences and perspectives than your own.

Diverse networks:

  • Encourage diversity of thought
  • Helps us learn from others
  • Broaden viewpoints and perspectives

What does a diverse network look like?

There are so many aspects to diversity that go beyond things like gender, age, race, and ethnicity. Those are great ways to include diversity, but don’t stop there. Think about personal and professional characteristics such as:

  • Industry
  • Experience
  • Level
  • Life stage
  • Communication style
  • Aspiration

Building a diverse network in a hybrid world

1. Rethink what it means to network

A hybrid work environment offers more opportunities to connect and extend our networks beyond our comfort zones.

2. Get uncomfortable

Try new experiences, talk to someone about things you don’t have in common—get out of your comfort zone!

Tip: Ask friends each month for introductions to people in their networks.

3. Find meaningful connections

Think about the “why” behind networking. What do you want to get out of it, and what’s in it for the person on the other side? Reach out to:

  • Peers that hold your role in other companies to gain their perspective.
  • People that have achieved the level you want to achieve (both internally and externally).

4. Seek out “Collabortarians”

Create your own group of people that have different backgrounds, experiences, ideas, and opinions. Use the group for healthy debate and brainstorming.

How to build your network

1. Ask for introductions from others.

Look at your connections on LinkedIn and see who they are connected to that could help build your diverse network.

Ask for an introduction. The answer is almost always “yes.”

Once you have the introduction, ask for a 20-minute GTKY (get to know you) over an in-person or virtual coffee. Know why you want to meet that person and be clear about your intentions. Are you interested in their background, career path, or point of view? Are you considering a job or career change?

Tip: Follow and connect with other people you could learn from.

2. Think about building your network both internally and externally

The biggest mistake people make is only focusing on their internal network within their company, friends, and family. You never know when you will want to, need to, or be forced to look for another role outside of your current organization. Be prepared for that day.

If and when that moment comes is not the time to start building your network—relationships take time to foster.

3. Participate

Join organizations or clubs that you’re passionate about and attend meetups or conferences that speak to you.

It’s important to be active in the groups we belong to. The more you can attend and contribute to online or in-person events, the stronger your network will be. At events, talk to new people and build on relationships that are not as comfortable. Consider going alone, but if you do go as a group don’t sit with your team. Introduce yourself to people you don’t know. You never know where it will lead.

Tip: Look through the participants list prior to the event to determine who you want to meet. If you don’t get the opportunity during the event, connect with them afterwards.

4. Reach out and follow up

A network is not made up of one-time introductions or connections. You have to spend time getting to know people and building real relationship with them. When you read an article or listen to a podcast or TED Talk you think they might find interesting, send them a link. It lets them know you’re thinking about them and how you can contribute to their life and career.

Networking is a two-way street—you should give as much to the other person as they’re giving to you.

Relationships are earned; that’s what drives and energizes our entire team at Curtis Food Recruiters. We feel fortunate that people put their trust and confidence in us each and every day, and we are so thankful for the relationships we have built over the past 16 years.

Our diverse network is made up of proven performers in CPG, food, and grocery retail, and over 50% of our placements represent racial and gender diversity. Reach out to us to find your next role or your company’s next leader.


The Great Resignation: Attracting and Retaining Employees During Record Turnover

Across America, employees are quitting their jobs in record numbers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs in August 2021 alone, and those numbers are climbing. Maybe you’ve even noticed it at your own company.

Industries with the highest resignation rates

Industries that experienced the highest demand during the pandemic also experienced the highest turnover.

  • Hospitality & Leisure
  • Retail (apparel, food, and grocery)
  • Healthcare
  • Education & Childcare
  • Technology

In November 2021, quits increased in several industries, with the largest increases in food services, transportation and warehousing, and health care [U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics]. Blue-collar and white-collar sectors are being equally affected as well as hourly and salaried positions.

What’s driving “The Big Quit”?

