And cut through the inefficiencies of the recruitment industry to discover the heart of hiring.

How Emily Rushton founded Hire Integrated

And cut through the inefficiencies of the recruitment industry to discover the heart of hiring.

The Founder Series is a column by and about Utah founders and how they got to where they are today. Click here to read past articles in the series.

I’m a Southern girl at heart, shaped by the idyllic upbringing of Cowan, a little town in Franklin County, Tennessee. Tucked close to the Alabama border and a short drive from the hum of Nashville, Cowan’s simplicity is defined by its two traffic lights and a train museum that has wholly captured the imagination of my young son. My childhood in this tranquil corner of the country was a joyful experience.

Since my younger days, I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spark. I dreamt of steering the helm of a business, even if the specifics remained hazy. The idea of navigating the jungle of a metropolitan city as a businesswoman was an aspiration that anchored many of my dreams.

In high school, my days rotated between the disciplined laps of the swim team and the watchful hours of summer lifeguarding. My association with Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) wasn’t just a future line on a resume; it was a window into bigger horizons. It offered me frequent opportunities to visit the vibrant pulse of Music City—Nashville—and introduced me to voices that spoke of ambition, leadership and potential.

The decision to attend Brigham Young University–Idaho (BYU–Idaho) was both a leap of faith and a stride toward the unknown, away from the comforting lull of Tennessee. My mother, a steadfast supporter of my education, recognized the pitfalls of staying too close to the familiar. While many of my classmates chose universities just a short drive away, they often found themselves ensnared in the comfort trap, leading to unfortunate academic detours. My mother envisioned a larger canvas for me, insisting I broaden my horizons. Heeding her guidance, I embarked on a college experience more profound and enriching than I could have ever foreseen.

Classrooms and company corridors

My time at BYU–Idaho was a transformative journey. The campus was electrified by the presence of Kim Clark, the former dean of Harvard Business School. As I entered my junior year, he had freshly assumed the mantle of BYU–Idaho’s college president. Under his guidance, the integrated business core program (IBC) underwent a remarkable transformation and gained recognition for its innovative methods.

From President Clark, I gained invaluable insights into the intricacies of initiating and operating a successful business, achieving profitability and the myriad nuances that go beyond the conventional academic curriculum and practices. Those two years under his leadership proved more enlightening than any other educational experience I had ever encountered. This program exemplified the opportunities and potential that arise from embracing innovative ideas rooted in strong foundational principles.

As my senior year was drawing to a close, I faced a conundrum familiar to many: I was on the cusp of graduating, but my future path remained shrouded in uncertainty. A professor I deeply respected offered a piece of advice which, in hindsight, was rather unconventional. He suggested I explore Salt Lake City, observe the company names adorning buildings and simply reach out to introduce myself.

Given that these daring self-introductions took place in 2006, his recommendation appeared out of sync with the digital age. While platforms like and Indeed were in their early stages, I was unaware of their existence. My quaint hometown background, coupled with my professor’s apparent unfamiliarity with these platforms, rendered me oblivious to more modern job-seeking avenues. Yet, undiscovered to me, this unorthodox job-hunting strategy was to prove fortuitous.

After what can only be described as a brazen reconnaissance of the city in search of prospective employers, fate led me to a BYU career fair. Here, I crossed paths with a recruiter from Robert Half. I candidly shared my recent job-seeking experiences, and he responded with a mix of incredulity and admiration. 

“You’ve actually been cold-calling firms, introducing yourself and pitching your skills?” he remarked. As events unfolded, this audacity worked in my favor. Robert Half saw the potential in my proactive approach and welcomed me aboard as a recruiter at their Salt Lake City branch headquarters. The very tenacity with which I sought opportunities for myself was now to be channeled into securing opportunities for others.

Ms. Matchmaker: From cold calls to corporate connections

While many don’t immediately equate recruiting with sales, at Robert Half, the two were virtually synonymous. In a typical week, we’d engage in around 100 cold calls, reaching out to hiring managers while advocating for our roster of candidates. Leveraging the weight of Robert Half’s established reputation—a powerhouse in the realm of global, publicly-traded firms—our outreach carried an implicit stamp of credibility.

My personal philosophy in sales was relentless perseverance. Even if a door was shut—figuratively or literally—I’d knock again. My pitch was simple yet persuasive: “Offer me just one opportunity. If I fall short, you’ll never hear from me again. But until you provide that one chance, expect to see my number on your caller ID.” This directness seemed to resonate with the Utah hiring community. Being an outsider unfamiliar with local networks, I embraced consistency. This approach became the bedrock of my success at Robert Half.

And cut through the inefficiencies of the recruitment industry to discover the heart of hiring.

The rhythm of work there had its own ebb and flow. One week would revolve around sourcing and expanding my clientele, while another would be devoted to recruiting and interview facilitation. The subsequent week was reserved for pairing candidates with suitable openings. It was a dance of sorts—playing matchmaker in the corporate world.

