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Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor

Steve Alexander, Associate Editor

Bud Wayne, Marketing
& Production Manager

Christy Rivers - Editorial Associate


Matthew Walsh, CEO & Founder of Blue Signal discusses navigating a pandemic and looking to the future.

Matthew Walsh


Blue Signal


Matt Walsh/Blue Signal


Interview conducted by:

Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor

CEOCFO Magazine

Published – July 19, 2021

CEOCFO: Mr. Walsh, what is the overall focus behind Blue Signal and what is your focus right now in this environment?

Mr. Walsh: Blue Signal is an award-winning multi-million-dollar staffing and recruiting firm. We specialize in all levels of placement, from executives down to individual contributors. We work in spaces including wireless, telecom, technology, IoT, IT, manufacturing, supply chain, medical, healthcare, logistics, and more. We offer different search options: contingent, engaged, retained, and contract staffing. We are nationwide and have about 45 team members throughout the US. Our goal is to partner with companies and work with them as they hire, obtain, coach, mentor, and build strong talent within their organization.


CEOCFO: What does Blue Signal understand that gives you an edge over your competitors?

Mr. Walsh: For us, it is that we understand the marketplace we are going after exceptionally well. By that, I do not just mean the individual industries of domains that I mentioned before. I mean that we understand the actual people that are in those places. Therefore, we take a very candidate-centric approach where we understand who they are, why we are talking to them in the first place, what their career drivers are, and what they would be looking for in their next role if they were to make a move. That is because let's face it, the good people do not have to make a move today. As soon as they apply for a job, they are going to get seven or eight interviews and likely going to get several offers. We work with them to make sure that it is the right fit, long term.

Our approach goes through a 12-point cultural assessment. For each candidate, we go through a customized matching process. If they are the right fit for our client, we check that box. That is why we rank well above the industry average for retention, placements, and temp-to-hire. We proudly boast all of those stats on our website and understand that they are well above the industry average.


CEOCFO: How do you help a potential candidate realize what they really want? How do you help an employer crystallize what they really need?

Mr. Walsh: That is a good question and probably one of our favorite parts of the job. Because you are right, what they are asking for and saying they are looking for oftentimes is not what they really want or need. From a candidate's perspective, we ask some prying questions about their current work culture, their lives, and how they are affected by their work life. We ask, "Where do you want to be in five years? Ten years?" If you do know the answer, "What steps are you taking in order to facilitate that that is going to happen? Tell me about some of the things that you enjoy on the job. Tell me about some of the challenges. What would you change? What was your favorite job, more specifically, why?" As we are asking a lot of the questions about jobs, we then can turn it around into actual careers. "Here are the steps you have taken, here is what has worked, here is what has not worked, here is where I want my career to go, and here is why." Just by asking some of these open-ended questions, it helps them to identify what it is that they genuinely, truly enjoy, and want out of their career. Because let's face it, we do not live to work, we work to live. As a wise person once said, if you really enjoy your job and you are passionate about it and you love it, you never have to work a day in your life. Therefore, we really work with our candidates and clients to give them that.


On the client side, oftentimes you are right, they will just give us the job description or say we are looking for this, and the first question we ask is, “Why? What is driving that need? Walk me through how this role is going to impact the overall organization.” Sometimes we do end up changing the role, the scope, the title of the role, or we break the role out into two different areas. We gain understanding of what the actual need for the organization is and then talk about how a person might fit in there, versus just asking for the person they are looking for. We get a lot of fulfillment out of working really hard with a lot of presidents, board members, and C-level executives, to understand the overall need of the company and where it is going. Then we can help them to formulate a talent plan and decide how to hire those folks. The best part about what we do is we educate our clients on today’s current market conditions. Does that person exist? Can I afford that person? Would they be here on site? Geographically, where would they be coming from? What companies actually house this type of person? Through our years of experience and in-depth market knowledge and know how we are able to help them formulate that talent acquisition strategy.   

CEOCFO: Where does gut feeling come into play? When one of your people is talking to a potential candidate, they are checking certain boxes as they are asking certain questions and getting answers, but sometimes there is just an impression that you get. Where does that come into play? Do you try for it not to?

