MBA Recruiter Interview: Jeffrey Mowris, GE

Wednesday, November 12, 2014 at 9am

If you go by what you read, it can seem like MBA jobs in the tech sector are limited to newer players such as Google and Amazon, and the ever-vibrant startup scene. However, these young upstarts are not the only name in town. GE is a 125-year old company which continues to rank highly in the Universum Ideal MBA Employer list, coming in at 18th in the latest ranking. Founded in 1892 (with roots dating back to 1878), GE was one of the original 12 companies listed on the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

GE is a diverse company, with many divisions into which one might enter as an MBA, with routes including finance and engineering; 40% of the business is GE Capital, a well-recognized name on Wall Street.
But, how do you get a job at GE and what can you do to make a good impression once you’ve landed a position? To find out, we spoke to Jeffrey Mowris, a Kelley MBA graduate and a senior product manager at GE Power & Water focusing on GE’s Industrial Internet Portfolio. Mowris is a graduate of GE’s ECLP Program, and has an engineering background.
GE is 18th in the Universum Top 100 Ideal MBA Employer list. Why do you think so many MBAs want to work for GE?
GE is well, well established. It's a company that's been around for 125 years. It's been around a lot longer than Google or Yahoo. We have a proud history of meeting customer needs in world markets. So, our candidates are very familiar with GE.
GE serves a wide variety of industries. For example, we have GE Healthcare, GE Aviation, GE Transportation, GE Energy Management, GE Power & Water, and GE Oil & Gas.
There are a lot of opportunities within GE. It’s a globally relevant brand. It's always been rated highly in terms of developing leaders. It’s also known for the number of leaders who have worked for us and now are CEOs for other companies. We are highly ranked on that list; that makes a big difference.
In terms of finance versus marketing, I think that GE Capital – which represents about 40% of our earnings right now (and is on track to be at 25% by 2016, with 75% of our earnings mix coming from our industrial portfolio) – has a well-established brand name when it comes to finance and banking. Everybody that's worked in a financial role for Wall Street, they all are very familiar with the GE name – not only as a stock that has paid a dividend every quarter for over 100 years, but also as a great finance company. So, I think that makes a big difference as well.
What is ECLP? Is it the main way MBAs find employment within GE?
Yes. So, ECLP stands for Experienced Commercial Leadership Program and it is a training program for sales and marketing leadership. So, it really develops your ability to work in a role that would be a sales role, a marketing role, a product management role – a type of role that would enable our salesforce. So, you wouldn't just come in as an account manager, per se. They have different bands of employment within GE. So, every ECLP is required to graduate the program in order to move on within the company and if they're not ready, we establish that before they graduate. ECLP graduates move into a senior professional band level role and that puts them at a level equal to 10 to 15 years of middle management experience. The SPB employee band is the last level before becoming an executive within GE.
In terms of ways to find MBA employment within GE, I'd say ECLP is #1 – we hire about 100 people per year. Our Human Resources Leadership Program (HRLP) is another large program that’s very attractive for MBAs. We also offer a number of smaller, more targeted programs, including the Junior Officer Leadership Program (JOLP), which is designed for military veterans, and the Renewable Energy Leadership Program. You’ll also find MBAs across our experienced programs and accelerators, including the Experienced Human Resources Development Program (EHRDP), Experienced Financial Leadership Program, Corporate Leadership Staff (CLS), and the Corporate Audit Staff (CAS).
Additionally, there are direct hire possibilities. If we like a candidate from a country or business that does not have open ECLP slots, we have a method for funneling them into our HR system as a potential direct hire. If we really like the character of a candidate, we consider opportunities across various functions that might be a good fit. Direct hire opportunities are often created by strong GE functional-specific networking connections.
What are the most common MBA job roles within GE?