It’s easy to blame the stress of COVID-19 for the obvious burnout many workers are feeling, but it’s not the whole story. Research done by Harvard Business Review and MIT Sloan Management Review points to a more insidious root cause that can be hard to identify and even harder to fix: workplace culture.

Specifically, toxic work culture.

Researchers found toxic work culture to be the biggest factor that led people to quit, and it was 10 times more important than pay in predicting turnover.

Identifying toxic work culture

Whether your company has worked on defining and cultivating a workplace culture or not, you have one. Unfortunately, companies that don’t proactively work on a positive culture often develop a negative one.

Many things can create toxic work environments, but here are some of the usual suspects:         

  • Trust and transparency

Companies that treat employees with distrust or discourage open and honest dialogue with leaders put undue stress on employees and lower morale.

  • Recognition and compensation

Heavy workloads and responsibility without proper compensation or opportunities for career growth can be the breaking point for many workers.

  • Leadership and management tactics

It should go without saying that abusive management techniques based on fear or intimidation will drive high performers elsewhere fast, but micromanagement is another big culprit.

  • Lack of concern for mental health and wellbeing

How companies handle workloads, flexibility, and of course, policies around things like return-to-office and vaccines show employees whether companies care about them as individuals or not.

These issues were amplified during the Coronavirus pandemic, leading to a boiling point for large numbers of workers. Many others reported that the pandemic gave them time to reevaluate their jobs, careers, and life goals.

This was especially true for women and older individuals, providing a blow to many companies’ diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) efforts.

Women and Baby Boomers are leaving the workforce

COVID burnout, stress, and job insecurity is leading many older workers in advanced career positions to choose an early retirement. Women are also stepping out of the workforce temporarily (and sometimes permanently) for a variety of reasons. Some of these include being stretched too thin due to remote learning, losing daycare options, choosing to home school in response to COVID concerns, and taking on additional caretaker roles for elderly family members.

What do employees want?

A healthy company culture is at the top of the list, but competitive compensation and benefits are still highly important. Lateral career opportunities and job enrichment such as training opportunities or tuition reimbursement were also highly rated. Lateral career opportunities are 12 times more predictive of employee retention than promotions [MIT Sloan Management Review].

Finally, flexibility for better work-life balance — which is closely tied to culture — was a top consideration.

Flexibility can be as simple as allowing employees to adjust their work hours to better fit their personal schedules (particularly for parents). Allowing employees to work from home a certain number of days each week is another example. In fact, candidates are 2.5 times as likely to apply to jobs that are partially or fully remote.

Leveraging the Great Resignation

Now’s the time to implement a targeted strategy to attract and retain employees, and partnering with a full-service executive recruitment agency can be a crucial component.

Even if you’re not seeing turnover issues internally, this is an opportunity to hire top talent leaving (or considering leaving) other companies.

At Curtis Food Recruiters, our industry insights, research, and access to a network of diverse executive talent gives you a market advantage. As a woman-owned company, we’re also committed to DE&I, and it shows — over 50% of our placements are women or racially diverse individuals. Our goal and guarantee is to find you the right candidate for your job. Reach out to us, and let’s start a conversation about building your best team.

Retail Grocery and Food Manufacturing in 2022: Executive Benefits & Compensation

The retail grocery and food and beverage manufacturing industry is rapidly approaching 2022. We want to provide some important things to consider as you are crafting your executive compensation plans to attract the industry’s most sought-after leadership talent.

Here are some of the current trends that indicate what the future may bring, even with so many unknowns still up in the air. We hope you find this helpful and informative when searching for your next executives.

Advantages & Disadvantages of Various Compensation Plans

What does your executive compensation plan look like?

Ideally, the most attractive plan will balance the support of your company’s goals and align with your corporate strategy. But a great benefit and compensation plan will also discourage self-serving tendencies and instead incentivize your executives to contribute to the long-term growth and profitability of the business.

The variety of packages you may offer could differ dramatically depending on your business, your desired outcome, and the executives you seek.