My tenure at Robert Half, which began in 2006, came to an end in 2012. With my achievements drawing attention, I received an appealing proposition from investors: to lead a fresh endeavor, Search Group Partners, in collaboration with another former colleague from Robert Half. Given the constraints of a non-compete clause in Salt Lake, I found myself launching our national arm in Nashville while my counterpart initiated the Salt Lake City branch.

Once the non-compete term lapsed a year later, I returned to Utah, taking charge of Search Group’s boutique operations. This change was illuminating—having transitioned from the mammoth infrastructure of a global entity to orchestrating a startup, complete with its uniquely inherent financial dynamics. 

However, after two fruitful years with Search Group Partners, a new chapter beckoned. I aligned with PrincePerelson & Associates, stepping into the role of Executive VP. The experience was akin to Goldilocks’ tale with the three bears—I had journeyed from a corporate giant to a blossoming boutique, and now I was settling into a respected, local recruiting institution with a quarter-century legacy that felt just right.

At PrincePerelson, my touch was light yet impactful. With the purchase of equity, not only did I invest financially, but I also sowed seeds of trust. Our revenue saw an infusion of over $20 million, primarily driven by a few strategic hires. 

Spearheading a new division, I ventured into high-volume recruiting. Our inaugural account with Netflix alone generated several million dollars in new revenue within its first year. This division redefined our growth trajectory and was a stimulating environment. My experience at PrincePerelson, spanning over half a decade, profoundly refined my recruiting values and philosophies.

A family journey through challenge and change

This professional journey commenced in 2006, coinciding with my union to a supportive and equally driven husband. The culmination of years filled with projects and adventures was marked by the birth of our son, Jack, in 2018. However, his birth at 37 weeks presented challenges. He had experienced fetal growth restrictions and came into the world strong and healthy but weighing a mere four pounds.

During my pregnancy, I was actively involved at work, managing my responsibilities smoothly throughout the first two trimesters. But foreseeing the demanding nature of the months ahead with a difficult pregnancy, I opted for an extended six-month maternity leave.

However, life had other plans. When Jack was just three months old, we received the gut-wrenching news that he required open-heart surgery. It felt as if the ground beneath me had given way. With a fragile infant at home, the mere thought of returning to work seemed inconceivable. The simplest daily activities, from eating to personal grooming, became monumental tasks. The severity of the situation deeply affected my husband, who contracted a serious viral infection, resulting in prolonged periods of alarmingly high fever and confinement to our basement.

During this period, my entire focus pivoted from my professional pursuits to nurturing Jack’s recovery. While his surgical scars began to heal, simple tasks like eating and sitting proved difficult for him. His path to recovery involved intensive feeding and physical therapy as we navigated the challenges of daily life with our resilient, surgically-mended infant. With each passing day, we witnessed subtle yet meaningful progress, and my steadfast family looked ahead with gratitude and optimism.

As we navigated these hurdles, another curveball came our way: the shutdowns resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. By this point, I had spent nearly two years away from my professional life. This gap, albeit unexpected, provided a rare opportunity. It became a time of introspection and preparation, allowing me to contemplate my future and what I genuinely wanted from my next professional venture.

Infusing new horizons with old Southern traditions

During my workplace hiatus, the concept of Hire Integrated was a lingering thought, but by the second year, it evolved into a palpable vision. I was discussing, visualizing, and investing both time and resources into bringing this idea to life. Launching in January 2021 was a pivotal shift for me. Before this, my professional journey had been shaped by the directives of others—be it vast corporate bureaucracies, anxious investors or traditional executives.

Having spent years working under various directives, there was a burgeoning desire within me to spearhead an initiative of my own. I craved autonomy, an empowering space with creative work under my own control. Committing to this idea was challenging, yet once I made up my mind, my resolve was unwavering.

"In a world driven by digital advancements and data-driven decision-making, it’s easy to lose sight of the human element in hiring. However, beneath the algorithms and keywords lies a tapestry of individual stories, ambitions and potential. As a Southern girl who learned the art of hospitality, innovation, and compassion, I have come to understand that the most successful job connections occur when both companies and job seekers are truly seen and heard."

And cut through the inefficiencies of the recruitment industry to discover the heart of hiring.

In the expansive world of staffing agencies, differentiation is vital. While I didn’t possess a revolutionary secret formula, there were aspects I held dear. My logo, a simple “hi,” was emblematic of the ecosystem I envisioned—one marked by approachability, authenticity, and a dash of southern hospitality, tipping my hat to my Tennessee roots.

In my upbringing in the South, the concept of Southern hospitality was more than a mere phrase; it was a practical and fundamental way of life. I’ve encountered numerous tales of job seekers wrestling with anxiety, enduring restless nights before interviews and overall feeling overwhelmed by various stages. I yearned to eliminate these barriers, to make the recruitment process less of a daunting stage play and more of an authentic conversation.