First, I'll start by describing the most common roles that those graduating ECLPs take on: strategic marketing manager, digital marketing manager, salesforce effectiveness senior leader, commercial development manager, senior product manager, market development leader, senior growth leader, and business development manager. Those are just a few examples of potential ECLP graduate job titles. I would say product management and strategic product marketing are roles I hear about the most for our industrial businesses.
There are also a lot of employees who pursue their MBA part-time, while they're working for GE, through our tuition reimbursement program.
How many MBAs start working for GE through internships?
Each and every year, we hire two or three dozen ECLP summer associates. That's our name for our ECLP interns, and a significant number return as full-time ECLPs. We also hire HRLP interns from MBA programs as well as MBA interns for finance, marketing, or other functions that might lead into a direct-hire role.
What is your ideal MBA hire? Are there any specific skills you are looking for?
We generally look for MBA students who have between five and eight years of industry experience. So, if the business is GE Capital, we generally look for people that have sales and marketing experience with a strong finance background. We look for people that have demonstrated analytical and strategic thinking capabilities as well as strong leadership, strong communication, strong project management and strong influencing skills.
For a heavy industrial GE business like GE Oil & Gas or GE Aviation – anything that involves our large engines – we look for engineering backgrounds. We look for technical experience and we look for industry experience, whether or not that candidate has worked in the industry for a large customer of ours, a large competitor from that industry, or possibly a large supplier of ours. Some of the candidates we really like have a well-rounded experience, maybe more of an entrepreneurial type of experience, and those are the people who were able to take on large responsibilities and have directly led teams and projects resulting in high-growth business success. These are the ones that are more than just role players, and they've already been in a big role before deciding to get their MBA.
Are applicants expected to know Six Sigma? Does it help?
They aren’t expected to know Six Sigma, but I think it helps. There are a lot of people within GE that were immersed in Six Sigma and have Six Sigma black belts. You're going to be working alongside those people. So, I think it helps. It's not a requirement, nor is it something that we generally look for. I’d say it is more of a bonus for us and not a must-have.
What criteria do you use when evaluating résumés?
When evaluating résumés, we look for the right level and type of experience – for sales, marketing, or customer-facing experience.
If they worked a lot in the energy industry, they're a good fit for our energy businesses. If they worked for one of the really large airlines, we like them for aviation. This applies to the large oil companies relating to GE Oil & Gas, as well as the large railroad companies relating to GE Transportation. If they worked for a bank, they'd be a good possible fit for GE Capital.
There are other things that we look for such as an engineering degree, military experience, as well as sales related to software and consulting.
How can MBAs make a good impression at recruitment events?
I'd say be genuine. Have a good story as to why your background is a good fit for GE, particularly if it's an ECLP recruiter event – be prepared to explain why you'll make a good fit as a sales and marketing leader.
We're looking for somebody that appears humble and down-to-earth and doesn't seem like they're trying to be somebody that they're not, somebody that when we talk to them we have a mutual respect that they are mature and a good communicator. I think those are all things that stand out when meeting someone in person.
If they can tell their story succinctly, I think that helps a lot. If you're talking to somebody for five minutes, they can make a good impression in the first five minutes. If you're talking to somebody for 20 minutes, you're going to remember the first five minutes of that conversation.
If you make a personal connection, I think that goes a long way. If you went to the same school or if you are from the same part of the country or if for some reason there's a shared interest. Sometimes you don't really have a chance to make that shared connection, but I think if you can somehow find out about the recruiter before the event – a little bit about their background and do a little bit of research, that goes a long way to making that shared connection.
What are some dos and don'ts for contacting a recruiter?
One don’t is sending out an email that might be longer than the length of iPhone screen – it's probably going to be harder for the recruiter to digest 20 emails and respond to 20 people if they are all long emails. A good email is short, concise, points out something that would jog the recruiter's memory as to when they did talk to that person, and then actually asks for something.
I think students don't always ask for that, but most of the time we're willing to make that happen. As a student, you can also ask to be put in contact with other people that might be helpful with your particular interest within the company.