Compensation Plans For More Immediate Results

Some compensation plans are geared to produce immediate results but are not sustainable for a longstanding growth strategy. Some brief examples are bonuses tied to production and cost-reduction benchmarks, and overall effectiveness

Many executives prefer these benefits because they have a more noticeable impact on the executive’s paycheck and are easier to quantify according to performance and growth metrics.

While these compensation plans can be useful in motivating productivity year over year, they are less effective in increasing overall value and sustainable growth.

Additionally, there is a conflict of interest that should be considered: many executives have oversight to the metrics to which their compensation is measured, and ultimately, tied. Therefore, safeguards should be taken to eliminate the inherent temptation to manipulate the results in order to receive a higher bonus.

Win/Win Compensation Plans

The most effective compensation plans are based on a win/win model: their ultimate purpose is to incentivize the executive to act on behalf of your business and work to increase value and drive the long-term growth and profitability of the company.

Examples of these could include incentives such as deferred compensation and profit-sharing plans or compensation that is ultimately higher but matures over a longer period, such as phantom or restricted stock options with appreciation rights and profit interests.

These incentives may not be the shot-in-the-arm that your immediate packages could offer. But ultimately, they are far more effective in getting the executive’s buy-in to act on behalf of the company as more of a contributor with a long-term strategy, rather than according to their self-interest with more short-sighted goals.

You could choose to offer a variety of incentives. You could even diversify to include some more immediate results that could motivate an executive today, mixed with other compensation that will incentivize higher performance and retention over the long term. Ultimately, it’s important to keep in mind how the success of these plans pivots on two important details:

  1. How strategically aligned their mechanics are tailored to your overall business goals.
  2. Highlight and clearly present how your plan translates to the executive’s own personal wealth.

Increased Benefits and Perks

The wave of employer confidence in hiring is fueling competition for top employees. This, in turn, is fueling a need for increased benefits to attract the top talent.

In 2021, 48% of employers took a strong stance on attracting the industry’s top executives by offering a signing bonus. But it doesn’t stop there. Today’s executives are savvier than ever. We can presume employers who don’t offer a signing bonus will either be asked for benefits of equal value, whether that’s more flexibility or other financial perks.

These days, we’re hearing from executives in the retail grocery and food/beverage manufacturing industries that attractive benefits packages and perks can be just as important, if not more important than their base salary when considering a new position.

In 2022, businesses can expect some of the top benefits executives will be looking for are an increase in health and dental insurance, paid time off, retirement savings plans, as well as robust signing bonuses and relocation allowances. While we may see an increased demand for better benefits, we feel 2022 will be known as the year when perks became a priority for all the industry’s top talent.

Of the perks today’s executives are looking for, the foremost is flexibility like remote work options or flexible schedules. Indeed, flexibility and the ability to have more of a work/life balance was one of the main reasons our CEO founded Curtis Food Recruiters in the first place.

Today’s executives know they can run a household and raise a family, all while contributing to a thriving career as long as their employer recognizes the importance of a work/life balance and makes proactive steps to support their employees in that regard.

Other perks we can expect will be front and center include:

  • Child Care assistance
  • Employee discounts
  • Wellness programs
  • Paid parental leave
  • Stipends for home office equipment
  • Mental health resources

Holistic Wellness Benefits

It is probably not a surprise that during a time when so many people faced an abundance of difficulties and so much uncertainty, executives would want better wellness benefits. Wellness benefits are becoming so popular, we predict that in 2022 wellness, specifically holistic wellness programs, will be at the forefront of an employer’s hiring strategy.

These benefits would include perks such as:

  • Gym memberships and other physical wellness programs
  • Retirement planning for financial wellness
  • Stress reduction programs and other mental wellness programs 
  • Work/life balance initiatives like a compressed workweek or permanent, part-time arrangements

For employers whose hiring strategy focuses on long-term retention and growth, wellness benefits are especially important. They contribute to the long-term care and health of your executives, who, in turn, will be more capable and motivated to care for and grow your company for the long term as well. 

