Gallup's Talent Search

Gallup and Citigroup representatives chat about Gallup's joint MBA program with the University of Nebraska, and other issues

The Gallup Organization is a global management consulting, market strategy, and education firm—and employer of many of the world's leading scientists in management, economics, psychology, and sociology. The company, especially recently, also hires many MBAs and some undergrads who majored in business (see, 3/30/05, "Wanted: MBAs 'With a Clear Direction'").

A proponent of education, Gallup recently teamed up with the University of Nebraska to offer a specialized MBA or MA in executive leadership. The program is broken down into three blocks and students receive materials and homework before meeting in person for 10-day intervals in strategic locations.

Recently, Jennifer Mosser (JenniferGallup), director of talent sourcing for the Gallup Organization, Robb Webb (RobbCitigroup), head of global service delivery of Citigroup (C) Employee Services and alumnus of the Gallup/University of Nebraska at Lincoln MBA in executive leadership program, and Matt Norquist (MattGallup), global director of degree programs for Gallup, fielded questions from audience members and B-schools community manager Francesca Di Meglio (FrancescaBW) in a live chat event. They offered advice on the job hunt, making a good first impression, and furthering your education. Here, edited excerpts of their conversation:

FrancescaBW: Let's get started by asking Jennifer and Robb to tell us what they look for in a candidate when hiring either undergraduate business students or MBAs.

RobbCitigroup: Basically, I look for evidence that suggests the individual is intellectually agile with an interest in our business.

JenniferGallup: Personally, I am looking for students who are driven and have a clear direction for the future. They know what they love to do and what they're passionate about. Ideal candidates have the desire to be held accountable for their work and be paid for performance. High risk, high gain, and liking the pressure [are also plusses].

Silvestre3: What's the intended audience for this event? Daytime MBAs or executive MBAs as well? Are the companies presenting today targeting both MBAs and executive MBAs? Could you please clarify?

RobbCitigroup: Our organization is continually looking for talent at all levels. From undergraduate, graduate, and mid-career professionals, we are always looking to strengthen the leadership in our various businesses.

MattGallup: I would echo this for Gallup, as well. We're always looking for talent from all of the above-mentioned groups and would consider current and prospective MBA students.

FrancescaBW: For Robb and Jennifer, do you recruit undergraduate business students, too? If so, at what schools?

RobbCitigroup: Citigroup recruits broadly, within the U.S. and internationally (see BusinessWeek B-Schools Forum, "Best Jobs for New Grads?"). In some cases, the schools we visit are situated near a concentration of our businesses, but that isn't always the case.

JenniferGallup: We do recruit undergrads too. As of late, we have had more need for graduate students because of the experience they bring. Our core schools across the country are Berkeley, UCI, UCLA, University of Nebraska at Lincoln, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Creighton, NYU, Georgetown, and Emory.

foster: Can you share some examples of behavior-based interviewing questions that help you determine if the candidate will proceed to the hiring stage?

JenniferGallup: Gallup's research indicates that these behavioral questions are most effective when asked and responded to in a top-of-mind fashion. Due to this, we don't broadcast these questions outside of the actual interview process. However, many of them dig into how an individual has or would respond to many different scenarios.

RobbCitigroup: Let me first acknowledge that such questions may well follow the style of the individual interviewer. I have asked questions such as this, "Tell me about a time that you have had to deal with a significant obstacle. How did you feel about this challenge and how would others have described your approach?" I'm looking for information on how the candidate actually managed a situation rather than a simulation.

mnwind: Do you hire lots of MBA graduates who had engineering background?

RobbCitigroup: In recent years, I have noticed a significant increase in the number of engineers who return to school for an MBA and want a career in finance. I think all background has value, so we would typically consider each candidate on their individual merit.

JenniferGallup: I have seen an increase in the number of engineering backgrounds as well. While many have gravitated toward our IT positions, I do have some that have applied for consulting positions. We look at each candidate as a whole and [seek] the best long-term fit for Gallup and the individual.

RobbCitigroup: I have a question for Matt and Jennifer. Most companies recruit with a goal of adding leadership for the future. In your experience, is leadership a trait that can be identified during an interview?

MattGallup: I would have two responses to that question, Robb. First, yes, we absolutely can identify those with excellent leadership potential. However, that potential needs to be actively developed to turn into true leadership ability. Jen, maybe you could share a little bit about how Gallup seeks to develop the leadership capacity of our recruits.

JenniferGallup: That's the one thing I love the most about Gallup—our commitment to each individual. We have the ability to carve our path here. Of course, each employee goes through a formal training program in the beginning. It's coupled with ongoing development plans with their manager. There are also self managed e-learning programs, mentoring, etc. It's a lifelong learning process as you evolve through your career and as you grow with the company.

foster: Generally, what are your preferences on resume length? Should an experienced MBA graduate show you all they have or work to get a summary on one page?

JenniferGallup: One page. Honestly, the best that I've seen are one page and can accurately summarize the most important highlights and measurements that will catch my eye.

JohnSampson1: What type of applicant does the UNL/Gallup MBA program attract and what does the program do to advance the professional development of its students?

RobbCitigroup: My class included a wide variety of individuals at various points in their career. In addition, we had many sectors of the business world represented, from automaker to insurance company and agricultural supplier. We also had CEOs and authors who contributed to a very lively debate that continues to this day despite the fact that we graduated 2.5 years ago. I think all who participated shared a fascination with leadership and brought a different set of strengths to the experience.

MattGallup: The UNL/Gallup program tends to attract mid- to senior-level executives from large companies around the world. Robb, as an EVP at Citigroup, would be an example of a very senior-level person. But we also get many ambitious young entrepreneurs.