Let's say, for me, I work at GE Power & Water and if a candidate is really interested in GE Capital, they can say, "If possible, would you be able to talk for 30 minutes or would you be able to put me in touch another one of your colleagues that may be able to share some of the highlights of their GE Capital ECLP experience?" That would be a good end of the email.
If an MBA applicant does get the job, what should they expect when they start working for GE? What can they do to increase their chances for advancement?
It’s true throughout business today – being comfortable with ambiguity and able to navigate a range of contexts is important. In ECLP, you're given a project that has a pretty large scope in terms of strategic marketing. Candidates need to be able to adapt and persevere through that project. Candidates also need to be able communicate well with others which includes not being afraid to reach out to other people within the organization to ask for advice and information so that they can learn from those people that have been in GE a long time. That's a key to success.
If you're an ECLP summer associate, meaning you're an intern between your first and second year of your MBA, I think making a very good first impression is important. That means coming in prepared, coming in already having talked to a couple of the people you're going to be working with and then doing a little bit of research on what you're going to be working on. It’s also important as an intern to get into work early and become really active with additional committees, volunteerism and networking happy hours. If you start off your first week of work and your manager sees that you're really passionate about your job, that's going to be a good first impression that they're going to remember and they're probably going to give you a higher rating when the end of the summer comes around.
How many ECLPs are in the US versus other countries?
Out of all the ECLPs, well over 50% are from outside of the United States. There's a lot of ECLPs that we're hiring in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. Wherever we see marketing opportunities and strategic growth opportunities for our business, that’s where we need ECLPs.
How will the types of skills GE is looking for change in the coming years? Is the need for candidates that can work in emerging markets part of this change?
Somebody that has worked or lived in multiple countries – I think that's something that we look for and think is a positive. It's not a requirement, but it is a positive.
When it comes to emerging markets, I don't think that GE will take a US citizen and move them as an ECLP into an emerging market. We will instead find a good candidate from that country within an emerging market. They might be getting their MBA in the United States, but they're from another part of the world. That's usually how that process works.
How common is it for GE to recruit candidates from career fairs? What are some examples of conferences where GE recruits MBA job candidates?
GE does a lot of hiring for ECLPs and in general, GE does a lot of hiring of MBA students from career fairs. For example: MBAWI, NAAMBA, NBMBAA, and NSHMBA. We went to the Forte Foundation this year in June. The National Black MBA Conference was September, as well as NSHMBA. There's also the Reaching Out LGBT MBA Conference, the MBA Veterans Conference, and the Asian MBA Leadership & Career Expo. There's also Eurout which is for LGBTs in Europe.
How does GE’s career fair recruiting process work?
We generally post for job interviews so that people can submit their résumé and apply for an interview weeks or days in advance of the actual career fair. For all of those conferences, we'll post for job interviews. Then, we'll leave about half of our interview spots open for candidates we talk to and meet in person that we really like.
Which recruitment method is most common – career fairs or going directly to the schools?
I'd say it's important to do both. We recruit a large number of candidates through career fairs.
When it comes to going directly to school, we have at least 10 MBA schools that are considered core schools that we recruit at. Additionally, we have an ECLP Case Competition which is for first-year MBAs. It's a case competition where you basically apply to join the ECLP case competition team. From my experience, there are usually about 20 people from each school that apply and we select four people from each school. Some schools have their own format where there will be different teams that compete internally at that school and the winning team that goes on to represent their school at the regional case competition. So, that's another method that we use.
For this year’s case competitions in the US, we have regional competitions in the Mid-Atlantic, the Mid-West, the Northeast, the West, the Southwest, and one in Canada. And that's for first-year MBAs. So, it's a good way to you to submit your résumé and for the organization (meaning GE and the recruiting team) to look at your résumé and to become familiar with first-year MBAs early on in October of their first year. And then, the winning team has an official GE ECLP interview for a summer internship.
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