Main Takeaway

Employers, if we could impress one thing you should take away from this, it would be the following statistic: starting salaries for executives across all industries are expected to increase by 3% in 2022.

Executive candidates are willing to look at the total package where salary is only part. It’s important to offer a robust compensation plan, as base compensation, bonus, relocation, LTIP, flexibility, overall benefits, as well as company culture are collectively important in attracting top executives.

If you need a retained partner who has up-to-date, first-hand knowledge of recruiting executives in the food manufacturing and retail grocery industries, contact us. Curtis Food Recruiters can be your advocate in searching for and recruiting the top executive talent you need. Make the most of 2022. Contact us today!

Recognizing National Women’s Small Business Month: How Relationships Have Created 15 years of Success

October is National Women’s Small Business Month. This month has me reflecting on when Curtis Food Recruiters got its start 15 years ago at the intersection between the great need for a new kind of executive recruiting model, and for the flexibility that owning and operating my own agency could provide.

Being a woman-owned business allows us to create relationships like nobody else, because we know there is no way to rush into them. Relationships are earned, and that is especially true in executive recruiting, an industry that is built on and operates with no small amount of highly sensitive, confidential information.

We are also more in-tune with the nuances of confidentiality and are more aware of how essential trust – from years of delivering results – is key to building the relationships on which our entire business model pivots. 

Women Recruiters Are Effective Advocates For Change

As an executive search firm we are constantly asking people to change. Whether that’s changing careers, changing location, or changing a perception of their fit for a role and getting out of their comfort zone and pursuing a great opportunity.

Sometimes it takes a little nudge to get people to consider change, especially when it involves seeing in themselves the talent and capabilities that we see. That’s where we see an opportunity for a better kind of salesmanship because building relationships is crucial. Developing meaningful relationships with prospective candidates, and our clients is what drives and energizes our entire team. We feel fortunate that people put their trust and confidence in us each and every day.

As women recruiters, we focus on an “honest, but positive” perspective. That means sometimes having difficult and candid conversations that focus on sharing positive aspects and the truth that lies in each role and company. There are good aspects as well as challenges to every job. We aim to be honest about those details and represent our clients in the best light.

Our Women-Owned Recruiting Model Focuses on Results

As we continue to celebrate 15 years as a woman-owned small business in the food manufacturing and grocery retail industries, we are so grateful for the opportunities we’ve had to build relationships. It has been an honor to help recruit and place amazing people, create meaningful solutions for our clients and provide mentoring opportunities for those who are at the forefront of their careers. 

But our work is far from done. Even in 2021, we don’t see anyone else serving the food and grocery industry like we do. Our clients depend on our ability to place diverse talent in VP, SVP, and C-Level roles. With the current demand for talent being higher than it’s ever been, we see the need for more women that are qualified and open for executive-level roles in the food industry. That’s what makes our work as a woman-owned and operated executive recruiting firm even more significant in today’s executive search landscape. 

As we celebrate National Women’s Small Business Month, please think about the courage and confidence it took for these women to start and succeed. Support them when you can and think about the generation behind us that needs a mentor along the way.

Julie Curtis
President / Executive Recruiter

 Recently Curtis Food Recruiters earned their WBENC certification. To learn more about working with the leading executive recruiter for the food manufacturing and grocery retail industries, and a woman-owned business that can deliver results, contact Curtis Food Recruiters today. 


Why Choosing a Retained Recruiter Gives You the Advantage

When you need top executive talent, you want them to be the very best. You want your new hire to be able to hit the ground running and begin guiding your company like a seasoned professional. And you want them to stick around for the long-term!

That can be a tall order for anyone in the food manufacturing and grocery retail industry. If you’ve made the first step towards working with a recruiter, you might be wondering what kind of a recruiter you should work with. Retained or contingent?

We wanted to share some of the differences between these unique relationships and demonstrate how retaining Curtis Food Recruiters can not only give you and your company the market advantage but can provide peace of mind you can’t get anywhere else!

