MBA Recruiter Interview: UPS

Recruiters at UPS tells us that about the company's wide-ranging MBA opportunities

Founded in 1907 as an on-foot delivery service, UPS now delivers 18.3 million packages each day but, while many people view it purely as a package delivery company, UPS’s director of talent acquisition, Matt Lavery, feels that it could also be considered a “tech company with trucks.” Case in point: The company spends a billion dollars a year on technology.

UPS’s MBA recruitment efforts are also tech-focused since two of the company’s biggest recruitment areas are data analysis and IT. In order to help bring in fresh ideas and new skillsets, UPS is hiring more MBAs than it ever has before. In this interview, Matt Lavery (ML) and PR manager, Dan McMackin (DM), discuss the corporate culture at UPS as well as what the global logistics giant looks for in its MBA hires.

Why might MBAs choose to work at UPS?

ML: MBA candidates are interested in the vast array of opportunities we have to offer, combined with the upward mobility that exists at UPS. Regardless of the position you start in, we are constantly looking to groom top talent to be future leaders within the company. There’s lots of room for both upward and sideways mobility.

Why is UPS hiring MBAs?

ML: We’re hiring more MBAs than ever before because we’re finding that the middle and upper echelons of our company couldn’t be filled with internal talent in the way it had before. Plus, the business climate has changed to the extent that we need to bring in people mid-career, especially in the area of marketing. We’ve engaged with top MBA programs to bring new thoughts and ideas in so that we have a good mix of internal employees as well as views from outside our organization. Sometimes we get inside our little bubbles at UPS and we don’t look at what’s going on outside the company. That’s why we need fresh perspectives to keep us current and get us where we want to go.

DM: I think it’s fair to say that for a long time UPS was almost strictly promotion from within. We’ve learned that we have to broaden our approach to staffing because of the way the world is trending. Analytics is a big thing here, for example. It’s trending everywhere.

ML: BIA (business intelligence analysis), marketing, crunching numbers, looking at trends, looking at ways to be disruptive in the workplace, to get our brand and our message and our groups out there in different ways – these are definitely some new thoughts and ideas. A lot of MBA students are doing those kinds of things in college as projects and bringing them to our organization.

What is UPS’s involvement with technology?

DM: An MBA student might not automatically think that a company in the transportation industry would need advanced analytics or some of the technology we use. We spend a billion dollars a year on technology. There’s folks that quip that we’re a technology company that has trucks.

ML: Our technology footprint is pretty large: In New Jersey, we have five buildings; we have some buildings in Maryland and Louisville; we have a couple of locations in the Atlanta area that are solely or partially dedicated to technology. It’s definitely a very important emphasis in our organization.

What kinds of technologies do MBAs interact with at UPS?

ML: Some of it is homegrown. A lot of the technologies that MBAs use are based on customer solutions that we develop on our own. When we talk about technology, it’s about how we create benefits for our customers and employees, and by doing things in a quicker, faster and more efficient manner.

We are currently working on a project called ORION that’s really innovative in how we deliver packages throughout the US. We’ve had MBA students work on that project. The goal was for us to save fuel, time and make our delivery of packages far more efficient than it ever has been. Technology played a huge role, but we built it all in-house. It wasn’t something we bought; we developed it on our own.

A lot of the MBA students would be identifying problems that need to be solved and coming up with concepts to solve them. The codes would be written by the programmers.

Which business schools does UPS recruit from?

ML: We recruit at various business schools across the country including: UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School; University of Virginia, Darden School of Business ; Emory University, Goizueta Business School; University of Notre Dame, Mendoza College of Business; Vanderbilt University, Owen School of Management.

Those aren’t the only schools we hire MBAs from, but they are the schools we have relationships with. We do outreach on a regular basis to new schools. We go to some schools for certain avenues, like sales, marketing or IT, and also find that we are running into candidates in those arenas at some of the fairs we go to. So, we’re taking a holistic rather than narrow approach.

You mentioned that students come in with experience working on projects as part of their MBA program. Is that something you look for when evaluating candidates?

