What Liberty Mutual Looks For

Integrity and flexibility top the insurer's list of desirable employee qualities, says the head of college relations

Ann Nowak is the manager of college relations at Liberty Mutual Group, a global insurance company based in Boston. She oversees recruiting for the MBA Corporate Development Program, a rotational system that, along with the Finance Development Program, accounted for about 15 of Liberty Mutual's 46 total MBA hires last year. She also manages college relations efforts for undergraduate hiring. Before joining Liberty Mutual in 2000, Nowak worked at a number of Boston area colleges helping undergrads and MBAs find career opportunities. She recently talked with BusinessWeek Online reporter Jeffrey Gangemi. Here are edited excerpts of their conversation:

Q: How do you decide where to recruit?


I'm most involved with the Corporate Development and Finance Development programs. They each have a two-year schedule that includes a rotation based on the needs of the employee. The Corporate Participants are all going to have an accelerated learning process within one of our functional areas, be it sales, underwriting, or claims. [This] allows them to really understand the insurance business.

We have good relationships with a number of Boston-area MBA programs. We also draw talent from a number of top-tier programs, including the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, Georgetown University's Robert Emmett McDonough School of Business, Yale University School of Management, Dartmouth College's Tuck School of Business, and MIT Sloan School of Management.

Q: What do you look for in a candidate?


We place a high value on operating with integrity. Clearly, we're looking for individuals who fit that mold. We're not interested in an MBA who's going to come in throwing elbows. We want candidates who are prepared to work in team environments, who understand excellence in execution, or the ability to identify business drivers and their implications, as well as customer service. Those are key elements of how we do business.

Q: What kind of advice do you offer an MBA who wants to get hired at Liberty Mutual?


We're interested in people who have geographic flexibility upon finishing the programs. We're an organization with close to 900 U.S. locations. Our regional operations, many of which are stand-alone small businesses, need managers. The more geographic flexibility you have, the more career options you will have.

Q: I understand that each of these positions has a sponsor within the organization. What does that mean?


Both of these programs are sponsored by senior management. CEO Ted Kelly sponsors the Corporate Management Development program and interviews every candidate. Our CFO, Dennis Langwell, sponsors and interviews every one of the Finance Development candidates.

Each participant has an executive-level sponsor. These are all individuals who report to the CEO or the head of commercial market. The sponsor maintains personal oversight of the participant's progress, meets with [him or her] regularly, gets to know [his or her] particular goals, and tries to anticipate where that individual might fit into the organization.

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