Retained Recruiting Vs. Contingent Recruiting

To understand what is best for you and your company, it is best to juxtapose the main identifying factors between the contingent and retained recruiting models.

Characteristics of Contingent Recruiting:

  • No up-front fees.
  • The placement fee is often lower than a retained search fee.
  • You only pay a recruiter if they successfully place a candidate in your business.
  • Contingent firms will often expedite the hiring process – working to fill the position as the highest priority.
  • Contingent search firms have access to a large quantity of candidates actively seeking new employment.

Characteristics of Retained Recruiting:

  • Retained recruiters work with their clients from the very beginning of the candidate search. As partners, the client and recruiter develop a recruiting strategy, and process to follow throughout every step of the recruiting project.
  • The client benefits from their recruiter’s long-term advocacy within the talent community.
  • Often, retained recruiters will work exclusively with their client, offering an unmatched level of service and detail.
  • Retained recruiters can afford to have a highly specialized niche industry to which they recruit, such as the food manufacturing and grocery retail industries. They understand the pain points and nuances of their clients better than anybody else.
  • Retained recruiters can expedite the hiring process by thoroughly vetting their candidates, saving time by offering quality over quantity.
  • Because the client and their recruiter are considered partners, many recruiters will often share their recruiting technology, subscriptions, and sourcing tools with their clients.

Why Only the Best Executive Talent Works With Retained Recruiters

Many candidates who work with contingency firms are often overwhelmed with phone calls from multiple recruiters. Additionally, it is unlikely the candidate will get to meet their recruiter’s client right away. Because of this, answering a call from a contingent recruiter can present the unsavory prospect of more time spent following unpromising leads

The best candidates, on the other hand, are extremely discerning when it comes to handing out their resumes. Since confidentiality is key to a higher level of executive recruiting, they won’t want their resume’s distributed without permission. This is why contingency firms simply aren’t in the same orbit as these high-quality candidates.

As your retained recruiter, you’ll have access to a better pool of talent: our trusted network of proven executives with the perfect mission-driven experience, skills, leadership style, and cultural competencies to match your company.

In the same way, retaining Curtis Food makes us your dedicated recruiter, our talent only works with us for a higher, more intimate level of service and professionalism.

When Diversity is a Priority: Choose Retained Recruiting

In order to understand how retained recruiters are able to offer more diverse options, one must understand how executive outreach into underrepresented communities is made.

Diverse executives have heard it all before. They’ve heard about how employers are eager to work with more diverse talent. Employers are after diverse candidates’ ability to provide a different perspective, add more innovative ideas, and round out the talents of their peers, creating a more unified, resilient, and creative leadership team. 

But putting all that into practice is another story altogether. Hiring diverse candidates is one thing. But creating a business culture that nurtures diversity and fosters equity is something entirely different. The problem is, from the outside looking in, it’s almost impossible to tell the difference between the two. 

Because we are retained recruiters, the diverse executives we work with count on us to know our clients through and through. Moreover, they depend on us to be truthful about your organization and their real potential to truly make an impact and succeed.

The very best diverse executives work with retained recruiters for two important reasons:

  1. They can expect more candid, inside information from a retained recruiter because of our deeper, closer relationship with clients.
  2. Retained recruiters can provide a more thorough and transparent track record of lifting up diverse and underrepresented talent.

When we begin working together on a project, our candidates have access to the fine details of your organization. And with our historical record of success in representing diverse talent, we can truly demonstrate how your opportunity is right for them.

Retained Recruiters Take the Pressure Out of “No Win, No Fee” Recruiting

One thing everyone can agree on – when you need to make a decision about anything, it’s best to have clarity and space to make the right decision. That becomes even more true when you ratchet the stakes higher. And for any company, there may not be any stakes higher than who they hire for executive leadership. 

You may have a fabulous relationship with a contingent recruiter. But there is just no getting around the “no win, no fee” element of contingent recruiting. Simply, if your recruiter doesn’t get their candidate hired, they don’t get paid. 

