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Tomasso looks for grit, teamwork in executive candidates

Head of Russell Reynolds Associates’ trade and professional group practice values meeting potential jobseekers, but don’t apply for everything


CEO Update | September 30, 2016


The CEO Update article, “Tomasso looks for grit, teamwork in executive candidates,” featured a profile on Russell Reynolds Associates' Stephanie Tomasso. She shared her insights into the executive search process. The article is excerpted below.

As much as executive recruiter Stephanie Tomasso enjoyed her academic years—she majored in history at Washington and Lee University and brings a studious approach to her search work—she’s quick to point out that education is a small component in her evaluation of leadership potential.

“The grittiness and perseverance and intellectual curiosity that a person has displayed across their career is a better indicator of success than what they majored in or where they went to school,” said Tomasso, who heads the trade and professional association practice from the Washington, D.C., office of Russell Reynolds Associates.

She spoke with CEO Update at her office near the Old Executive Office Building.

“You can’t just say you have an Ivy League education—it’s more about what you’ve achieved,” she said.

But if there is one aspect of your school background that most impresses the former lacrosse player, it is involvement in team athletics.

“Being involved in team sports and having that mentality of being able to rely on others as well as on yourself is critically important, because it shows an ability to think as part of a collective whole rather than as a single practitioner,” Tomasso said.

Take a meeting

Different recruiters have different approaches to courtesy meetings with executives trying to get on the radar for future searches. Tomasso—a 16-year recruiting veteran who has been at Russell Reynolds Associates since 2008 and previously worked at Heidrick & Struggles—describes herself as very approachable.

Executives seeking high-level jobs at heavyweight associations would be wise to approach: Tomasso’s recent CEO placements have included James Madara at the American Medical Association, Juanita Duggan at the National Federation of Independent Business and Michael Dykes at the International Dairy Foods Association.

“I’m always happy to catch up with folks in the market. I want to know good talent. It’s my job,” she said. “Often the best way to get in front of me is through a mutual connection—knowing that someone I know and respect is a colleague or peer or friend often carries a lot more weight for me in terms of how quickly you’ll get on my schedule,” Tomasso said.

“But if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. I may have missed your email because I was traveling or under a client deadline,” she said.

One good way to get to know an executive recruiter is to get involved in community, charitable or other activities; most search consultants are active in those types of endeavors as they, too, seek opportunities to network while benefitting others.

Tomasso is on the local board of Girls on the Run, which promotes self-respect and healthy living for girls in 3rd through 8th grade, and also is active in the Bryce Harlow Foundation, which advances the lobbying profession.

To read the full article, click here.

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Tomasso looks for grit, teamwork in executive candidates