Labor Relations Recruitment: Specialized Talent Demands A Specialized Search

Job Recruitment

Some jobs can be more challenging to fill than others and if you’re looking to hire for a role that directly impacts highly sensitive areas of the business, such as labor relations, well that just adds a whole new level of complexity! On this episode of ProjectHR, we are joined by Kate Jackson, a Partner at Serrano Search, an executive search firm dedicated to labor relations-related recruitment. Here, she explores:

  • The shortage of labor relations professionals in the current market;
  • The importance of finding the right labor relations hire;
  • The qualities of a good labor relations candidate; and
  • How a labor relations specialist like Serrano Search can help!
job recruitment

Kate Jackson


“It's extremely important for a company or an organization to have a strong relationship with their union, specifically, their unionized employees. A strong labor relations professional is somebody that's going to manage the overall labor relations strategy for the company.”

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The State of Recruitment Right Now

  • In June, unemployment was at about 11.5%.
  • Many organizations are in a hiring freeze due to the pandemic and all of the uncertainty that’s come with it.
  • This uncertainty also applies to specialty recruiting. However, there are some fields that are hiring, including healthcare, retail, and logistics. 


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Labor Relations Recruitment

  • Labor relations requires specialty recruitment, in part because of supply and demand. About 33% of the public sector and 6.2% of the private sector are unionized. Most organizations have small labor relations departments along with low turnovers. 
  • There’s a shortage of labor relations professionals that are looking for work. Most of the ones who are employed are staying where they are. 

The Importance of Finding the Right Labor Relations Candidate

  • It’s crucial for an organization to have a good relationship with its union and its unionized employees.
  • A strong labor relations professional will:
    • Manage the labor relations strategy of the company.
    • Negotiate any collective bargaining agreements.
    • Maintain and build union relationships.
    • Manage grievances and arbitrations.
    • Respond to unfair labor practices.
    • Train management.
    • Teach employees about what they can and can’t do. 
  • When the company-union relationship is less than ideal, a company may face negative consequences, including strike action, which can lead to lost business. 
  • “It's extremely important for a company or an organization to have a strong relationship with their union, specifically, their unionized employees. A strong labor relations professional is somebody that's going to manage the overall labor relations strategy for the company.”

Union Status and Finding a Quality Hire

  • In most cases, organizations will seek a labor relations professional if they have a collective bargaining agreement. They could also seek one out if their employees are trying to unionize. 
  • Companies sometimes get nervous if they aren’t familiar with labor relations or union campaigns. Companies can get in trouble with the National Labor Relations Board if they don’t understand the proper process. 

Labor Relations Jobs

  • There are a variety of different labor relations jobs. Each different organization has its own titles for these jobs, including
    • VP of Labor Relations.
    • Director of Labor Relations.
    • Senior Labor Relations Consultant.
    • Senior Labor Relations Advisor.
    • Labor Relations Manager.

Filling Labor Relations Vacancies As an In-House vs External Recruiter

  • In-House recruiters will typically receive a requisition and then post a job opening and wait for candidates to apply, or they might reach out internally to their employees and ask for referrals.
  • External recruiters tend to be more proactive, always networking and connecting with professionals and candidates.  
  • External specialty recruiters have the opportunity to focus on a single, individual hire more than an in-house recruiter might be able to.
  • It’s important to remember that recruiters don’t hire candidates. It’s a recruiter’s job to find and bring in qualified candidates. The hiring manager is in charge of actually making the decision of whether or not to hire someone. 

Qualities of a Good Labor Relations Candidate

  • Each client and organization will have their specific needs, but generally, Ms. Jackson looks for individuals who:
    • Are the first chair or lead negotiators for collective bargaining agreements
    • Are responsible for labor relations strategies for their organizations.
    • Are able to interpret a collective bargaining agreement.
    • Are able to manage grievances.
    • Are able to deal with arbitration.
    • Are able to manage union campaigns.
    • Are able to train management.
    • Are able to build relationships with union leadership.
    • Possess iIntegrity, active listening skills, emotional intelligence, empathy, thick skin, salesmanship, an ability to build and maintain professional relationships, patience, and a strong sense of humor.

Serrano Search

  • Serrano Search is a dedicated labor relations search firm co-founded by Larry Oreskes, who is also the company’s Managing Partner.
  • Mr. Oreskes had a recruitment and labor relations background. He saw a need for a recruiting group specifically for labor relations positions, so he filled that need by starting Serrano Search. As such, Serrano Search is a unique, one-of-a-kind company, since all they do is labor relations recruitment. 
  • Serrano Search serves both their clients who hire them and the candidates that are seeking out. They work directly with their clients and candidates, and they don’t outsource their work to anyone. 
  • The people at Serrano Search are the absolute experts at recruitment for labor relations specialists, and their services are free for candidates looking for work. 
  • Serrano is also special in that it is an executive labor relations search firm, so they’re typically looking for seasoned candidates. Most of their candidates tend to be for director or VP level positions, but they also fill manager-level and senior consultant positions.
  • Serrano Search takes 2 to 3 weeks to present their clients with a slate of candidates for a position. 
  • “Every placement that we’ve made has been successful.” The one and only time that a candidate didn’t work out, Serrano Search was able to find a replacement free of charge. 

Kate Jackson Backstory

  • Studied Fine Arts and Business Administration at Northwest Missouri State University.
  • BS in Business Administration and Marketing from Central Missouri State University.

  • She’s been working in recruiting since 1998, when she served as a Recruiter and On-Site Temporary Staffing Manager/Recruiter at Merrill Lynch.
  • Since 2011, Ms. Jackson has been a Partner at Serrano Search, an executive search firm dedicated to labor relations-related recruitment.


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