 

ML: UPS partners with the schools mentioned above to work on projects with students while they are in the MBA program. That is one of the things we look for, but it’s not the sole thing that sells us.

The Ethisphere Institute has named UPS one of the world's most ethical companies for several years in a row. What does corporate ethics look like at UPS?

ML: We can look at it three ways: Our goal is to treat our people ethically (good wages/benefits, work-life balance), our customers and their shipments ethically (starting with our founder, Jim Casey, we've always realized the importance of the trust placed in us to handle other people's goods, which is why integrity is such big a deal at UPS), and the environment ethically - sustainable business practices are super important since we have such a large footprint around the world.

So, those are the three areas of focus: our people, our customers and the environment.

Jim Casey really set that standard here at UPS. He was the founder of UPS, but he started offering shares and made the company employee-owned when he could have taken it in a different direction. He saw the value of sharing his success with his employees. Even to this day, our management force still receives stock in the company as part of their yearly bonus. It’s certainly something that’s carried through from the infancy of the company to today – that ownership of the company should be shared among its workers and that its success (and failures for that matter) should also be shared with everyone that’s involved.

DM: When it comes to the environment, we have a large footprint around the globe – a lot of trucks, a lot of people, a lot of moving parts, a lot of impact on the environment. We have a huge focus on sustainable business practices and sustainability in general. Every department in our company looks at ways we can be resource neutral or be sustainable as an organization. We just put out a sustainability report. If you look at the level of detail in the report, it’s heavily scrutinized from injuries to accidents to C02 emissions to water use. It’s all certified and verified. There are third parties who help us figure out where we should set our goals.

What are some common job roles for MBAs at UPS?

ML: UPS offers a variety of roles that align with an MBA such as marketing, finance, accounting, customer Solutions, and others. Specific areas of focus, meanwhile, include but are not limited to: Customer technology; international finance and accounting; public relations; marketing strategy; digital marketing; data analytics.

Could you please provide an overview of UPS's MBA recruitment and hiring process?

ML: UPS partners with MBA programs at various schools by sponsoring networking events and participating in speaking engagements at the schools. Often, UPS managers that are alumni of a particular school will participate in these events. Given their mutual connection with the MBA program, the managers and students immediately have a common bond. These events allow the UPS team and the students to get to know each other on a more personal level, while allowing UPS to promote current and future opportunities. Students are encouraged to check out the positions listed on our website and, if selected as a qualified candidate for the position they apply to, they are then taken through the interview and selection process.

Some of our job postings will say ‘MBA preferred’ – particularly for a lot of our professional job listings. For the six main MBA hiring areas (of focus) mentioned in the last question, we do work with the specific schools we mentioned earlier. The majority of people we’re trying to make connections with fall into two cases. In the first case, we’re still trying to work on involvement from the internship to hiring the MBA student. In the other case, we’re working with a current MBA student in the classroom or at an event to get a little knowledge of them before we make a hiring decision. We are going to make a significant investment in that person as an MBA hire, so we want to make sure we do some due diligence beforehand.

UPSWhat do you look for when evaluating a candidate's résumé and work experience?

ML: In addition to looking for someone that has the specific skills we are looking for in a position, we look for results that were accomplished in the information provided on the résumé. We want to know what sets them apart from the other candidates that have the same skills and experience as they do. A results-oriented résumé helps show the value they will bring to the position, and ultimately, the company.

We’re looking at what candidates did in projects. During the interview process, we will give them some projects or mini-projects to talk about their results that way.

Do you usually look for specific quantitative or technical skills?

ML: In some cases, yes. It’s one thing to crunch a number and it’s another thing to take it and have an application and a meaning for it. You’re taking the quantitative number and making a causation to it for something qualitative. That’s really what we’re trying to get out of those analytics, so that some of the things we’ve looked at in that past that were immeasurable, or hard to measure, can become measurable. Or in some cases, it’s making things that weren’t predictive more predictive.