Retained recruiting eliminates all that in one fell swoop. No pressure. No competition. No confusion or worry that your recruiter is sending you the actual best candidates. And, most importantly, there’s no rush to make an incredibly important decision that requires ultimate clarity and confidence.

Your retained recruiter’s shortlist of candidates comes garnished with all of those luxuries and more: the guarantee that in the highly unlikely case that something should go awry, your partner will be right there for you in a snap. 

The Unique Guarantee of a Retained Recruiter 

What is a guarantee, really?

If you buy a new tv, and the tv doesn’t work, your purchase guarantee means you get a new tv. That is nice and all, but you still have to box up the tv, take it back to the store, and exchange it for another tv (presuming they have your model in stock). In the end, you get the tv you paid for, but not after an unnecessary headache and hassle. 

That is not the case for retained recruiters!

Think of the guarantee of a retained recruiter as the anti-hassle. The key is in two very important components to the relationship you strike in a retained agreement:

1) Accountability is key

Contingent recruiters are simply not held to the same degree of accountability as a retained recruiter. That is because the relationship between a contingent recruiter and their talent is often transactional and informal. There just isn’t the same level of intimacy and trust as the relationship between retained recruiters and their talent.

We are able to proudly call ourselves retained recruiters because when it comes to our talent, the buck stops with us. It’s our reputation and trusting relationship that’s on the line. 

2) Insurance you can count on

The strength and depth of any relationship is rarely put to a full test when everyone’s happy and things are going well. It’s when the unlikely and unexpected occurs you’ll be glad you had the security and resolve of a retained recruiter in your corner. That is why working with a retained recruiter is like buying an insurance policy for your hiring strategy, but better. Your retained recruiter can act with speed and accuracy to provide a seamless solution that is just as good, if not better than your first choice.

That is insurance you can count on to support your hiring strategy.

Why Choose A Retained Recruiter

Working with a recruiter can be a very personal experience. So ultimately, the decision should come down to what’s right for you.

Many employers prefer contingent recruiting because they aren’t looking for a deep, long-lasting relationship with their recruiter. They may prefer a more transactional model in which the recruiter is motivated to work very quickly to complete a project with a short time-to-fill. 

But we’ve found our partners in the food manufacturing and grocery retail industries are looking for the very best management and executive-level professionals. They depend on Curtis Food to provide a different model: that of a high-touch partner who’ll work closely with them every step of the way through the recruitment process. They’re looking for a trusted, long-term recruiter who can ensure the success of their executive hire.

Our retained relationships have meant the world to our clients and have given them the market advantage in sourcing and hiring the very top talent for their company.

We’re excited to talk with you about how we can provide this unique service for your company and how, as your retained recruiters, we can provide a market advantage like nobody else. 

Contact our team at Curtis Food today. We can’t wait to hear from you!

5 Ways to Promote Wellness in the Workplace

Wellness in the workplace isn’t a new concept—far from it. But the events of 2020 have brought employee wellbeing into sharper focus than ever before. In 2021, organizations that recognize this and commit themselves to support their employees have been able to differentiate themselves from other employers by showing they truly value the whole employee, not just what skill sets they bring to the organization.

Our team at Curtis Food Recruiters collected our thoughts on a few of the most effective ways leaders can keep their teams supported, connected, and well throughout 2021. 

Get Everyone on Board

Before you start to build out or enhance your employee wellness initiatives, it’s important to make sure your teams are on board and motivated to participate. Surprisingly, studies show that 80% of employees do not have the inner drive to follow their organization’s wellness programs. Leveraging coaching and educating employees on the benefits of wellness programs can help boost participation and follow through on whichever initiatives you choose to implement. Bringing fresh, engaging and exciting ideas to your wellness program will certainly garner more interest than the outdated models some companies are still using. 

Here are a few tips from SHRM on how to establish and design a wellness program that works from the start!

