CEB: Hunting for "Jazzed" Hires

You won't impress Corporate Executive Board by just rattling off stats. Instead, show how your future melds with the company's

Wendy Person is the senior director of Washington. D.C., talent management at Corporate Executive Board (EXBD ), which provides best practices research, decision support tools, and executive education to major U.S. companies. The 20-year-old outfit went public six years ago and has enjoyed more than 25% annual revenue growth ever since. Of the 130 newly minted MBAs who had first-round interviews at CEB in 2004, only 23 snagged positions. In addition, CEB hired 30 MBAs with one or more years of experience.

Originally an attorney, Person moved into the executive search field and joined CEB 2½ ago. Just before signing on with CEB, she helped with internal executive search functions at AOL/Time Warner, where she was a CEB member herself (the company refers to clients as "members" because they pay a fee to get access to its services and participate in its research projects). "I was always inspired by what CEB did and jumped at the chance to work here," she says. With the company ready to expand recruiting efforts, Person spoke with BusinessWeek Online reporter Francesca Di Meglio. Here are edited excerpts of their conversation:

Q: How would you describe the culture?


CEB is a rewarding, team-oriented, collaborative professional environment that provides our members with a high level of service. The force of ideas and spirit of generosity are two of the pillars of our organization. We value ideas and the words used to express them. We encourage open debates and cooperative problem-solving. We believe we best serve our members -- and each other -- with that spirit of generosity. We create advancement opportunities based on merit potential rather than tenure or background.

Q: Where do you recruit?


In the past, CEB has recruited at the country's most prestigious business schools -- Harvard Business School, University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, MIT Sloan School of Management, Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management, , University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, Georgetown University's Robert Emmett McDonough School of Business. But we're expanding the scope of midlevel recruiting to include other advanced degrees, not just the MBAs but also law degrees, PhDs, and master's degrees. We're targeting schools that are the alma maters of our strongest performers. Our highest performers have other degrees, too. And we don't want to miss out [on top talent].

Q: What's your strategy when you're recruiting on campus?


In the past we approached on-campus recruiting traditionally -- we posted jobs, offered on-campus presentations, accepted applications, and conducted interviews on campus. We don't want to compete for the talent in the same manner as the majority of the companies that recruit MBAs. This year, for example, we'll be inviting more students to our headquarters so they can experience our culture and meet our staff. Those who come here and get a feel for who we are and what we do are more likely to accept a job offer from us. We seek that rare individual who has a passion for what we do and is focused on his or her long-term career. So the traditional on-campus recruiting doesn't always work to help us find the nontraditional candidates we're seeking.

Q: What is the No. 1 avenue for finding talent?


More than 40% of all hires come from internal referrals. If candidates aren't networking with alumni here at CEB, they are missing out on a wonderful opportunity.

Q: What is your advice to those who want to be hired by your firm?


You need to think about the future. We look for candidates who want a long-term career with our company. If MBAs come to us looking just for that next step out of school, with the hope that in two years they'll do something else, they're not the right candidate for us.

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