By Nate Mickelberg
Photos by Paul Flessland
If Kara Jorvig’s decade and a half in the recruiting industry has taught her anything, it’s that a lot of people don’t like recruiters.
“I’m in the business of breaking the negative stereotype around what a recruiter is and the experience and service level they bring to the table,” she says.
So a little more than a year ago, she turned down an opportunity at a corporate executive position and plunged headfirst into the waters of entrepreneurship.
Focusing on mid- and senior-level talent—industry “rock stars,” as she refers to them—Jorvig and her team have quickly found success matching candidates and clients that often have difficulties finding one another.
We recently sat down with Jorvig to learn a little more about the unique, highly customized search process that Allegro Group uses.
Let’s start with why you decided to leave the safety of a day job to start your own business.
Kara Jorvig “I think that as I tenured in recruiting and had exposure to different roles and different businesses, I saw that there was a gap in the market.
“There are a lot of great, growing businesses in Fargo and North Dakota, but there aren’t always enough people. Everyone’s drawing from the same talent pool.
“As certain industries take off—whether it’s engineering, IT or medical—the question is how these growing businesses are going to manage their organizational goals but then also manage some of their succession planning. That’s really why I launched Allegro Group is to partner with businesses on those two key things:
1) Growth initiatives
2) Succession planning
“We wanted to figure out how to partner with a business to understand not just a job description but what their organizational goals truly are. A lot of our work requires doing outside market analysis and trying to promote people who are here. And I can say with confidence that we bring something unique to the market because I’ve spent time doing things differently than how we do them here.”
What’s in a Name?
Jorvig explains that “allegro,” which is a musical term meaning “at a brisk pace,” is a nod to her dad, who was a music teacher and who passed away unexpectedly a few years ago.
“When your life changes so instantly like that,” she explains, “it definitely changes your mindset to: Don’t wait. If you have a dream or a passion, go for it.
She says it’s also indicative of the culture they want to continue to build.
“We go slow, we go deep and we work at a pace that’s comfortable for everybody,” Jorvig explains.
We should mention that while you started the company more than a year ago, the Allegro Group name is the product of a rebrand you recently went through. Why’d you decide to do that?
Jorvig “While we initially made the decision to license a name, I’ve always been very passionate about having my own business and building a brand underneath my umbrella.
“I also want us to grow and add more people to our team, but I want them to feel very connected. And having a team that feels like they can have their own business underneath my brand is important to me. I think they just feel a different level of engagement.”
The Allegro Guarantee
“We have a guarantee on our candidates,” Jorvig explains. “What’s hard in our business is that our product is people, and there’s no way to demo a human being. That’s why an evaluation process is so important. You have to be accurate in matching.
“We’re not the cheapest in town, and when you provide a premium service and an experience, you want to make sure that people are satisfied with the job you did. And that doesn’t mean just the business, that also means the candidate. We’re committed to staying in touch. We’re not transactional. We’re in business to build long-term relationships with both companies and candidates.”
Allegro’s niche in the recruiting market is mid- and senior-level talent and executive transitions. What does that mean?
Jorvig “We’re more specialized in the market. A lot of executive search firms are what you might refer to as headhunters—and let me tell you this:
“Like any industry, there are a lot of people who set the bar and there are a lot of people with whom you have a negative experience, but I want people to know that we are truly, genuinely connected to the best employers in town and that we’re not those badgering salespeople who are trying to sell jobs. That is not what we do.
“I’m very intent on making that distinction because not everybody enjoys working with a recruiter—both on the candidate and client side. And not everybody respects it and values it. So I am holding this brand, myself, and my team to the highest standards by investing in a process; working with integrity and representing our values; and making sure that we stay on top of the absolute best training the industry has.”
Who are your clients?
Jorvig “We’re not a fit for everybody and we’re not in this business of matching job descriptions to résumés. The candidates we work with are in the top 15 percent of their industry, field, or technical skill set, and that number is based on our evaluation process.
“Usually they’re a referral from somebody who will reach out to us and say, ‘Hey, you guys should talk to this rock star.’
“The only way we really engage with a candidate, though, is if they’re positioned for growth. They have to have a genuine motivation for wanting to advance their career. We’re not in the business of breaking up happy homes or selling jobs that are connected to more money. Someone has to have a genuine reason to really want to advance their career.
“We don’t do the typical interview either. We have a very detailed, in-depth process. It’s not, ‘Send us your resume and we’ll chat with you on the phone.’ We do a lot of on-site. There’s a thorough process that we take our candidates through, and it’s more or less twofold:
1. We want to know how strong they are, technically. We want to know the scope of their position, and our techniques to do that are very different.