Get Your People Moving

Exercising is an undeniable antidote for a variety of negative conditions, physical and mental alike. Commit your organization to step up its fitness goals in 2021. You can promote friendly competition and accountability for a variety of physical activities like jogging, biking (if you’re in Minnesota like us, maybe put this one on hold until Spring!), steps challenges, yoga and more. Decide what’s best for your unique company makeup and get your people moving in 2021.

Ongoing Virtual Employee Wellbeing Sessions

Based on what is feasible for your organization, providing an opportunity for your team members to seek out a wellbeing session is one of the most effective and helpful ways to respond to challenging times. Whether it’s guided meditation, yoga, or simply someone to talk to, it’s important to make it clear to employees that it’s okay if people are struggling and that you’re here to help them through it. 

Unplug and Recharge

In addition to the structured wellness programs you incorporate, don’t be afraid to get a little creative and personal as well. “Unplug and Recharge” is an idea that supports employees on an individual basis by championing the wellness practices they want to explore. Whether it’s a two-hour window every Thursday where someone can go for a walk, take a long lunch, read, run errands, or simply unplug, dedicating a period during the week where your teams have the liberty to choose what’s best for them can speak volumes about your commitment to wellbeing and encourage participation in whatever other initiatives you put forward.

Celebrate Employee Achievements

We know you probably already recognized employees of the month before the pandemic—but in 2021, it’s best to take that a couple of steps further. Create a genuine culture of celebrating one another. Encourage people to shout out fellow team members for how they are valuable. Whether it’s in weekly company-wide meetings or smaller daily encounters, carve out time for your people to appreciate one another this year. It matters!

Make Your Office Greener

This may seem a little outside-of-the-box, but the amount of data supporting the benefits of interacting with nature, can’t be ignored. To combat a year dominated by being sequestered indoors, help your employees reconnect by injecting your office space with a little more green. Bringing nature inside office walls with indoor plants (succulents are great options), moss walls, water features, and open windows where feasible, can work wonders and help employees fight back against a year of disconnectedness and separation. 

Wellness ideas like the ones listed above serve as a great launchpad for doing whatever part you can in supporting your team members through difficult times. Beyond just intrinsically being the appropriate response, as the pandemic shifts the dynamic between employers and employees, having a comprehensive employee wellness plan (and having people know you have it) is becoming a competitive necessity. 

Curtis Food Recruiters 

As a full-service executive search firm, Curtis Food Recruiters has successfully matched skilled job seekers with prominent businesses throughout the food manufacturing and grocery retail industry for over a decade. If you’re searching for your next top performer or need help advancing your career, contact us today and we’ll leverage our vast industry experience to move your hiring needs forward. 

Opening the Door to an Executive Recruiter

Are you open to a new opportunity? If so, you are in the right place.  

This blog will equip you with actionable tips to help find your next rewarding career opportunity while highlighting the advantages of partnering with an executive recruiter in your hunt.    

Regardless of your situation, you may feel a bit discouraged in your job search. You’re not alone. Nationally, the hiring process has taken a lot longer than usual, with many leadership roles being put on hold midstream until organizations can confidently get through COVID-related challenges.

The good news is the economy is beginning to thaw; it’s just a little slower than we all hoped. But fear not, there WILL be another leadership position coming your way, and a great tip to speed up the job-seeking process is to work with an executive recruiter.

Why Work With an Executive Recruiter?

As a job seeker, there’s a variety of reasons why working with a seasoned recruiter can help streamline and improve your job search, but for the sake of time, we’ll cover two of the greatest benefits: 

  • Broadens Your Network – Very few professionals have a network as vast and as well-connected as a recruiter. Working with a recruiter opens the door to their massive network, giving you a competitive hiring advantage.
  • Partner For Your Job Search – Your recruiter is your hiring ally. They have your best interests in mind and genuinely want to help prepare you with details about the company, role and leadership team.  

What Type of Executive Recruiter Should I Work With: Retained or Contingent?

Understanding the difference between working with a retained recruiter and a contingent recruiter is vital to determine which is best for your unique situation.  