Evaluating skills on a resume is a straightforward process. The challenge lies in discerning a candidate’s passion, their understanding of a company’s mission and ensuring they are a holistic fit for the role. This approach holds true regardless of the job level—be it a customer service representative or a tenured executive. In navigating these nuances, our firm commitment is to constantly innovate, ensuring we match not only the qualifications but also the heart and spirit of a candidate to the company and vice versa.

Taking the plunge with Hire Integrated, I approached my husband with a proposal and a modest budget. Our initial investment was earmarked at $30,000, a sum which, thanks to a service-centric model and my frugal approach, was spent judiciously. A significant portion was invested in branding, particularly our logo and website.

Tapping into my established network, I reintroduced myself under the banner of Hire Integrated. Drawing inspiration from my early days at Robert Half, I asked for an opportunity to demonstrate the capabilities of my new venture. This approach delivered instant outcomes, and our very first client remains actively engaged with us, underscoring the enduring relationships we cultivate.

Hire Integrated was built without external financial inflows. Out of our initial investment, we spent a mere $12,000. From the beginning, I employed a paid intern, a committed individual who still works alongside us, in addition to pursuing his own entrepreneurial projects. 

Around the six-month mark, Michele Graham joined our ranks, a decision I regard as one of my best. Michele, a colleague from the past, not only brought her extensive experience but also some existing clients. She remains an indispensable part of our journey, and her contributions will undoubtedly shape our future trajectory.

The pulse of modern recruitment in the digital age

In today’s digitally-driven age, we find that there’s an increasing emphasis on human-to-human connection, even more so than before. Jobseekers often grapple with the changing dynamics of recruitment in the virtual space. While tools and platforms may have evolved, the essence of hiring remains grounded in genuine connections and mutual values.

In a world dominated by algorithms and AI-driven job matches, the role of the human touch in the recruitment process is irreplaceable. Yes, AI can shortlist profiles, but it’s the human recruiter who discerns the soft skills, the cultural fit and the innate qualities of a candidate that technology might overlook.

And for candidates, especially in 2023 and beyond, this means embracing a mix of both traditional and modern interview techniques. Social media and professional platforms have democratized access to information about companies.

One can easily delve into a company’s culture, values and direction through its online content. A well-prepared candidate will leverage this information, aligning their pitch to the company’s mission and vision. This signifies proactive interest and shows an employer that the candidate isn’t merely looking for a job but a purpose-driven role.

On the flip side, employers now have a wealth of information available about potential hires, far beyond what a traditional resume would show. The challenge is to sift through this information effectively and look beyond immediate skill sets. Can this candidate adapt to changing roles? Will they fit in with the company culture? Are they self-motivated learners? These are questions that hiring managers must ask, especially at a time when the pace of change is rapid.

Moreover, the line between personal and professional lives has blurred, especially with the rise of remote work. This makes cultural alignment even more crucial. Hiring someone who resonates with the company’s values ensures not just immediate productivity but also long-term loyalty and contribution.

In essence, while the tools of recruitment may have modernized, the core tenets remain the same. Mutual respect, genuine interest and a clear alignment of values are, and will remain, the keystones of successful hiring in 2023 and beyond. The emphasis is on both parties—employers and jobseekers—to be authentic and communicative, fostering a hiring ecosystem built on trust and understanding.

Conclusion: The heartbeat of hiring

In a world driven by digital advancements and data-driven decision-making, it’s easy to lose sight of the human element in hiring. However, beneath the algorithms and keywords lies a tapestry of individual stories, ambitions and potential. As a Southern girl who learned the art of hospitality, innovation, and compassion, I have come to understand that the most successful job connections occur when both companies and job seekers are truly seen and heard.

Our mission at Hire Integrated is to cut through the theatrics and inefficiencies that so often characterize the recruitment industry. We aim to serve both companies and job seekers by fostering genuine connections, emphasizing cultural alignment and ensuring that the best person for a job isn’t just the best interviewee but someone who will truly thrive in that role and contribute to the organization’s mission.

So, let us remember that behind every resume is a person with dreams, and behind every company is a vision waiting to be realized. Let us bridge the gap with authenticity, empathy and heartfelt engagement.

Hire Integrated founder and CEO Emily Rushton began her illustrious career journey at Robert Half, one of the world’s largest staffing firms. Her successes led her to the elite Chairman’s Club, a coveted spot reserved for top-tier recruiters. She was recruited to become an equity partner at SEARCH Group Partners, Inc., then to spearhead a fresh division for PrincePerelson & Associates, a local Utah recruiting firm. Today, at the helm of Hire Integrated, Utah’s brightest recruiting agency, Emily continues her passion for weaving narratives. Emily is a proud alumna of Brigham Young University Idaho and always enjoys a good swim. She is joyfully married and treasures every moment with her adored son.