Mr. Walsh: That is a good question. In full transparency, I still run a full desk. I love this job! I do not see myself doing anything else. It is so rewarding to be able to help change lives by filling these roles, working on these roles, seeing not only organizations but people really succeed in what they are trying to do based off of the work that we have done. It is really a passion of mine. With gut feel; absolutely, you have to trust your instincts and you have to trust your feelings, based on all of your past experiences - some good, some bad. There are times when we talk to candidates or talk to clients and we get off the phone and we say, “Wow, that was a real winner. This person is going to go places and here is why. In all of my past experience, here is what my instinct is telling me.” Absolutely!”


As a recruiter, as a business owner, as a career professional, you always have to trust your gut and trust your instinct. We will tell them where we think they should go, what we think they should be looking for, but we offer objective advice on both sides. Let us talk about pros and cons. “We like this candidate because of all of these reasons, however here are our concerns,” and we do the same thing with a candidate. “We like this company because of all these reasons; however, here are our concerns.” No job is perfect. No candidate is perfect. And we are okay with that. Our goal is to provide as much factual data as we possibly can, avoiding any opinions, because it is not our hire. Especially now, we are so focused on diversity and inclusion and making sure that we are hiring without bias, educating our clients and candidates, and offering equal opportunities. We have been practicing this for over 6 years, so it is really great to hear how other companies are now becoming in tune with inclusive hiring practices. We have been keeping track of these metrics and are proud of be ahead of the curve.


We keep track of who we interview, how we interview, who we submit, and who they hire. We do this for all of our clients and of course we do it for ourselves, internally. The biggest thing is to ‘not’ go with the gut feel, to not go with what your opinion is, to get away from all of those biases and focus primarily on the actual facts, the data, the concrete tangible evidence of, “Is this person qualified? Are they not? Can they do this job? Can they not?” We present that to the client and then they get to formulate their opinion without any influence from us whatsoever.  


CEOCFO: What has changed through COVID? What has changed over the last year of so - how you work with companies, how you work with clients, how you work internally?

Mr. Walsh: Our internal team was already remote. We were already focused on building out a remote workforce and were already going through the steps of building that culture out. We were extremely fortunate that we did not have to skip a beat when this pandemic hit, because we were already prepared for the situation. However, it did make us really recognize the human element behind our work and why we are doing this. Especially when we were trapped in our homes- we were all quarantined and work was a big part of our everyday routine. How do we ensure that there is a human element and everyone is enjoying what they are doing? It did give us a good opportunity to check in internally, let us make sure that we have the right process, procedure; everything in place to not only provide support and structure to every single employee, but also empower them to help do whatever it is they need to do, not just professionally, but also in their personal lives. Whether it is freedom, whether it is more time, whether it is a flexible schedule, whether it is more money, whether it is; insert 50 different things here. We want to create an environment, a workplace where you can come to work, and then go out and fulfill your life because of all those additional things you are getting, not the other way around where work comes first, and life second. We took a deep look internally and were able to optimize several things that I cannot take credit for. This is only possible because of our HR team, our marketing team, our operations team; fantastic people over here and they were able to really come together and push through this and I have been very, very proud and honored to work with all of them.


On the client side, we have been asked a lot, “How did you change? How did you evolve and pivot?” It has been very neat that over the last 18 months we have been able to offer a lot of this advice as to what we have done, how we adjusted, our virtual onboarding process, interview processes, and our hiring process and workflows. Many clients have actually taken much of our advice and suggestions for software, tools, and technology, to make sure that they can understand and fully comprehend what a remote workforce could look like, or even a hybrid model. Then, it has been a challenge to find good talent. Going into the pandemic, we were already heading into a time where talent was the hardest to find. You can do the math. If you look at the majority of the workforce- it is the Baby Boomers who are getting ready to retire. They are all leaving and this pandemic, fortunately or unfortunately, exacerbated that. Many Baby Boomers were set to retire within the next three years and were asked to furlough and of course, many of them took it voluntarily. The stock market continued to go up, so many of them are going to stay retired. Now when the companies are calling back saying, “Listen, that 2-to-3-month blip; we changed our mind, we are still going to grow, we are still going to expand, we need you back, can you come back?” and they say, “No- I am good. I am fine. I do not need to come back into the office. I am happy and glad you forced me into retirement because I got to spend more time with my family and find out what is really important and I want to keep doing that.”

