MBA Recruiter Interview: Bethany Gillen, Aetna

Tuesday, December 23, 2014 at 1pm

Healthcare juggernaut Aetna, which currently employs 1,200 MBAs, is a Fortune 100 company. Despite this venerable standing, however, it is certainly not a stuffy, homogeneous environment in which to work as an MBA. DiversityInc rated it 19th for diversity in 2014, and Human Rights Campaign called it one of the best places for LGBT employees to work.
The firm also purports to be working towards creating healthier communities through supporting nonprofit healthcare initiatives, and by creating apps and tools to help people find and manage their care.
Bethany Gillen, Aetna’s head of university relations, discusses how working at Aetna allows MBAs to make a lasting impact on the healthcare industry.

Why do MBA students want to work for Aetna? 

MBA students want to work where they can learn, grow and challenge themselves professionally. We offer more than 100 types of jobs with established career tracks. Our salaries and benefits are market-competitive, with bonus potential for high achievers.
We are proud to be a member of the prestigious Fortune 100. We are consistently ranked high among our peers on Fortune World’s Most Admired Companies list. Barron’s ranked us number 18 on their list of Best Companies for 2014. We also received the Best Employer for Healthy Lifestyles Platinum Award from the National Business Group on Health in 2013. Aetna has received the platinum award seven times.
Finally, and most importantly, MBA students want their work to make a difference. We develop short- and long-term solutions to improve the quality and affordability of health care. We have been recognized by the Department of Health and Human Services, the White House Business Council and the National Business Group on Health for our commitment to improving our health system. What we do here at Aetna will benefit generations to come, and that makes working for Aetna more than just a job.

What are common jobs for MBA graduates at Aetna? Where are most of the jobs located?

We are a diverse company. We purposefully recruit and hire MBA graduates into different business areas to ensure that their expertise impacts all aspects of our operations. Many of our MBA candidates are hired into strategy and leadership roles across the enterprise.
Our employees are located in all 50 states and in the District of Columbia. Our largest locations are in Hartford, Connecticut, Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, and Phoenix, Arizona. We also have employees who are based internationally in places like Dubai, Shanghai, Jakarta and more.

What do you look for when evaluating candidate’s résumés and job experience?

Qualifications are tailored to each position. Many hiring managers seek prior work experience and unique skills that differentiate candidates from their peers. Our hiring managers look for candidates that have taken opportunities to develop transferrable skills inside and outside of the workplace.
We recognize valuable skills can be enhanced in academia, work experiences, and even personal lives, so we look at each candidate individually to understand who they are and the unique perspective they can bring to each position.

How do you choose which business schools to recruit from?

Our recruiters work closely with hiring managers to target the search for MBA candidates based on the requirements of each position. For example, a hiring manager in sales on the west coast might want to target business schools in their same geographic region to increase the likelihood of finding candidates familiar with the dynamics of those particular areas. We use geography and other considerations to focus our recruitment efforts. Where possible, we also publicize job openings with MBA schools around the country.

Do most of Aetna's MBA hires have healthcare backgrounds?

Our MBA hires come from a variety of backgrounds, and many do not have specific experience in healthcare. We value MBA candidates from all industries and backgrounds because our workforce, business areas and customers are incredibly diverse.
When MBA graduates come to Aetna, they have the opportunity to try new things. Our managers encourage people to take charge of their careers, challenge themselves, and explore new areas of interest. We know this approach works because MBA candidates from diverse backgrounds have found success in all areas of our business.

How many MBA students do you typically recruit each year from the US? How about globally?

In the past year, we have hired more than 50 MBA candidates for many different roles within the organization. In total, we have more than 1,200 employees who hold an MBA degree.
We recruit MBA candidates for positions within the United States and abroad. Aetna International is growing and has many exciting opportunities for qualified individuals in offices around the world.

How many MBA interns did Aetna have this year?

We typically hire approximately 10 MBA interns per year. In prior years, we have worked directly with hiring managers to assist with job placement for our MBA interns.

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

We recommend MBA candidates prepare thoughtful questions that demonstrate they’ve researched the company’s general operations. Candidates should be able to identify the transferrable skills they developed in previous positions, and explain how they would apply those skills to a career at Aetna.
MBA candidates can avoid the perception that they don’t know enough about Aetna by taking advantage of their social networks. Many candidates use existing relationships to get information about our company and connections that can help them start their careers.

What are the biggest misconceptions MBAs have about Aetna or the health insurance industry?

A common myth we encounter is that Aetna is an old-fashioned insurance company. The reality is we have a vibrant and progressive workplace culture. DiversityInc has consistently named us among the Top 50 Companies for Diversity and we are one of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Best Places to Work for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees. In our positive, diverse work environment, our MBA candidates find their voices can be heard.
We embrace our responsibility to apply our resources to improve the health of communities where we live and work. In 2013, Aetna and the Aetna Foundation awarded more than US$20 million to nonprofit organizations across the US. Our goal is to improve nutrition and increase physical activity, promote health care for chronic conditions, build a more diverse generation of health care professionals, explore innovative solutions to promote wellness, and achieve health equity for low-income and minority communities.
Insurance is just one of the things we do here at Aetna. We build technology solutions – including popular mobile apps – for healthcare professionals and consumers. We help our members find care when and where they need it around the globe. We provide essential advice for people with chronic illnesses and tools to help them manage their conditions. We are working hard to help transform health care to create healthier communities, a healthier nation and a healthier world.

Once hired, what are some things MBA hires can do to increase their chances of advancement at Aetna?

We encourage employees to take on projects and assignments that will propel them forward in their careers. Some of the programs we offer include:

  • Women's Leadership Alliance – a group that is designed to help women at Aetna advance to executive positions through mentoring, coaching, training and networking opportunities.
  • Power of the Purse – a research project that brings together our Office of Workplace Culture, Office of Diversity & Inclusion and the Women’s Leadership Alliance to identify and address the unmet needs of female patients, caregivers and decision-makers.
  • Strategies for Success Leadership Program – a three-and-a-half-day development program geared toward women and people of color.
  • Strategies for Success Sponsorship Program – a forum to address and remove barriers to the career growth of women at Aetna through mentoring, sponsorship and collaborative programs with the Aetna Women’s Leadership Alliance and the Women’s Employee Resource Group.
  • Men Advocating Real Change (MARC) Leaders Program – a platform for candid conversations about gender and its impact in the workplace that hosts discussions on leading change through member-generated advice, insights and best practices.

These are just a handful of the opportunities available. In addition, more than 10,000 employees belong to employee resource groups. We find that leaders of these groups have found ways to take on new and meaningful responsibilities, further developing their transferrable skills and opportunities for advancement.

How will Aetna’s growth strategy affect future MBA hiring?

We are growing our business and delivering on a comprehensive business strategy. In fact, 2013 was a historic year for Aetna. We produced record financial results and successfully completed our acquisition of Coventry Health Care. We believe our global geographic reach will enable us to continue to provide opportunities for MBA talent.

What else should MBAs should know before applying for jobs at Aetna?

We place the people we serve at the center of everything we do, and our core values and corporate beliefs drive the decisions we make every day. I would encourage each candidate to learn more about our values before applying to jobs at Aetna. You can read more about our values and beliefs on our website.

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