Few have a grasp for career issues in financial services like Herbert J. Hefke.
Known by friends and colleagues as Bert, Mr. Hefke, 51, is managing director and head of global human resources for J.P. Morgan & Co., which has built its business around many financial services, including commercial banking, securities underwriting, and trading.
Recently, Mr. Hefke sat down with John Kimelman, editor of Turning Points, to discuss hiring and human resources issues across a variety of job classes. Excerpts from the conversation follow:
The financial services industry has had a strong year. Has that made your job of hiring and retaining people more difficult and if so, what are you doing about it?
Competition is fierce. As we evolve from a commercial bank into a full- scale investment bank, our recruiting needs have changed. We are targets for other firms, both for junior and for experienced people. Over the last two years, we have lost more people to the competition than we had historically, but we still are losing far fewer than our competitors. We are more than holding our own.
Why would someone leave a company like J.P. Morgan?
There is always going to be a higher bidder, no matter how competitive our pay is. There are some people whose aspirations are more monetary rather than having a long-term career orientation. We have a pool of talent here, and an individual might get the opportunity of a lifetime to go for a job that is two or three levels higher than they have here. People don't leave here for lateral moves.
Has this competitive environment forced J.P. Morgan to up the ante, to come up with greater salary and benefits to keep people?
Compensation is important, but it's not the only thing. I have to give people the opportunity to grow professionally. We provide people a breadth of opportunity here, to allow people to cross over into different businesses. We also want to make sure that as our population grows more diverse that the organization is being sensitive to the evolving needs of our employees.
What are the hot areas right now in terms of hiring at your company?
One area is technology-application development. In our main business lines, it's in emerging markets. We are opening offices all over the world and we need people with diverse cultural backgrounds. We're looking at salespeople, traders, head office support types-it's a microcosm of an office.
Also, in the equities area and in the investment banking group, including both analysts at the entry level and investment bankers at the senior level. And there are job demands in asset management services.
What are the key qualities that everybody who gets hired must have?
Good analytical skills. Also, we want people who have demonstrated leadership in their past. People who have actually made a difference in various stages of their life. People who work well in teams. This is very teamwork-oriented organization. And you have to have a sense of humor-you can't take yourself too seriously.
For everyone who is hired at the entry level, how many people are interviewed?
We visit 90 schools a year and receive anywhere from 16,000 to 20,000 resumes and hold 5,000 to 6,000 initial interviews. We invite about 1,200 people back, we make offers to half, and we expect about two-thirds, or 400, to accept.
How important is mastery of a second language? Can you get hired here as a trainee without one?
You can, but it's tough. As global institutions, if you are going to work at one of our front-line businesses, you will likely have the opportunity to travel and work outside of New York. You will be assigned to London or Tokyo or Singapore. It's important not just to know the language but to understand the culture.
What are the biggest mistakes that people make in interviewing for a job? And what are the things that go over well?
The worst thing you can do is talk too much. The best thing you can do is to think about what you want to say and have a game plan going in. The worst thing is to not have a clue and just go in there and wing it.
You don't want to put the interviewer on the defensive. I have been in some interviews where the candidate comes in loaded for bear and tries to ask the six or seven difficult questions. The candidate's goal is to look smart, but it backfires. The best advice is to be yourself and prepare-know a lot about the company you want to interview with.
The interviewer makes up his mind in the first 5 or 10 minutes. Therefore, you have to make your points in a very concise and meaningful way early on.
What should a college student be doing to prepare for a place like Morgan?
They should get as broad an education as possible. Organizations that pride themselves on development will give individuals technical training. We need people who can write, who are creative, who have imagination. Some of our best bankers aren't business majors, they are music majors, art history majors, engineers-in other words, people who have developed a discipline and find out they like the wonderful world of finance.
What about mentoring?
Mentoring is very important to ensure that individuals have somebody within the organization to go to and ask questions, to bounce ideas off of, to get advice, to learn about the informal networks within the organization. A lot of that happens informally. In many cases, we want to start the process on a formal basis. Sometimes the mentor process clicks, sometimes it doesn't and the person will find someone else to serve as a mentor.
We have asked senior people to make themselves available to be mentors and to mentor at least two or three people within the firm at any given time. It's a requirement of being a senior manager to reach out to junior people. It's part of the fabric of the firm.
How has the way you evaluate employees changed?
I like to think of this place as cutting-edge in the realm of evaluation. We go through a team review process. We have an automated feedback process, in which subordinates rate their bosses. We also do feedback for all the managers in the firm, from the chairman on down. They will get feedback from the people who report to them and their colleagues at the management committee level. It's a very robust process. It works and people are getting much better feedback.