What steps should MBAs take in order to make a good impression? Conversely, what are some common mistakes MBAs should avoid when contacting recruiters?

ML: Steps to making a good impression include: 

•             Researching the company they are interested in and identifying areas of interest.

•             Being able to articulate the experience they bring to the table and how they will add value to any company that hires them (their ‘Elevator Pitch’).

•             Doing a self-evaluation to know what they will and will not be open to in order to land a job with an organization (i.e., relocation, rotating assignments, starting out in a more junior position initially, etc.).

Common mistakes are:

•             Not being able to give an ‘elevator pitch’ in a comprehensive, yet, succinct way that is appropriate for the conversation.

•             Relying solely on the recruiter to tell them where they would be the best fit. Instead, the candidate should research the company to help the recruiter ‘connect the dots’ on where they feel they align and would be happiest.

DM: If you’re a college kid, you should come in here like you know the place a little bit. If applicants read the (aforementioned) sustainability report, for example, no matter what function they wanted to work in, they would come in with some knowledge which shows they care. The transportation industry is pretty niche – not everybody wants to work in the transportation and logistics world. Taking the time to research the company shows that you care enough and probably want to work in this area.

What does UPS expect from its new hires? What can they do to increase their chances for advancement down the road?

ML: We expect our new hires to have an appetite for learning; not just about their new role, but also the business and how their role affects the big picture at UPS. 

Applicants can increase their chances for advancement by: Participating in cross-functional assignments; demonstrating willingness to relocate and/or accept an international assignment; utilizing career development discussions with their management team; continued learning; consistently producing successful results.

What do you mean by cross-functional assignments?

ML: A lot of our MBA students need to solve problems where you need different functions to help you with the problem. So, if you come up with a solution, you need to have the contacts within our organization to make it happen. So, it’s working with those other functions on solutions that you potentially develop.

There could be other meanings as far as training goes or with rotations. We may give someone a rotation into IT or customer solutions. Someone may come in from marketing, but we want to give that person a more rounded approach or some ideas about other parts of UPS. So, we’ll give them some cross-functional, on-the-job learning about those areas to make them better at what they’re doing for the first function they were hired into. Sometimes, it can be hard to come up with solutions in other areas until you actually experience some of those things in other departments. It gives have a more diverse perspective and opens up your mind to other opportunities and other options.

Are there particular international locations that MBAs tend to work in more than others?

ML: Our regions outside the US are headquartered in Singapore, Brussels and Miami (for the Americas outside the US). We also have other locations where we may have opportunities including Toronto, the Middle East, Dusseldorf, London, Taipei and Pune. Those are the most common international areas where we would send an MBA.

When we say ‘relocate’, in many cases that relocation will take place in the US. International relocation would still be an option, but it wouldn’t be as common as it is within the US. There are international assignments though. I was just on an international assignment for 18 months in Brussels and came back within the last year. So, it’s fairly common.

What are the biggest misconceptions MBAs have about UPS?

ML: That we are just a package delivery company with limited opportunities outside of operations. We have over 400,000 employees around the world and a tremendous number of positions that range from package handler to meteorologist (and everything in between). Two of the biggest areas of focus that we are consistently looking for are data analysis and information technology. 

In terms of MBA jobs, do a lot of MBAs still think the jobs are mostly for operations?

ML: Operations as far as package delivery, yes. They look at it as “UPS delivers packages. What would I work on?” There’s a whole lot that goes into how that person ended up on that route, at that time of day, with that package. They have to expand their minds and say “It is package delivery, but there’s a lot that goes into making sure that it’s done in the most efficient, best way possible.”

DM: We’ve got every function – from finance, human resources and sales, to tax and accounting, legal, automotive and engineering. It’s a 60-billion-dollar outfit, so you would have to.

Written by Nicole Willson

Nicole is the SEO manager of TopMBA.com, as well as a contributing author. She holds a BA in history and sociology, and a master's in library science. Aside from her work for QS, Nicole is a long-time contributing editor and administrator for WikiHow.

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