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Taco Bell: Careers to Go

Tom Wagner is vice-president of consumer insights & brand planning for Taco Bell, a subsidiary of Yum! Brands (YUM), the large restaurant outfit based in Louisville, Ky. Wagner's marketing department drives the development of overall marketing and brand strategies for Taco Bell, a $5.5 billion Mexican-style fast-food chain headquartered in Irvine, Calif.

Wagner graduated from University of California's Paul Merage School of Business in Irvine in 1989 and has worked for Taco Bell in a variety of areas including acquisitions, financial and strategic planning, real estate development, research, and brand development.

Despite its offbeat image, Taco Bell isn't all about cute little Spanish-speaking Chihuahuas. To impress Wagner, candidates "should know what they want in a career, and have the conviction and focus to go after it." Wagner recently spoke with BusinessWeek Online reporter Jeffrey Gangemi. Edited excerpts of their conversation follow:

Q: Where do you do most of your recruiting?

A: We conduct our formal recruiting efforts at the Merage School, UCLA Anderson School of Management, and the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business. However, we accept applications from any reputable business school. For instance, this year we hired someone from the Indiana University's Kelley School of Business.

Q: How many full-time hires do you make in a year?

A: All of Taco Bell can hire roughly 10-15 MBAs per year. The marketing department hires about five and finance about three per year. We bring in a couple of interns for the summer, but because of turnover and other factors, we need to bring in several more full-time hires over the course of the year.

Q: For what main functions does Taco Bell hire MBAs?

A: We hire MBAs primarily into finance and marketing functions. Within the marketing department, we hire MBAs into brand marketing, brand communications (advertising), field marketing, consumer insights, as well as media.

MBAs could be hired into any one of those, but the largest MBA employers are brand marketing and consumer insights.

Q: What's the on-campus recruiting process like?

A: We start with an on-campus presentation. We describe what marketing careers at Taco Bell are like, how we operate, and what opportunities are available within each functional area. We bring three to five people from our offices to the presentation. They answer questions and encourage the students to apply for internship opportunities.

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