MBAs, Check Egos at the Door

Beyond being sharp, to succeed job-seekers must be a good cultural fit and willing to learn, says GE recruiting exec Steve Canale

Steve Canale is the manager of Recruiting & Staffing Services at General Electric (GE ). GE hires 150 to 200 MBAs globally each year, a relatively small number for a company that's located in about 100 countries and employs more than 320,000 people. However, Canale, who works out of corporate headquarters in Fairfield, Conn., notes that a large chunk of MBAs wind up at GE after gaining experience at a consulting firm.

A 25-year GE veteran, Canale has worked in the HR department for four years. Before that he held a variety of roles handling finance, marketing, systems, and business development. Knowing GE inside and out helps him in his current job.

"The most important thing about recruiting is being able to market GE," he says. "GE is a very big company, and I've worked with a lot of its different parts, and I can represent it in the right light to prospective MBA and undergraduate candidates." Canale recently talked with BusinessWeek Online management-education reporter Francesca Di Meglio. Edited excerpts of their conversation follow:

Q: How do you decide where to recruit?


In the U.S., we target top-20 MBA programs with strong marketing departments, including the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, Columbia Business School, MIT Sloan School of Management, the University of Chicago's Graduate School of Business , Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management , and Cornell University's S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management . We're mostly looking to fill slots for the Executive Commercial Leadership Program (ECLP), a global entry-level sales-leadership training program for MBAs. To a much lesser extent, we recruit MBAs with finance backgrounds.

Q: What do you look for in an employee?


We're going to the top schools, so we're already pretty confident that these people are sharp and have the right credentials and aptitude. What we're looking for is cultural fit, people who are willing to learn and don't have huge egos. GE is a meritocracy. We reward and promote based on performance. People here have to handle change and high growth. To fit in, you have to articulate your ideas well and be able to span the different organizations of the company.

Q: Are the pay packages you're offering now more competitive than they have been recently?


They've always been competitive. But in general, bonuses and stock options are still down, and salaries only increased about 4% compared with last year. MBA recruiting has picked up a bit in another way: Instead of having one or two job offers, MBAs now have three, four, or five.

Q: What advice would you offer an MBA who wants a job at GE?


Don't be as concerned about getting a job as you are about getting the right one. You need to know where your heart and passion lie. One commonly made mistake is to think of things too broadly without realizing exactly what you want to do. For example, if we're interviewing someone for a sales and marketing post in the ECLP and he tells me he's interviewed for finance and Wall Street jobs, I am a little bit suspicious.

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