Visit us at: www.vfandco.com

November 2015

Valerie Frederickson & Company

Hire the Person, Not the GPA: Tips for Hiring New Grads

A Letter from Valerie:

In October, I spent three days at LinkedIn’s annual Talent Connect with thousands of talent acquisition and HR executives from around the globe. A favorite topic this year? How to screen recent grads. Just about everyone I spoke to found the irony in attempting to harvest a crop whose seeds had not even begun to sprout.

The best suggestions of the event came from Professor Robert Stacey, Yale Ph.D. and Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Washington, who isolated specific traits that most closely predicted success in new graduates, and some specific ways to test for these traits. I’ve reproduced some of his findings below, with a few of my own comments from recent consultations on the topic with top San Francisco and Silicon Valley luminaries in the TA field.

Predictive Success Traits in Recent Grads:

  • Ambition: Confidence and the desire to do things they haven’t done before.
  • Resilient: Ability to learn new skills, sometimes “on-the-fly” to get the job done. Quickly bounces back from failure with lessons learned. Doesn’t give up when faced with repeated obstacles. Owns mistakes in a cool and confident way. Not defensive.
  • Rigor: Multi-level thinker who makes connections between disparate bodies of knowledge and experience with an analytical, data-driven mindset. Tenacious and resilient in fast-paced, ambiguous, and constantly evolving work environments. Continually striving to do better, but not tunnel-visioned onto perfection. Self-starters, who are independent-minded, creative problem solvers. To scramble my analogies, when choosing a companion to cross the Great St. Bernard Pass, think Siberian huskies, not Golden Retrievers.
  • Polish: Communicates professionally, confidently, and authentically across all business settings. Clear thinker and communicator. The two go together; people who can’t communicate clearly generally can’t think clearly either.
 

What to look for in their (many times) dearth of experience?

  • Students with significant undergraduate research experience, especially if this research was done in teams.
  • Students who have participated in team challenges, whether in design charrettes, start-up weekends, or hackathons. The names vary, but all are not only great experiences in themselves, but also indicators of ambition and the ability to work effectively in teams.
  • Students who have started or grown new organizations (clubs, businesses, service organizations), succeeded in making them work, and handed them off to others once they became alumni. Simply joining a club doesn’t mean much—students these days have been “building their resumes” since they were ten years old. Starting and/or growing an organization does mean something. In particular, pinpoint those students who rose in the ranks within an organization and led major fundraisers.
  • Note quality over quantity in judging activities. Deep commitment over a longer period of time to a single program or organization is much more indicative of future job success than general participation in a large number of activities.
  • Don’t overlook transfer students. Fewer than 20% of students who start in two-year institutions go on to earn a four-year bachelor’s degree. Those that do are likely to have the grit, ambition, and resilience you are looking for in your employees.
  • Find those students who put themselves through school working part- or full-time. We recently hired the Prima Ballerina from Ballet San Jose, who worked full-time as a ballet dancer while attending St. Mary’s University. A month in, and she’s already one of the highest performers on our team!
 

Where to look?

  • Universities with highly diverse student bodies. A good way to pinpoint these institutions is by the percentage of Pell Grant recipients, the percentage of students who work at least part-time while enrolled in classes, and where actual graduation rates exceed the demographic prediction of graduation rate. This gap between actual and projected graduation rates is the most useful metric incorporated into the US News & World Report rankings of US colleges and universities. Worth noting here that the US News international rankings use a totally different methodology than do their national rankings, so don’t be surprised to find the same school ranked in the top 20 internationally, but not within the top 40 nationally.
  • Universities that have high numbers of students involved in undergraduate research with faculty. Undergraduate research symposia are a good indicator of this, but many schools that do stress undergraduate research experience will talk about this as one of their strengths.
  • Look at your own hiring successes and failures. Are there schools or types of schools from which you’ve already recruited a disproportionate number of top-performing employees? There’s a good chance there are more students there who are very much like those who have already succeeded in your company. My firm does really well with UC Berkeley and the University of Oregon because we look for intellectual curiosity, analytical mindsets, and commitment to public and social good.
 

Evaluation process

  • Consider the breadth of courses they have taken. A broad range of classes, particularly at the upper-division level, indicates a student who is not just a “box checker”, but rather someone whose instinct is to connect disparate bodies of knowledge.
  • Consider passion for their discipline. Variation in grades can be an indicator of this. You actually want the student who throws himself into one discipline so completely that they let the other ones slide slightly. The student who has an A+ for every course within their discipline and B’s for all their GE requirements may actually be a better fit for your organization than the one that has A’s across all their courses.
  • Consider rigor of coursework. During the interview, ask about their toughest course and listen for grit. Ask, “Why didn’t you drop it?” The wrong answer to this question is: “I stuck with it because it was a requirement and I had to do it in order to get my degree.” There are many right answers. One that got a recent new hire an offer on the spot, “Because I loved the challenge, and I really learned a lot from it even though I didn’t get a very good grade.”
  • Consider their ability to communicate. Can the candidate tell a compelling story about the coherence of the path they took through their education, and how that led them to you as their employer of choice? An example Professor Stacey shared from his session stuck with me. His father used to recruit Ph.D. chemists for DuPont. His experience was that the candidates who could explain to him in clear, complete sentences what they were working on and why it was important in five minutes or less were the people DuPont ended up promoting.

If you’d like to share your ideas with me and our network, feel free to chime in with a comment on my LinkedIn post.

Warm regards,

P.S. 2015 is the 20th anniversary of my eponymous HR search and consulting firm. We’re kicking off our celebrations with a cocktail party at our Menlo Park headquarters in late November, where we’ll have celebrity bartenders including Bryan Power, the SVP of People from Yahoo! If you’d like to attend the party or some of the other events we’re hosting around the country this year, feel free to email me directly. I’d love to have all of you help celebrate what you have helped us to accomplish.

