What Procter & Gamble Seeks In MBA Hires

P&G building at night.

P&Q: Describe the P&G Culture. What distinguishes it?

SI: In one sentence, if I had to describe our culture, I would say it is an inclusive and developed-from-within culture. That harkens back to our purpose, values and principles. What’s unique about P&G is our develop-from-within philosophy. From day one, you’ll see that you, as a person, are P&G’s most important asset. Given that we’re primarily a develop-from-within company – that’s our foundational talent strategy – we need to hire the best-of-the-best. We need to coach and develop our talent; we can’t just rely on going out into the workforce and hiring people at different levels in their career. By developing people from within, we get the best people early on so we can coach, develop, and mentor them. That just plays itself out in the culture at P&G. We have to be inclusive and collaborative because if we’re not, we won’t keep our best talent.

I’d also add straight talk into how I’d describe our culture. As we’re making decisions, we want something holistic; we want the whole picture. If you believe we are doing something that isn’t in the best interest of the company, speak up – even if you may not be a leader. Straight talk is clearly embedded within our culture; it fits with all of our values: integrity, ownership, passion for winning, trust, and the leadership.

P&Q: What kinds of skills does P&G anticipate needing in the coming years that the company may not possess now?

SI: Every five years, P&G takes a very active look at the skills we value internally. We just went through that. Less than a year ago, we launched a new skill-based assessment called PEAK. There are five core skills: Lead with courage, innovate for growth, champion productivity, execute with excellence, and bring out our best. That was taking a current and future forward look at what we believe are the skills we need to hire for and grow in order to be successful as a business. If I take a look over the next five years, I see those factors continuing to be important. However, I’d also start thinking more about agility, speed, simplification, tenacity, and emotional intelligence. I think those all play into it. But what do we need to be doing differently? We just did it in our revamp with the five core skills.

I’ve been with the company for 27 years. This is my fourth or fifth version of different performance factors and competencies that you assess talent on. One thing that hasn’t changed is our PVP – purpose, values, and principles. That’s been consistent, though the skills that you go after, of course, have evolved and changed.

As far as PEAK is concerned, it has changed the formula for MBAs and every employee. That’s not to say leadership, for example, wasn’t there. We had a leadership factor before, but now it’s called lead with courage so that latter part is a new twist to it. In coming up with these new skill areas, it has a ripple effect in our recruiting process. For example, when we go through our online assessments and interviews, we’re probing for these new areas very differently than the nine skills we had two years ago.

P&G Core Strengths

Overall, MBAs match up very well with PEAK. Leadership is definitely driven home from an MBA standpoint more than with undergraduate students. Clearly, higher levels of complex leadership skills are what sets top MBA talent apart over average MBA talent – whether it is leading with courage or visionary and entrepreneurial leadership. A lot of people set direction, engage, energize, and execute as leaders. For MBAs who come into our brand management organization, we’re looking at them as our next general manager. Being as such, they need to have that higher level of leadership; they need to be that visionary leader if they want to lead a category within the company.

Most of our MBAs come into our brand management, finance and accounting, and our consumer and market knowledge areas. In the U.S., about 25% of our hires in these three areas are MBAs. It is probably 100-150 interns and a 100-150 full-time employees that we hire in the U.S. just for MBAs. Our internship program is our strategic top talent program for entry level. Of the interns that we have here in the U.S., I’d say 80%-85% of them will get a full-time offer coming out of their internship. Depending on our equity and the landscape of competitive offers, the net effect of all of that is that we get 50%-70% of our full-time hires who are former P&G interns. We try to fill most of our needs through our internship programs, at least at the entry level.

Editor’s Note: This is how Scott differentiates Brand Management from Consumer and Market Knowledge.

Brand management, of course, is the dual hat. It is running the equity of the business, the brand, and the multi-functional aspects of running the business. Brand managers also wear the hat as the marketer.

We see Consumer and Market Knowledge as the voice of the consumer. That is the part of the brand organization that is getting into the head and heart of our consumers and shoppers. It is asking the question why and understanding the insights and unmet needs from our consumers. It is analyzing both from a product usage and in-store experience. It can also be understanding what consumers take away in their likes and dislikes of our advertising. It’s very much data-intensive, very analytical – it’s a combination of someone who is an engineer, psychologist, and business major all-in-one. It is someone who has a passion for understanding consumers, really asking the “why, why, why” question, and getting at those insights in the form of interviews and data analysis.

P&Q:  What advice would you give to students who have their hearts set on working for you? How can they enhance their job prospects?

SI: My answer comes from being a recruiter and also having gone through the process 27 years ago. The first thing I would say is be passionate and persevere. If you get a hiccup or something gets in your way, don’t let it derail you. If P&G really is your dream job, then go after it. Don’t get discouraged for fighting for it.

The reason I say that is my offer, to me, looked like a regret letter. It was really a hold letter. So I spent a lot more time and energy trying to network. Of course, life was a lot different in 1990 than it is today in the recruiting process. I made sure I got myself in front of all the recruiters who were on our campus and really sold myself. So to all the marketers out there who are getting their MBAs, look at the “brand of you.” How are you marketing yourself to get the job you want?

P&G’s clean water initiative in Africa – water before and after the water purifier was used.

The lesson of my story is this: don’t get discouraged. People think they apply and take our assessments and then somehow get lost in a black box. There are thousands-upon-thousands of candidates that we look at every year. There are recruiters like me who actively look at each-and-every candidate to make sure we are moving forward appropriately. This is a competitive landscape. Candidates don’t know how many people I’m looking to hire. When I have an open job, they don’t know if there is one job or a hundred jobs. With MBAs, there are tons of prestigious schools across the country that have top, top talent all competing for those very limited positions. The competition is really tight. We talked about internships. Honestly, that is your best way in. If you want to work for P&G, come to us and be an intern after your first year; that’s going to be your best approach.

Even for those people who are getting their MBAs, we have a pre-MBA program called Brand intern on the brand management side. It’s a week-long student program held in July prior to their first year. They come to Cincinnati and experience what it’s like to be a brand manager. Coming out of that camp, we’ll give a high percentage of them internship opportunities for the following summer.

P&Q: Recruiting can be a two-way street. What has P&G done to make itself more appealing to MBA candidates?

SI: When I’m looking at benchmarking surveys and student insights, I see ten things that MBAs are looking for. They’re looking for leaders who will support their development, challenging work, creative and dynamic work environment, professional training and development, leadership opportunities, high levels of responsibility, competitive base salary, prestige, and a good reference for a future career. When I look across these ten, I think our points of differentiation match up perfectly.

One of our biggest strengths is challenging and meaningful work from day one. Starting from your first day, whether you’re an intern or a new hire, you’re going to get work where you can make a real impact.

Take my first assignment. I’m a technical person who switched over to marketing and brand management and now I’m officially in HR. My first project as an engineer was back in 1990, when we first went into concentrated detergent. Basically, I needed to re-tool our five manufacturing sites to produce what is now known as a club store size for our laundry products. I didn’t know anything about our manufacturing systems, yet I’m responsible for re-designing $30 million dollars worth of equipment!