What Procter & Gamble Seeks In MBA Hires

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From a marketing standpoint, when I came into branding, my assignment was leading a bound regimen. We had Tide, Downy, and Bounce; it was the first time the company ever led a regimen with a fourth brand called Febreze. I was responsible for that initiative from a holistic marketing standpoint, from its formulation to the entire project delivery of that brand for North America. For interns and new hires, you’re given a high level of responsibility immediately and you’re surrounded by people who will help coach and develop you. We believe the majority of your training is through experiencing it – and experiencing it right from day one. MBAs even expect it more since they already have vast experience before they started their MBAs. Coming to P&G and being given a chunk of the business and running part of it as a manager is what they’d expect and that’s what we give them.

That speaks to the second area, which is around leadership. P&G is known as a leadership training grounds. There are plenty of former P&Gers who’ve been successful elsewhere. So we start with the very best people and grow and develop them through the amount of leadership they are given from day one and throughout their careers. At the same time, you’re surrounded by world-class leaders – highly talented people who are going to mentor, challenge, and coach you.

P&Q: If an MBA was weighing an offer from P&G and another firm, what would give you the edge?

SI: Naturally, we offer competitive salary and benefits – but that’s not the reason to join P&G. You join because you want to be part of this inclusive training and develop from within culture with a highly talented workforce that builds leaders who manage big global brands.

At the foundation of that is the purpose, values and principles. So I would focus more on our development culture whose PVP is congruent with who you are. From day one, you’ll see that people are truly treated as our most important asset.

P&Q: Could you give us an overview of your MBA recruiting, interview, and onboarding process? What are the steps that students should expect? How can they make a good impression and stay on your radar?

SI: As far as applying for a job, our global attraction site – PGCareers – is where you start. MBAs will fill out an application, indicating whether they are interested in an internship or full-time and whether they want brand management, accounting, or consumer and market knowledge.

If they’re an eligible candidate who fits with what we’re looking for, they’ll be asked to take two assessments. One is a PEAK assessment that looks at the basket of skills that we’re most interested in. Then there is a figural reasoning test, which looks at the cognitive ability (The circle, triangle, and square and what comes next in the sequence). It’s from those two assessments that we select the best-of-the-best to do an initial interview. From there, we do two more interviews, usually in the form of a panel. There’s also an in-person test that goes through figural, numerical-based, and logic-based reasoning.

We make a hiring decision through all of those assessments, interviews, and resume reviews. It’s really a total assessment process that combines all of these elements. We ask candidates to do a lot versus our competition. We look at that hiring decision as not only an entry level job, but something that builds into something with multiple roles and hopefully a career. Being a develop-from-within company, we’re making a very selective choice of who we bring in. We can take a little more risk with interns. It’s a two-way street: We get to see them and they get to see us. Interns and full-time will go through the exact same recruiting process.

We’ve been very big on behavioral-based interviewing in the past. As of a year ago, we’ve combined five behavioral-based questions with two situational or hypothetical questions that get to two additional core skills that we’re interested in addition to the five core skills I mentioned earlier. In certain areas of the company, where we’re hiring for a specific experience, we may probe that through behavioral situations, but we don’t do case-based.

Why do we use figural reasoning? I’m not a psychologist, but according to them, figural reasoning is probably the fairest, most unbiased measure to get at someone’s cognitive abilities than other forms of assessment. We use it really as a predictor of how they will do on the in-person test that covers similar concepts. For every 200-300 candidates that look good, there is going to be one who gets an offer. In this funnel, it is about making choices about who we think is the best-of-the-best. These assessments help guide us in whittling down to who is the right candidate.

P&Q: What types of onboarding, training and ongoing support do you provide to incoming MBAs?

SI: Training starts on day one. It primarily starts through the on-the-job experiences. We use what we call the 70-20-10 approach. 70% means people learn best from experience; 20% comes from leveraging others – the coaching, mentoring, experts, communities of practice; and the 10% is the formalized materials and classroom training.

In developing leaders, it is really working through that whole 70-20-10. We also have a Leadership Academy, or what is called PGLA, P&G Leadership Academy, which is a best-in-class learning opportunity at all stages of an employee’s career to really build their skill sets.

New hires start with P&G Beginnings, to onboard MBAs into the company. In the brand management organization, you quickly go through ABM or Assistant Brand Management College, a week-long college to really verse yourself in the key skills and experiences that you’re going to need in order to be successful. There is other training on personal leadership and effective teams. There are also training colleges, such as ABM that I mentioned earlier, that happen at various points in your career (with the highest one being General Manager College for when you get promoted to senior leadership).

P&G Headquarters in Cincinnati

When you start at the company, we have a work and development plan that we call your “Five Rocks.” Rocks are your big priorities that you’re going to do over the next year. It’s really an expectation exchange with your boss and leadership around your work for the next year. There is plenty of other work – the pebbles – that will fit around that. And there are opportunities to change your rocks if your work evolves or you have an opportunity to step forward and take on something different. Either way, you’re going to be very clear on what is expected from your work and leadership in the part of the business you’re responsible for. Your five rocks account for 70% of your efforts.

By being given a high level of leadership and responsibility right from the get-go, that’s how you’re going to learn. You’re going to learn by doing and experiencing and that’ll be supplemented by the coaching and mentoring and formal programs like ABM College. As far as mentoring, there is formal and informal. It varies throughout an individual’s career. We have more formalized mentoring based on diversity and gender. Most individuals will be assigned mentors at various stages of their career, such as a new MBA entering the company. There is also a push-pull, where you are engaging and building your own network of mentors and sponsors. Early in their careers, we do match people up as best we can and at various points in their careers.

P&Q: When it comes to P&G, what are some of the biggest misconceptions that students may have about your organization (and your industry)?

SI: The first thing that comes to mind is “training ground for leadership” – but that’s more of a positive image and reputation. We don’t like saying that because we want to train and develop people and sometimes they leave because we do it so well. That’s just a face of life.

When you think of consumer products or fast-moving goods, I think people think of them as not being innovative. That’s a paradigm of because we don’t have a very technical-looking product – it’s not high tech – therefore we’re not innovative. As an industry – and P&G is part of that – we fight this notion that we’re not innovative. If people really understood the technology and innovation behind the products that we produce, they’d understand that there is a ton of technical and commercial innovation that exists even if it looks like a simple product. On the technical side, there is a heavy amount of things like patents and technology that goes into our products. Take a diaper for example. Being an engineer, I know there are around 240 different transformations that happen in one of our diaper lines. We make a diaper in less than a tenth of a second! In order for that to happen at lightning speed, the technology and engineering to develop the equipment it takes to do that is absolutely amazing.

From a commercial standpoint, take a brand like Old Spice. That once used to be your grandpa’s cologne. Our brand team re-invented that into being a mega-brand for Millennials. Not only did we invent brand management as an organization or a structure, but we’re constantly innovating from a commercial standpoint. We’ve been around for 180 years and innovation has really been at the core of what we do. We always say innovation is P&G’s lifeboat. P&G probably spends more on R&D and innovation than any other company in our industry.