MBA Recruiter Interview: Deborah Hankin, SYPartners, New York Office

Get the inside tips on what SYPartners look for in their MBA hires

The good news for anyone looking for a job in consulting these days is that there are probably more jobs now than ever before. “People are looking for experts in subject areas we didn’t even know existed,” says Deborah Hankin, Vice President of Talent at SYPartners.

Hankin founded the Talent function at the company in 2014. She earned her B.A. in Communications at UCLA and her M.S. in Marketing at Northwestern University. To boot, she speaks Japanese after having lived in Tokyo. Recently, Hankin spoke with QS about the state of recruiting now and into the future.

 

Recruiting is a two-way street. What are you looking for in candidates? What are candidates looking for in you?

Deborah Hankin, Vice President of Talent at SYPartners discusses what they look for in their MBA hires.It’s an employee’s market right now, especially for really great talent. One of the things we hear more about is candidates craving better work-life balance. This is not new, but is especially appealing to candidates who are looking at jobs with traditionally long working hours.

Another thing candidates are looking for is work they believe will have a positive impact on the world. It’s not enough to show up and do a job. They want to make sure they’re doing something meaningful.

More than ever, candidates are now looking for companies to provide opportunities for development. For example, many companies have learning management systems, offer unique classes, or let employees go to conferences. There’s also a desire on the part of candidates to take a month off for a sabbatical and learn something new, such as another language or a new skill.

SYPartners looks for candidates who have as much heart as head, someone with high EQ as well as high IQ. Also, we look for people who have a true appreciation for design. We think that through inspired design, which is human centered, we can make an incredible impact on the world to implement the best individual, business, and societal transformations.

 

What do you see as the biggest changes in recruiting in the last five to 10 years?

What has changed dramatically is the incredible amount of technology around recruiting. There are so many startups, applications, and systems to make the hiring process easier. I saw the future when I saw Google Hire. Basically, Google Hire can scrape everything out there about a candidate and put it in a file for you. What I find spooky, and wonderful at the same time, is that Google will know exactly how long it took you to hire that person, what search terms you used, and who you ultimately hired.

You can imagine how efficient you can become as a recruiter when you know how roles are filled using high quality data. But using that data only points to the person’s footprint online and doesn’t tell you about the real human. You can be the most amazing person online, but when I sit down next to you in a room, I can see, “Do I want to work with this person?” Nothing makes up for face-to-face interaction.

 

There was a time when companies talked about free food, napping pods, and that kind of thing. Is that still happening? What are you seeing?

Many of those things have become de rigueur for companies. We’ve now had to think more about the intangibles we can offer. We offer Golden Time. Let’s say it’s really important for you to tuck in your four-year-old child. You may put on your calendar Golden Time from six to eight. What that means is, ‘Please, don’t bother me during my Golden Time. I’m not checking my email. I’m totally engaged in something else.’ Also, we have an unlimited vacation policy in which people can take up to three weeks’ holiday at a time without upper management approval. We think that giving people time to rejuvenate and go explore will help them to work better.

 


Are there benefits or perks unique to your firm?

One great thing that we have is communal lunch. On Fridays, we sit down and break bread together. We chat and actually take time for one another. It may sound a little hokey, but people are so busy. That point of reconnection weekly, where we establish relationships with our coworkers and hear about what they are up to, provides for higher employee engagement.

 

What is the best advice you have for candidates to win you over?

What wins me over after a great interview is a really thoughtful emailed thank you note.And, during the interview, coming across as genuine and admitting when you don’t know something with grace. I always take notice when a resume is clean, superbly written and error-free. Typos are unforgivable and sadly common these days. People can be so sloppy in their communication. I would say 90% of the resumes I get – which are incredible resumes, by the way – have typos. This is your opening salvo to the company. This is your best foot forward. If you can’t get that initial communication right, it gives us doubt about what other things you’ll be able to do. My advice: read the stuff you’re going to submit and have someone else read it, too.  

 

What are you doing to make sure your workforce is as diverse as possible?

Part of our training is to build awareness not just of those who are visibly diverse, but also to appreciate diversity in what you can’t see. Everyone here takes interview skills training and learns how to ask questions that are thought-provoking and also, as much as possible, unbiased. In the training we encourage people to recognize their unconscious biases. Extensive interview skills training not only helps us pick better candidates, but it also helps us to be on the lookout for how we can have more diversity here.

We are also going to different schools and programs from ones we’ve targeted in the past to enrich our employee population. Aa another example, with our software developers, we have looked into small online networks that can introduce us to people that we might not have found on our own.

It’s not enough to just talk about diversity in talent acquisition. We are also concerned about how we ensure you feel like you belong once you’re here.

 

What are some skills business students should attain to ensure employability in the near future and beyond?

Learning to be a collaborative person, listening to other people’s ideas and then building on them, is incredibly important. We need highly collaborative people on our team. Many people will tell you they love working with other people, but that may only be true if they can tell everyone what to do.

We also look for business students with the ability to story tell, generate original ideas, see patterns and envision a future that doesn’t yet exist. One additional skill that is underestimated is negotiation in all kinds of forms, from negotiation of a job offer to negotiating a deadline.


Overall, MBA students should take a “fine dining” approach to their career search (instead of a diner approach). Ensure that your expertly prepared dishes (cover letter, resume, etc.) are served perfectly through your application, interview and thank you notes.

Francesca Di Meglio

Francesca Di Meglio has written about higher education for two decades. She covered business schools and all aspects of management education for what became Bloomberg Businessweek from May 2004 to December 2013. Di Meglio was the consultant editor for the book Admitted: An Interactive Workbook for Getting into a Top MBA Program (85 Broads Publishing, 2011), which was written by admissions consultant Betsy Massar. In addition, she is a family travel and parenting blogger at the Italian Mamma website

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