Welcoming New Challenges: A Q&A with Emily Costello

Emily Costello

Vice President of Channel Relationships, Robert Half

Emily Costello is the vice president of Channel Relationships at Robert Half, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm. Emily joined the company in 1997. Over the course of more than 20 years at Robert Half, Emily has had the opportunity to launch many initiatives, lines of business, offices and special projects. She opened the OfficeTeam division in Atlanta as well as the Atlanta downtown office. Emily has been part of the company’s Strategic Accounts group for the past 10 years. She assumed her current role in 2010. In this position, she oversees the management of channel partnerships.

Journey at Robert Half

RIX: You’ve been with Robert Half for 21 years. Tell me a bit about your journey within the firm.

Emily Costello: It’s definitely been an exciting journey over the past 21 years. I was lucky enough to join Robert Half when we were in a major growth mode. The company was buying back all the franchises to bring them into the corporate structure and I was hired to launch the OfficeTeam division in Atlanta. We found out quickly that Atlanta was a very large market and we needed to expand to meet needs. We opened five offices in that area in a year and a half. It was really fun launching new branches and getting the teams up to speed. I was also involved in introducing the Accountemps and The Creative Group lines of business in Atlanta. It was amazing to help teams reach record-breaking numbers and win an award for my contributions through our company’s internal recognition program. The role I’m in today was a newly created position that I was able to take on because I raised my hand. I love the fact that Robert Half has supported me with numerous advancement opportunities and I’ve been able to reinvent myself throughout my career.


RIX: What has been your proudest moment?

EC: There have been so many that it’s hard to narrow down to just one! There’s nothing more satisfying than being able to take a concept or idea and turn it into something quantifiable. I’m very proud of the role I’m in now because I pioneered it and created it from scratch. It’s rewarding to know I’ve had an impact as an individual on the company as a whole by improving the ability to collaborate with our third-party partners. I’m also proud of the work we did to address our clients’ desires for project continuity when I was involved in our Salaried Professional Service group. It’s always an honor to receive awards from other organizations and get recognition for helping to match workers and companies. I’m proud of my team members’ accomplishments and it makes me extremely happy when I see them advance in their careers.


As VP of Channel Relationships

RIX: Why did you choose VP of Channel Relationships as the next chapter of your career?

EC: I’m constantly looking for a challenge. It was obvious to me that this challenge needed to be taken on. The landscape was changing where third parties were becoming more and more engaged with end-user clients. We needed to figure out how we could be successful working within this model because it wasn’t going away. Finding solutions for how our company could be a better supplier to our candidates and growing our business came naturally to me.  


RIX: What role(s) do you admire the most (apart from yours)?

EC: I’m always impressed with the innovators – individuals who change the way we do business or how we view things. Sometimes it can be senior leaders or CEOs who are visionary, but trailblazers can hold various job titles at companies. At Robert Half and other organizations, I’m starting to see more roles that are focused specifically on transformation and innovation. Anyone who can take a holistic view of what’s going on internally and externally to determine what steps are necessary to stay relevant is impressive to me.


Remaining Relevant

RIX: How do you encourage creative thinking within your organization?

EC: In my role, it’s necessary to spend as much time talking to external partners as I do to internal contacts. It’s important to give people the opportunity to be heard and make them feel comfortable about bringing their views forward. I encourage all parties to share their perspectives and run with their ideas. Effectively listening to others is how you stay on top of things. If people didn’t listen to me at Robert Half, I wouldn’t have experienced half the opportunities I’ve had.


Women in Staffing

RIX: Any observations over the years about the challenges women face that are specific to staffing firms?

EC: There are many challenges women face across various industries that aren’t specific to the staffing field. Unfortunately, there are instances when women must be strategic about how they position themselves to be heard and taken seriously. There’s a ton of attention on equality right now, but I don’t know that it’s limited to gender matters. Challenges can exist for a wide range of individuals that are in the minority for one reason or another. I do feel strongly that since we’re in the business that we’re in – placing skilled individuals in the right opportunities – that we certainly have a responsibility to give people the chance to be successful in their careers regardless of factors like sex, age, and ethnicity. It starts with us in the staffing business standing up for what’s right and fairly presenting candidates who are qualified for roles.


RIX: At RH, you’ve spent a lot of time flying around the world to meet with corporate clients. Let’s say you walk into a big boardroom, and everyone at the table is a guy. How do you handle it if you’re picking up bad signals?

EC: There have probably been many occasions when I’ve been the only woman in a meeting. Personally, I’m not uncomfortable in those situations and it’s not something I even think much about. While you always want to try to stay professional in business settings, if you ever feel like someone’s behavior is inappropriate, you have the option to remove yourself from the situation or address it head-on. The goal is to make it clear when there’s poor conduct and putting a stop to it.


A Few Fun Questions

RIX: Please summarize your career in 3 words

EC: Fulfilling, dynamic, exciting


RIX: What book are you currently reading or what book was the last one you read?

EC: The last book I read was Atomic City Girls by Janet Beard and my next will be The Girls of August by Anne Rivers Siddons.