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  • Writer's picturePaul LaLonde

Street Level Influencer: Getting to Know Blake Quinlan

“Time spent on hiring, is time well spent.” – Robert Half


When I began my idea of the Street Level Influencer, I had no idea how positive people would respond to it!I’m excited that it struck a chord with people.

In the series, I argue that some of the most impactful people in our lives are right in front of us, and we just need to remember to tap into those around us for their wisdom and influence.

So far in the series, I have introduced you to:

Next in theseries, I want to introduce you to Blake Quinlan, recruiter extraordinaire from Express Employment Professionals, based in Champaign, Illinois.

These past few years, most hiring managers understand the challenges that we’ve faced when hiring in this employees’ market! One of the best markets in recent history for job seekers has made hiring a major pain! Savvy employers had implemented distinctive techniques in attempts to bridge the gap between open positions and talent acquisition.

It was roughly a year and a half ago that yours truly began experimenting with new ways to ensure programmatic needs were being met – well, new ways to me! (That’s how we gain experience!!!)

The agency I worked for at the time was having a very difficult time filling positions in some area programs. So, I had reached out to a Express in an attempt to mitigate a most difficult situation. It my first time working with a temp agency, so I had no idea what to expect. Luckily, the experience was worth more than I’d have known at the time – both for my employer and for me!

Now, before I continue, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention an inside joke. There is a classic Key and Peele skit about a substitute teacher that mispronounces all his students’ names due to a cultural misunderstanding! One such name is “Blake,” which is mispronounced as “Buh-lah-kay.”

Thus, enter Blake (pronounced “Blake”), whom I got to know as the recruiter for the temp agency who was an intricate part of helping me navigate the wonderful world of temp workers! From the moment I met him, I could tell Blake was different. He exuded a passion for helping people find the right talent for their needs. He had a confidence about him and an excellent sense of humor! He understood the Key and Peele reference!

Blake was awesome to work with. He understood our needs, and worked well at helping my agency overcome some employee challenges. I was excited that he wanted to be a part of this series, so I could share his stories.

  1. Where do you currently work and what is your role?

I am currently a Senior Recruiter with the Specialized Recruiting Group out of Champaign, IL. The recruiting job in a nutshell is placing qualified candidates with companies that are looking to hire. I love what the position represents – networking and connecting people, but I am tired of some of the ways we go about connecting – emails and just sending resumes, specifically.

  1. In our recent conversation, you mentioned that there is a stigma in HR circles surrounding recruiting. I was intrigued by that point of view. Would you be willing to expand upon that?

There are a lot of ways I could go with this one. Like you mentioned in our conversation, recruiting is interesting because it is a function of HR. The way I see it a really good recruiter can make someone in HR look really good and vice versa. Unfortunately, too many times have there been bad experiences for both candidates and HR professionals that I think creates the stigma.  LinkedIn has put out some really good content about this.  Here’s a synopsis of the Future of Recruiting, with the full report linked in the article: One thing that stands out to me is how recruiters will be more strategist, which is where I hope I am able to show value to clients, in developing a customized recruiting plan and then executing it.

  1. How do you work to address that stigma in your everyday professional endeavors?

I really try to address it straight on. I hope that my passion for my job is conveyed through everyone I speak with. I am also trying to take a creative approach toward connecting with both candidates and client companies through my use of video. You can see on my LinkedIn page how I have used it to advertise positions, but I am also using it to target specific clients that I am looking to work with and using it in my presentation of candidates to clients e.g. In lieu of a resume, you get a video of me and ~Candidate~ discussing the role!

  1. What was your biggest professional success? Why was it important to you?

My biggest professional success came right around the time that we met, when I was in charge of developing a new office from scratch, in Ottawa, IL. I was responsible for everything from Business Development to managing Recruiting, to internal human resources, to everything in between. I cherish the experience because it showed me that I can take nothing and turn it into something with minimal direction, but also that the hard work and grind of being an entrepreneur is something that I enjoy.

  1. What was your biggest professional failure? What did it teach you?

My biggest professional failure came this year. As backstory for the readers, I quit my position with the Specialized Recruiting Group and took a role as a Port & Shopping Guide on the Harmony of the Seas, Royal Caribbean. The position seemed like it was going to be right up my alley, talking with people, networking, doing public speaking, etc. Unfortunately, when I got there, most of my 12-14 hour days were spent folding and stapling paperwork. It taught me the importance of a good job description LOL 😊 It taught me a lot specifically empathizing with how the majority of the world lives where a position on a cruise ship making as low as $600-800 per month is considered a “Top Job.” It also made me a lot more appreciative of everything I have in the middle of Illinois, specifically the relationships I’ve developed.

  1. Who’s one person in your network that readers should know about?

Lynn Yoerk is the owner of the Specialized Recruiting Group office I work in. Lynn has been a business owner for over 20 years, is consistently the most positive and outgoing person I deal with, and is incredibly talented at developing people into being the best version of themselves. I feel really lucky to be able to work with Lynn and her husband Richard and learn and grow from them daily!

  1. Do you have an professional experience where HR helped you in a unique or specialized way that you’d care to share?

HR helps me every day in my job!  I always enjoy when I have a great relationship with someone in HR and how much easier that can make every ones job.

  1. How can people connect with you?

People can connect with me on LinkedIn at

  1. What’s one thing you think the world should know about you – personal or professional? Have fun with this one!

The world should definitely know that I am a fanatic of the funk! The last 3 shows I have been to have been funk bands and I can’t get enough.  I’m a fan of everything from the more retro Sly and The Family Stone to the modern gangsta funk of Tuxedo.

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