  • Retained Recruiter – A retained recruiter works on an exclusive basis for a client. They typically have a close relationship with the employer and know the culture, the history, and the leadership team. They are focused on finding the right combination of education, skills, leadership style, and contribution to their client’s culture. 
  • Contingent Recruiter – Contingent recruiters are typically generalists who work with various industries and types of positions. They do not often have an exclusive relationship with the employer; the employer only pays the contingent firm once they place a candidate. 

It’s important to note that employers often have relationships with both. In general, contingent recruiters are best at filling junior-level roles and are willing to market your resume to multiple potential employers. Retained recruiters are better suited for senior-level leadership positions that often require a particular skill set. Many of their roles are critical hires, confidential or immediate needs.  

Job Hunting Tips From Our Top Recruiters

With a combined fifty years of experience connecting job seekers to meaningful employment opportunities, the team at Curtis Food Recruiters put their heads together to develop five tips that will help you land your next role faster. 

Get Active in Your Network

It’s easy to take your network for granted while you’re gainfully employed. You might attend an occasional conference, belong to a professional association or have colleagues that you network with, but for the most part, you’re busy with life and work. It is important to continually refresh both professional and networking relationships.  

While 2020 has presented some unique challenges in networking, it’s a great time to pick up the phone and reach out to colleagues you have worked with in the past. People are willing to have those conversations now more than ever. It’s a great way to stay on someone’s radar. 

Additionally, you’d be surprised how many professional organizations are hosting virtual meetings. Be sure to engage in those meetings and aim to be an active participant – it certainly can’t hurt!

Get Social

Take time to be active on social media platforms, especially LinkedIn. This shows prospective employers that you are a thought leader. Write engaging posts, share interests, and interact (liking, commenting, and sharing) with potential employers. Ensure that your social media profile is exactly how you want to present yourself. Consider taking down pictures or posts that do not represent you in a professional way.

Keywords and Key Phrases 

Take a look at your online profiles (LinkedIn, Monster, etc.) and determine what keywords and key phrases a potential employer is using as search terms. To start, review the job descriptions for any positions that you’re interested in. Write down as many keywords and phrases that seem relevant to your next role. 

Now that you have your list, spend some time thinking (and writing down) experiences that you have had. Challenging problems you have solved. Outstanding successes you have had in current/past employers. Write 2-3 sentences that describe the type of position you are most qualified for, and then add the keywords and phrases that are relevant. Adding concrete data and real numbers is a huge advantage, if possible (i.e. “Grew manufacturing sales by 15%”).  

Flexible Resumes

Keeping your resume flexible and making sure it is specifically tailored to the role you’re interested in is critical. There’s nothing that says, “average” to a potential employer more than having a generic resume. Take time to customize your resume for each job application you send. This doesn’t have to be anything elaborate; simply updating job descriptions and experiences accurately to reflect the relevant position is a great way to show your interest.


You’re likely to have interviews, but they may look a little different. Video interviewing is pretty much industry standard right now, so be sure to have a decent internet connection and proper attire. It’s also incredibly vital to embrace the importance of listening and not over-sharing. Practice and be prepared to speak to all aspects of your career that make you stand out, and be able to explain how those experiences will make you successful in the role you are interviewing for. After the interview, be sure to follow up with a thank you, and if you don’t end up getting the job, ask for feedback – positive and critical. Accept rejection gracefully. 

Using one or all of these tips will certainly help you get ahead. Here’s the bottom line: reach out and connect with people. You never know who knows someone looking for your exact background, expertise and personality. Your recruiting partner is your best advocate, so when in doubt, reach out. Good luck!  

About Curtis Food Recruiters 

For over a decade, Curtis Food Recruiters has been matching food and beverage professionals with prominent, rewarding career opportunities. As a full-service executive search firm specializing in the food manufacturing and grocery retail industries, we are dedicated to helping job seekers find (and land) the perfect positions. Contact us today so we can do the same for you.