The recruiting void that there was in 2019 and had to end in 2020 has only grown further! We have never been busier! It has been a challenge and we educate our clients on how they need to change their hiring model to basically move fast, find good people, and execute on them as soon as they possibly can. It has been a lot of explaining today’s market conditions to our clients as to how they can move fast enough to get the right people. Whether it is remote hiring, remote interviewing, streamlining your interview process, updating your onboarding process to get people on sooner, it is a war for talent and it is our job to coach our clients on how they can move fast and get the right people at the right time. On the candidate's side, there has never been a better time to make a move. Going into 2019 we were starting to say to our candidates, “You can be selective.” Now that this pandemic has happened and COVID has happened you should be asking a lot of questions surrounding that--What did your company do during this and how did they change? What are they going to be doing moving forward? You really need to get a good understanding of who the company is and there has been no better time, in the last couple of decades, to really understand how they adjusted through a pandemic to take care of their workers, protect their culture, respect their people, honor their people, and thrive during those times. What did they do to keep the business afloat, and support their employees? You need to be asking your clients these questions.


Of course, we educate our clients on having good answers to these questions, but you need to ask anyone you are interviewing, “How did you do all of these things; and what does growth look like? What does the future look like here? If I were to come work with you and I hit on all expectations, what is in it for me?” It is alright to ask those questions now. Before, you could not ask what was in it for you. It was all about, “What can I provide to the company? What can I provide to your department? Why should you hire me?” Yes, you still need to cover those things, but now more than ever, it is certainly fair and acceptable to ask, “What is in it for me? How are your benefits? What is your culture like? What does career growth look like? If I were to come over here, what are the steps I can take to get promoted?” Therefore, it is just that slight change in mindset for both us here internally and for all of our candidates and for many of our clients.

CEOCFO: We came upon Blue Signal from your recognition by Inc as a Best Workplace. Was it a deliberate strategy to create an environment that would be that way or more just your personality and values that comes through?

Mr. Walsh: A lot of the awards such as Forbes, Inc., and some of the others, we just got recognized for and nominated and the next thing you know they said, “Hey, by the way, you have won this.” Some of them, we actually applied for and were nominated. I cannot take too much credit. That is our people and culture team, our marketing, our operations; we genuinely are really good people and enjoy what we do. As I said earlier, I personally still run a full desk and I enjoy that. That is my favorite part of the job. Therefore, I think that for Blue Signal, or me as a leader, it is very easy for me to ask other people to do what I am doing every single day. I am going out and doing this recruiting. I am making these cold calls; I am trying to fill the hardest roles ever and here is how I am doing it. Here are the tricks and tactics and things that I am doing. Let us teach them, let us cultivate them, let us grow off of this.


From a culture perspective, we have multiple meetings a week where you can log on, learn from everyone else and try to better understand successes and failures as a team. I think that just having a lot of us all together is very crucial in our virtual world. In a remote workforce it is very important to have everyone together, but especially during a pandemic, where you do not have too many strings to hold onto and it is very easy to curl up in a ball and just watch the news all day long. We are here, we are helping each other and I think that culture and that mindset is what really helped us to win several awards from Inc’s Best Places to Work, Phoenix Business Journal’s Best Places to Work, and AZ Best Companies. In fact, we were one of only five companies here in Arizona that were recognized by Inc. Magazine as one of the Best Places to Work in America.


For me; I love working here! I enjoy it. As I said, I do not see myself doing anything else and I tell everyone else that it is your right to enjoy working here, too. If you do not, that is okay, we are in one of the best positions ever where we can find you something else, but you deserve, you have earned, you get that right to enjoy where you are working and you should have that through every piece of your work. If you do not, shame on the company, shame on me, talk to me about that, not shame on you. Let us make sure that we are all enjoying what we are doing.


CEOCFO: You do retained, engaged, contingent and contract staffing. Why does it work for Blue Signal to have different ways of connecting with your clients?

