In hiring, alma mater not main consideration
MANILA, Philippines–We ran a quick survey with some of the marketing management winners of Mansmith Young Market Masters Awards (YMMA) on the “hirability” of fresh graduates in their respective companies.
We thank the following for answering our questions: Lester Estrada, country marketing manager for total hair care of P&G; Candice Iyog, vice president for marketing of Cebu Pacific Air; Cristina Lao, marketing manager of McDonald’s; and Alan Supnet, vice president for marketing of SkyCable.
Question: When hiring fresh graduates for brand marketing work, what is the process of shortlisting schools from which you intend to recruit talents?
Lester Estrada (P&G): As much as possible, we don’t apply any bias in our process of accepting marketing hires. As a recruitment leader for P&G marketing, I personally sift through the resumes of all applicants and do not segregate the papers based on their schools. In fact, we don’t even have any course bias.
My boss (marketing director) was a Computer Science graduate from Ateneo, and another senior leader in marketing was a Biology major.
Rather, I am personally more critical of their body of work in college—are they excelling in academics? Are they student leaders? Did they apply themselves during the past four years—as a working student, as a change agent in their organizations, or even as a group leader for their thesis?
Candice Iyog (Cebu Pacific): We don’t screen based on schools, and screen more based on skills and aptitude. Of course, there are some schools that have higher success rates than others.
Alan Supnet (SkyCable): The HR group of our company has a critical input on shortlisting the candidates.
Based on a manpower requisition we submit, which details the job description, scope of work and the desired qualifications, they usually give me or my marketing heads the CVs they feel would fit the requirement.
At that point, they have already interviewed the candidate/s and they would normally have a rating sheet and some observations and comments regarding the job applicant.
In my recent observations, although candidates from the top four schools (UP, La Salle, Ateneo & UAP) would have a fair share of the CVs that would be endorsed to us, it’s not a guarantee that they would be selected. Honor students from reputable provincial universities also have an edge over the others.
For the graduates of other colleges and universities, their extracurricular activities in school, coupled with any recent on-the-job training in a company similar to ours, could also be a major factor why their CVs would land on our desks for further processing.
Admittedly, given the high volume of graduates every year, competition among job hunters as well as companies like us, sourcing for the right applicant has become quite stiff.
Ultimately, the interview process, which allows us to probe into what is written on the resume, their outlook towards work and their possessed competencies, would be the main basis of selecting the right candidate for the brand work requirement.
Christina Lao (McDonald’s): There is really no formal process as to how we shortlist the schools where candidates graduate from, but having a well-written informative resume really makes a big difference.
But I will not deny that graduates from the top schools like UP, Ateneo, La Salle and UA&P do have some advantage as they are known to produce quality graduates.
Q: From those who applied but were not accepted in your company, what was lacking in them?
Estrada: For P&G, the two biggest things we look for are “critical thinking” and “leadership.”
These may sound like very big words, but simply, we look for people who are good in finding creative solutions to a problem (critical thinking)—whether it be a business solution for their thesis or a financial or positioning challenge for their org.
It is also about how they effectively lead and influence their peers and org mates and set a vision that everyone can strive to achieve. The premise is simple: Great student leaders and problem solvers make for great brand builders. And those who don’t make the cut may not exactly exhibit these traits in a very obvious way.
Iyog: Extracurricular activities, leadership experience and project management. Even if they’re fresh grads, there is always an opportunity in university (or outside university) to practice entrepreneurial or leadership skills in organizations, socio-civic groups, etc. We look for candidates who can show initiative and willingness to learn.
Supnet: Applicants who fail normally have less things to talk about since their CVs are just below par—they have exhibited mediocre performance in school and they have no, or minimal, extracurricular activities.
Their communication skills, coupled with how they carry themselves during the job interview process, play a major factor in the selection. As a marketing candidate, a basic requirement is how they can converse in English and Filipino. Since the job will entail both verbal and written coordination, with internal (functional groups) and external parts (ad agency/suppliers), it’s a must that they have very good communication skills.
The applicant also really needs to give a very good impression during the first five minutes of the first encounter with the interviewer.
We normally have busy schedules so we want to probe into a candidate really fast. If we don’t hear anything interesting or substantial during those critical first five minutes, then the applicant’s chances of being hired would be quite slim.
Lao: I would not say that they were not accepted because there was something “lacking” because it would not be fair to judge people based on resume and one interview alone.
Let me put it this way, some candidates do not advance to the next level because they were not able to engage me in an interesting conversation during our short encounter.
Normally, I expect marketing applicants to be able to engage me in our first 10 minutes of conversation. After all, it is what a marketing person is expected to do—to sell convince the consumer why he should buy his product, and what’s the best product he can sell at this point but himself.
Q: Do you have a wish list about fresh graduates so they have a greater chance of getting hired for relevant marketing work in your company?
Estrada: My wish or advise is simple: As students looking to enter the marketing world, don’t worry so much about dressing up your resume (i.e., how it appears on paper, racking up positions in orgs). Don’t worry about taking the right marketing class or taking extra units. Rather, focus on doing the big things extraordinarily well.
*This means: Choose a passion project or org, then make your mark there; uncover insights in your biggest thesis/senior project; and make a difference in your school by challenging the status quo.
Marketing is about serving the consumer and creating value for them—you can exhibit this trait in many ways during college. My objective in new hire interviews is to draw out these experiences from the applicants.
Iyog: Initiative and Project management/leadership skills.
Supnet: Personally, the name of school becomes secondary to me in choosing the right candidate.
My wish list would include the new graduate having:
Above average academic performance—If they worked hard and excelled in college, it’s more likely that they would also deliver at work;
Active participation in extracurricular activities—This would show how they were able to balance studying and handling an important role in a school organization; it’s a reflection of how they would be able to juggle the requirements of day-to-day work (equated to studying) against their personal time (equated to their extracurricular activities);
A recent on the job work experience (perhaps as an intern or a trainee) in a reputable company, preferably with a written endorsement from their mentor or supervising officer; and
The courtesy to show up on time, be natural and honest, and just give their best during the interview and screening process.
Lao: Yes, I do have a list of things that I look for in a candidate. To name a few:
Attitude towards work (should be optimistic and has a go-getter attitude);
Willingness to unlearn what he knows and learn new things;
Resilience and flexibility;
A team player (it is very important that the new hire will fit the existing team).
Q: Other than expats, approximately how many percent of your current brand people in the Philippines graduated from the top schools (this means UP, Ateneo, LaSalle, etc.)?
Estrada: As for current brand people, I would say 90 percent come from UP/Ateneo/La Salle (in very equal splits among the three). The balance 10 percent would be a mix of UA&P and US/Singapore undergrads (who are Filipino).
Iyog: We’re all around marketing people so I don’t have brand managers like we have in FMCGs, and most of them do come from the top three or four schools.
Supnet: Close to 75 percent of our brand heads, brand managers and brand assistants graduated either from UP, Ateneo, La Salle or UA&P.
But I noticed that, as you go down the ranks, less and less people actually belong to the said schools, perhaps indicating the fact that we are starting to be more receptive in hiring newbies who show the highest potential in the field of marketing, regardless of where they actually graduated.
Lao: 100 percent of my marketing team members graduated from UP, Ateneo, La Salle and UA&P.
(Josiah Go is chair of marketing training firm Mansmith and Fielders Inc. For the complete interview, as well as interviews with other thought leaders, log on to www.josiahgo.com.)
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