2. The other piece that’s important is understanding what a candidate’s search criteria are. What is it they want to do? Where are they at today, but where do they want to be? And making sure that they and we stay genuine to that.
“What we want to do is provide a 360-degree look at who a candidate is and have that relationship, trust and understanding before we start slinging résumés.”
Give readers some idea of the positions and industries you’re dealing with most often.
Jorvig “Typically, mid- to C-level positions. Most headhunters are very specialized by industry, but we can’t really do that because we are so committed to North Dakota.
“Some of the industries we’ve had success in thus far are engineering, accounting and finance, IT and technical positions, human resources and really anything that’s management-related. It could be a CFO or CEO position, it could be operations or it could be project management. We’ve also done some work in oil, manufacturing, construction, ag and sciences.”
You have a very specific, five-step process that you use in a search. Can you give us a condensed version of what makes it different?*
Jorvig “What would be typical for us is that a business has a challenge. Maybe it’s growth, maybe they want to expand, maybe they want satellite offices, maybe they want a certain type of talent.
“Through trust and relationship-building, I’m invited to the table and work with senior leadership and all the hiring decision-makers. They’re not just sending me job descriptions.
“We’re going a lot deeper than just understanding what the job is or what the gap in the organization is. Rather, it’s: What’s going on here? What are the organizational goals? What are you trying to achieve? What are you trying to accomplish?
“And while it might sound kind of corny, I do believe that your business is only as good as your people. And people here realize that. The issue is that there’s a huge technical gap in this market, and we’re all drawing from the same talent pool.
“There’s a lot of organic growth in North Dakota, which is great. I respect and appreciate that. But I think businesses, too, are challenged with, ‘I need somebody who has experience or expertise in this. How do I find them?’
Kara Jorvik. Founder & CEO of Allegro Group with her husband Brian, Director of Operations at Allegro Group
In Sickness, in Health & in the Office
One unique aspect of the Allegro Group office is that Kara Jorvig shares it with her husband, Brian.
Brian, the director of operations for the company, joined the team last summer to serve as a Jack of all trades and help out as Allegro began to take on more clients and grow.
While Kara concedes that it’s probably not for everyone, she says it’s not a lot of different from how the pair has always done things.
“Regardless of what professional position Brian or I have had,” Kara says, “we’ve always worked together at home in support of what the other person was doing. I think we understood our career passion and interest, and we’ve always kind of partnered up informally in some way, shape or form.”
Brian agrees, adding that it’s the yin and yang of their skill sets that makes it such a good fit.
“It works really well,” he says. “Some days are easier than others, but I really couldn’t ask for anything better–the way things have fit together. It’s very complementary.
“We’ve helped each other grow through our careers over the years, and now we just get a chance to build our own thing together.”
“We go on site and spend as much time as we possibly can with a company and the business leadership group to truly understand the organization, understand where the gaps are and set a strategy in order to meet their needs.
“We have some trade secrets in our techniques and how we build relationships, but essentially what we’re doing is targeting what a business needs, driving industry conversations, and performing market analysis so that we can help consult on pay and accessibility—in terms of what type of talent you might get to the area, as well as what kinds of challenges come with a position.
“It’s a very consultative-type approach, but I think the biggest difference is that we have really strong relationships with human resources, as well as executive teams. I’ve been in the chair of being a recruiter and I’ve also been in the chair of being with a group of management. I have tremendous respect for HR professionals because I’ve been one, but I also understand the business side.
“I understand the bottom line and financial details, but I also get how people play into everything.”
*For a more detailed look at Allegro Group’s five-step process, check out allegro-group.com/unique-recruiting-process
Your team interviews and vets candidates before your clients ever learn about them, but what happens when your client starts the interview process? Do you sit in on those, too?
Jorvig “We can. Our process allows for such a different level of conversation from the get-go because we’re facilitating it. We try to limit surprises, we try to limit negotiations, and we try to limit questions or uncertainty.”
You mentioned that you think it’s a big advantage being based in Fargo. Why is that?
Jorvig “I’m very passionate about North Dakota and our growing business community, and when you’re here, you just have different skin in the game versus an executive search firm out of Chicago. And I think that’s what’s made us take off and what’s really contributed to our success.
“It’s easy to say you’re connected to a community and understand it, but it’s a whole different thing to actually be there. It’s just different when you raise your kids there, you go to church there, and you’ve been active in the Chamber and with different commitments around town.”
3523 45th St. S, Fargo