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Big Data Analytics & Careers In Healthcare—What Does GSK Look For In Its MBA Hires?

We speak to Jennifer Hanson, responsible for recruitment for GSK's Esprit global leadership development program in the US, to find out

Thu Mar 15 2018

When it comes to hiring MBA grads into healthcare, Jennifer Hanson knows the score. She’s headed up HR teams at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) for over a decade. She’s worked in healthcare industry recruitment for over 20 years.

For the past year, she’s led GSK’s US-based recruitment for its Esprit global leadership development programs, targeting recent graduates from MBA and Master’s in Finance programs with a minimum three years’ work experience.

GSK offers three-year programs in finance and research and development, and a four-year program for GSK’s three commercial businesses: pharmaceuticals, vaccines, and consumer healthcare. These programs see associates rotate across functions, businesses and locations, and paired with senior mentors to support their development.

In 2017, GSK had more than 100 Esprit associates—predominantly MBA graduates—working across its development programs.

Jennifer recruits from Columbia Business School, Harvard, Kellogg, Michigan Ross, Wharton, and UNC Kenan-Flagler and Duke Fuqua, located close to GSK’s North Carolina HQ. GSK also has partnerships with several US-based organizations that focus on underrepresented minorities pursuing MBAs.

Globally, GSK’s favored b-school stomping grounds include Cambridge Judge, ESADE Business School, HEC Paris, IE Business School, IESE, INSEAD, London Business School, and Italy’s SDA Bocconi.

The MBA internship is key. Over the past four years, approximately 70% of Esprit associates who graduated from an MBA program previously took up an MBA internship at GSK. GSK employs around 100,000 people in more than 150 countries. Increasingly, says Jennifer, there’s a focus on hiring MBAs into the healthcare industry.

GSK is piloting an artificial intelligence-powered headhunting tool which identifies potential job candidates online. The more the recruiter uses the machine learning technology; the more the technology understands their ideal candidate.

What does GSK look for in MBA hires? BusinessBecause caught up with Jennifer to find out more.

What can MBA students do to stand out when applying for jobs at GSK?

You need to know what you want. Do your research before you apply. You need to come across as somebody who has put the proper amount of time into your application.

Recruiters nowadays have access to a candidates’ application record—they can see which jobs you’ve applied for. If you apply for several different jobs—a commercial internship in the US, or a finance internship in the UK, or a procurement internship in China—it shows that you’re not quite sure what you want to do; you’re just throwing your application out there hoping that something sticks.

Individuals also need to come with strong soft skills. One of the questions I often ask hiring managers is: ‘Is the gap you saw in the interview trainable?’ It’s very difficult to answer ‘yes’ to that question when it’s a soft skill.

Our Esprit associates are part of GSK’s premier program; they have exposure to the very top tiers of the business and they often come from the best business schools in the world. But if they don’t come with humility, they won’t be successful. That’s a key soft skill and that’s something which can’t be taught; it has to be in you.

What more do you want to see from business schools?

It would be fabulous if business schools were able to get better at assessing those soft skills. How do students deal with ambiguity? How do they deal with an ever-changing environment? Maybe there’s a project which changes halfway through. The only constant is change and students should be prepared for that during their time at business school.

Business schools should also continue to add opportunities, classes, and experiences around digital and big data analytics. There’s so much data out there now. We want individuals who have the analytical prowess to understand what’s important and what’s not. Even in HR, data and insights can conflict at times, and we need folks that are comfortable with big data analytics to help distinguish what is important so we can progress based on those insights.

How do you view graduates from online MBA programs?

Specific to Esprit, we prioritize attracting students from our target schools. From an experienced hire perspective, I would absolutely value an online MBA. It really shows that someone has made the investment in themselves to further their education.

Can you tell us something about working at GSK that most people wouldn’t know?

That’s an excellent question. When candidates ask me that question, I make a note of it!

Number one: it’s about the people. GSK’s employees are incredible. We know why we’re here—to enable people to do more, feel better, and live longer—and that’s such a powerful mission. Even if you’ve had a bad day, you can take a step back and know you’re making a difference.