Mr. Walsh: Every search is different. Every level, every person they are going after, where they are at today and having those different flexible options really allows us to be very valuable for each of our clients. Some of our C-level, high-level VP, confidential searches, and above are all retained searches and they need to be. The candidates want to know that our client is dedicated to hiring this person. They want to know they are focused on human capital and that they have partnered with a good firm like Blue Signal or there are several others out there, but they have partnered with them, they are invested in the success of this position and we have candidates that will tell us, “Listen, I only want to hear about your retained searches,” and that is fine. We let them know, “You will have access to all the best candidates if you are indeed doing these types of searches on retained.” Then engaged, of course- there are many other things to go into if you are going to evaluate an engaged search.

Contingent, which is a pretty popular model too, is more “hire and pay for performance.” You only pay if you hire one of our candidates and in certain scenarios that makes a lot of sense, too. Then contract; as you have heard now, the gig economy, the contract economy, we have a lot of folks that would prefer to do contract work versus full time. “I only want to do this for the next 3 to 6 months.” There are many opportunities and many areas where hiring a contract worker makes more sense, especially from the operational standpoint of the client. “Do I need an FTE, Full Time Employee, or should I have this on an operational expense, what is better for the accounting and the balance sheet.” We are able to help them out, working through some of those logistics internally.


Then also, there is contract-to-hire. Sometimes folks just want to bring on a contractor and if all works out really well, will hire them. Many companies think this is a great model, because they get to try the candidate out before they actually hire them. I am here to tell you that it is really good for the candidate too, because they get to try out the company before they commit full time. It really works both ways, where it is really just like dating before marriage. Therefore, we see a lot of need for contract-to-hire services as well.


CEOCFO: What is next for Blue Signal?

Mr. Walsh: We have many things in the works. For us, it is still growth mode. We try to be the best in every single one of our industry functions and practices and we are continuing to hire. We try to bring on a recruiting class, maybe, every month, every other month and we are going to continue to do that for a while. Our client needs have continued to grow, so we want to make sure we are there to support them. The traditional growth and our current model, it is there, it is always going to be there and we are going to expand on that. In addition to that, we have had several clients ask us for other unique recruiting models, whether it is an RPO model, or recruiting project model, or a monthly recurring type model. Therefore, we are offering a lot of other alternative models to the traditional staffing firm and we are going to continue to do that to help battle the war for talent, but more importantly, to do what works best for our clients.


We are also doing a lot of recruiting training. Much of our internal training is fantastic with what we do for our recruiters and we are starting to offer that externally for other recruiting firms in addition to other clients who want their recruiters to be trained like our head hunters and our agency recruiters are. Then lastly, of course we are going to be doing a lot of career coaching and working with our candidates. We have always done this, but we are going to put a bigger focus on it. It is really working with our candidates the best we can to ensure that they are doing the best options, the best things that work well for them. Those are some of the things in the short version. We have some other more complex items that we are going to be getting into, but for the next two to three years, those are some of the immediate goals.

Blue Signal | Matthew Walsh | Executive Staffing Solutions | COVID 19 Staffing Company | Matthew Walsh, CEO & Founder of Blue Signal discusses navigating a pandemic and looking to the future. | CEO Interviews 2021 | Business Services Companies | Global Company | recruiting firm, executive placement, talent, the future of hiring, executive staffing for wireless and telecom, IoT, Internet of Things, manufacturing, logistics and supply chain, human resources, accounting and finance, cloud and managed services, medical and healthcare, emerging technology, COVID-19, Blue Signal Press Releases, News

“The recruiting void that there was in 2019 and had to end in 2020 has only grown further! We have never been busier! It has been a challenge and we educate our clients on how they need to change their hiring model to move fast, find good people, and execute on them as soon as they possibly can. It has been a lot of explaining today’s market conditions to our clients as to how they can move fast enough to get the right people. Whether it is remote hiring, remote interviewing, streamlining your interview process, updating your onboarding process to get people on sooner, it is a war for talent and it is our job to coach our clients on how they can move fast and get the right people at the right time.”
Matthew Walsh