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HR Consultant & Contractor's Corner

Our hottest global HR contracting and consulting assignments include:

  • Providing Venture Capital and Private Equity Talent Partners with HR executive search, HR advisory, and compensation consulting expertise for their portfolio companies
  • Executive leadership mentoring and on-call support for CEO’s, CFO’s and HR managers at start-up companies in tech hubs that include San Francisco, San Mateo, Mountain View (Silicon Valley), Seattle, Chicago, New York, Salt Lake City, Boise, Washington DC, London, Berlin and Singapore
  • HR assessment for multiple startups ready to shore up their infrastructure before taking their businesses through a high growth stage or IPO
  • Coaching executive teams through strategic planning for their leadership development function including succession planning and creating career development paths and retention plans for high potentials
  • Interim Head of HR assignments with pre-IPO companies in software analytics, digital advertising, big data, biotech, and cloud-based service companies
  • HR advising for several European and Asian headquartered companies interested in relocating their global headquarters or building regional headquarters in San Francisco/Silicon Valley
  • Comprehensive review of compensation programs for post-IPO tech companies, including benchmarking and redesigning of short and long-term incentive plans
  • Customized, high-touch outplacement projects for pre-IPO and mid-sized companies in the midst of restructuring or integrating acquisitions

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HR Events

GO11th Annual Organization Design and Diagnostics Conference
December 10-11, 2015 - New York, NY

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Spotlight on...

VF&Co 20th Anniversary Party
The countdown is on to VF&Co's 20th Anniversary party, featuring celebrity bartenders, specialty cocktails and hors d'oeuvres! If you haven’t received your Paperless Post invite yet, check your spam folder or submit your RSVP directly to Ben Taylor (ben@vfandco.com).

The flurry of hiring continues
If you anticipate a need for a Head of HR, TA, People Ops, L&D, Total Rewards or HR Business Partner, email Tristan Petak (tristan@vfandco.com) to schedule your executive search consultation before the holidays!

D&I is the new hot topic
Diversity. Inclusion. Belonging. Whatever you call it, it’s the new name of the game in winning the war for talent and building a truly integrated global team. We’re building out D&I teams for several name-brand high-tech and biotech companies in the Bay Area. Ask us how you can start!

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About VF&Co

Valerie Frederickson & Company (VF&Co) is a human resource executive search, HR consulting and corporate outplacement firm known for helping clients build and sustain winning teams in today´s rapidly changing marketplace. Since 1995, VF&Co specializes in creating customized solutions to meet an organization´s human resource needs at every stage and size from start–up to Global 500.

Outplacement Practice

Re–evaluating your outplacement vendors? Require a higher utilization rate for your outplacement dollar? Need higher touch services and consistency across all markets? Since 1995, VF&Co is the outplacement firm of choice for sophisticated corporate buyers. Join the numerous Fortune 500 employers and small firms who have selected us over their previous vendor and are now enjoying the best of both worlds: each employee well taken care of, and consistency in every city.

Price shopping or need to customize a program? Contact our Corporate Outplacement Team at 650-614-0220 or email them at outplacement@vfandco.com for more information on our outplacement services.

HR Consulting Practice

With the dramatic increase of global technology outsourcing and the continued geographic dispersion of corporate teams, the need for international human resources strategy, design, and project implementation has increased. Our global team of HR consultants has the specialized skills and breadth of expertise to develop and lead your initiatives—saving you time, money, and resources. We can manage the international recruiting function, help you hire key local managers or an entire startup team in an overseas market, and establish HR systems for global expansion.

Why clients choose VF&Co:

  • Results-driven, value-oriented. To keep your HR programs in line with your corporate direction, we provide HR strategy, cost-effective HR infrastructure, and pragmatic HR advice across all critical areas of human resource management.
  • Any size, any stage. We draw upon years of experience with startups, midsize firms and large global enterprises to guide our clients strategically through any stage of growth.
  • Work smarter, not harder. In survey after survey, CEO's say the number-one issue keeping them up at night is "people problems." We help you solve them so that you can get back to focusing on your business.

Contact our HR Consulting Team at 650.614.0220 or email them at consulting@vfandco.com for more information on our HR consulting services

HR Executive Search Practice

Why clients choose VF&Co as their human resources-specialized executive search firm:

  • Prompt results. The average time from start of search to presentation of the winning HR candidate is 21 days. 50% of HR searches are completed in less than 45 days.
  • Superior results. More than 95% of HR executives placed by VF&Co are still with their companies five years following placement.
  • High client satisfaction. More than 90% of the firm's work is either repeat business or from referrals. A number of clients have been with VF&Co for more than a decade.

You get:

  • Access to the best global human resources executive talent available through extensive networks built upon long–term relationships with U.S. and global executives
  • Customized HR executive search solutions that fit your goals, budget and timeline
  • Interim HR management during the search process, followed by an assimilation period to ensure a smooth transition

Interim HR management during the search process, followed by an assimilation period to ensure a smooth transition Contact our human resources executive search team at 650.614.0220 or email us at executivesearch@vfandco.com to learn how your organization can reap the benefits VF&Co can deliver: Improved performance and greater success through your most valuable asset—your people.

Diversity Statement

VF&Co welcomes and encourages all diversity candidates to contact us directly. We highly value the diversity of our VF&Co team, placement of diverse executives into our client companies and our diverse clients, candidates, and supplier partnerships. We want to help swing the pendulum the other way.

About Our Newsletter

The VF&Co newsletter, "VF&Co In the Know," and VF&Co Executive Search Update are the intellectual property of Valerie Frederickson & Company. They are a free resource to business professionals. To subscribe to this newsletter, email newsletter@vfandco.com.

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