Honestly, our applicants are very diverse but all share the common desire to grow as leaders. Our goal, in developing their careers, is to help them boost their performance in a sustainable way, and lead in a manner that is good not just for their company, but for the broader world.

mnwind: Will I be at a disadvantage if I apply for a part-time instead of a full-time MBA? I have a clear vision of what I want to do in future, which is finance/investment. But I have family.

RobbCitigroup: That isn't an issue in my mind. The fact that you're balancing priorities in your life places you in the company of all Citigroup employees!

JenniferGallup: We at Gallup aren't concerned if someone's credentials indicate a part-time vs. full-time MBA. Like Citigroup, all our employees try to balance work and life. We're looking for the best talent we can find. Period.

FrancescaBW: What's the biggest mistake business students make when interviewing for a job?

RobbCitigroup: I think that candidates who try to present themselves as something they aren't run the risk of disappointing [others] (see, 12/13/06, "The Ethical Job Hunter"). Companies want authentic individuals who are self-aware. While there is an inherent "selling" that occurs in interviews, I will not hire someone who I believe is telling me what I want to hear.

JenniferGallup: I echo what Robb is saying wholeheartedly. That's the hardest thing for me to go through in the interview process. Another big mistake is when the student hasn't done his or her homework. While you run into this less in MBA programs, it still exists.

FrancescaBW: On the other side of the coin, what's something a candidate can do to really impress you?

RobbCitigroup: I think it's always constructive if the candidate has done his homework on your business. Jennifer has made this very point. There are so many ways to understand what's happening to the company in real-time, that it always impresses me how creative some students can be. It also demonstrates a bit of their character.

One more point on how a student can impress: This is typically not the case with all interviewers, but I'm impressed when a student has the confidence to admit that he or she doesn't know something. I think that this can be turned into a positive if handled correctly.

JenniferGallup: On my last point about homework and to build on Rob's comment, I like seeing candidates reach out into the alumni communities that we have in our organization. I like seeing that they go the extra mile to learn more about us. I like hearing their thoughts and opinions on our business. I like students who have really put themselves into the positions. If you already try to fill the shoes of a person in the role to which you are applying, you'll make for a better interviewee.

FrancescaBW: Could you also briefly describe the culture at Citigroup for those who are thinking about applying?

RobbCitigroup: Citigroup is a large organization that is comprised of businesses that cross much of the financial continuum. While we have different business models, according to the needs of our clients, we have three shared responsibilities. One to our clients, one to each other, and one to the franchise itself. These are more than window dressing. People are evaluated against these annually. In addition, we are a very results-oriented business where people are held accountable.

FrancescaBW: Matt, why don't you tell our audience a bit about the MBA or MA offered by Gallup and Nebraska?

MattGallup: This is a program that was born out of a jointly perceived (by UNL and Gallup) need to do business school differently. We felt that programs around the world weren't cutting it. MBA students were cheating, corporate scandals at an all-time high, etc. Our program aims to build authentic leaders who understand themselves, their followers, and seek to help their organizations grow in a socially responsible fashion.

The program occurs over 18 months, and takes place with three to four residential sessions around the world in places like Nebraska, Los Angeles, Beijing, Mumbai, and Brussels. We keep cohorts small and focus on making all of the work applicable to real-world business issues that the executives are facing. Tuition is $68,500, and students graduate with a full-time MBA degree.

Silvestre3: What are the key elements you evaluate in a candidate? What's the weight you give to those components?

RobbCitigroup: Once again, each business likely follows an established protocol. In my case, it depends upon whether the person is an undergrad or someone who has returned to a program such as the Nebraska program. I look at academic standing, accomplishments beyond the classroom that are perhaps indicative of future momentum, style or demeanor, and work experience. I would view the GPA as a threshold only, having witnessed many late bloomers. In sum, bright and fit are the two dimensions I look at with equal weight.

JohnSampson1: Robb, how have you grown as a leader over the years,and how do you try to replicate/accelerate that in emerging leaders at Citigroup?

RobbCitigroup: Stumbling onto the Gallup/UNL program turned out to be a turning point for me. It came later in my career and provided things I didn't actually know I needed. For example, the program provided the opportunity to consider leadership from many perspectives. The demands of leadership offered an interesting opportunity to evaluate myself in my own business. I took a critical look at my own leadership and those around me.

At Citigroup, we also have a wide variety of methods to develop our leaders, including a management-associates program to stretch assignments. We generally find ways to build leadership at all levels, and in all functions. You may want to look at for more information.

bbravo8: Can you explain what Gallup is?

RobbCitigroup: I've been a client and a student. It's a worldwide consulting firm that also manages the Gallup Poll. I suggest you check their Web site for detail.

JenniferGallup: Please refer to for more information. We're a privately held, global management consulting, market strategy, and education firm with over 40 offices and 2,000 associates around the world. We work with many of the world's top organizations to help them improve their business results through better engagement of their intangible assets (engagement of their customers and employees, and development of their leaders).

FrancescaBW: Before we wrap up the chat, I was hoping all three of our guests could tell us the best career advice they have ever been given.

MattGallup: The best advice I was ever given was to "work the job I'm in, rather than looking for the next one." This is hard for an ambitious person to do but critical if you want to truly succeed.

JenniferGallup: Know who you are. Commit to what you can achieve. Don't be afraid to say, "I don't know" (and then run as fast and furious to get the answers). Partner yourself with the best and those who have a genuine interest in your development, whether that's your manager or a colleague. Find a company that supports your passions.

RobbCitigroup: I have been the recipient of some great advice. It typically was "best" because it came at the right time for me. One of my favorite professors, a legend at UCLA, suggested that I never stop asking questions. Many students focus on providing the best answers when they might better devote their time to the quality of their questions. Both answers and questions can be equally telling.