No Energy Shortage Here

This company looks for high-powered team players, says Doris McGhee of Friedman, Billings, Ramsey

Doris McGhee is head of human resources at Friedman, Billings, Ramsey Group (FBR), which is headquartered in Arlington, Va., and offers its clients services ranging from from investment banking to asset management. Before arriving at FBR five years ago, McGhee spent 20 years directing HR at financial-service companies such as Sallie Mae.

Every year, FBR hires some 40 to 50 MBAs who have just earned their degree. In fact, MBAs account for about 70% of the professional-level hires at the company, most of whose clients are middle-market companies in the U.S.

As a place to work, FBR is an attractive alternative to Wall Street, says McGhee: "In the D.C. metro area, you get all the experience of a New York firm without the hustle and bustle of New York. You'll find it easier to have a social life in a city like this." McGhee recently spoke to BusinessWeek Online reporter Francesca Di Meglio. Here are edited excerpts from their conversation:

Q: How would you describe FBR's culture?


Very hard-working. I love going down to the investment banking floor at about 7:30 at night. There are still people working with energy like it's noon. There's a premium placed on innovative thought. From the co-chairman down, the staff really loves the business. There is no hierarchy. A good idea can come from anywhere and bubble all the way up to the senior-most level.

Q: Where do you recruit?


We don't depend on campus interviews to the extent that other firms do. The campuses we do visit have strong programs in our industry areas -- financial institutions, real estate, and energy.

One of the main entry points for MBAs is our summer internships in investment banking and research. We post our internship opportunities on most of the campuses in our general area, and people apply to FBR directly. About 15% of the full-time hires we make come from our internship program. For the others, we just get in touch with the campus placement offices and set up interviews. We also get a lot of employee referrals. That is one of our favorite ways of finding talent. People will not refer others with whom they don't want to be associated.

Q: Do you recruit overseas?


We focus on domestic schools. But we do have an operation in London, and a separate group does recruiting there.

Q: What can MBAs do to impress you?


They ask good questions, have an understanding of the company, and show enthusiasm. This really is a place of high energy, and if you don't demonstrate that, you probably won't be successful or happy here. This is not a group of introverts.

Q: What kind of advice do you give someone who wants to get hired?


Look at our Web site, get a feel for the firm, and read as much as possible to get an idea of who we are. Get a very good grounding in the basics of financial principles and accounting. We like enthusiasm. Most of the people we hire are comfortable in a team-based environment. Something that we offer is the early opportunity to work with clients and our management team.

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