Q&A: Donna Mastroianni, Director, Corporate Recruiting, Marsh & McLennan

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Would you describe your career path and your role at Marsh & McLennan?

I began my career in Boston, receiving a doctorate in educational policy from Boston University and working for city governments in both Boston and Cambridge. In Cambridge, I served as the city's director of workforce development, advocating for job seekers to private businesses. After a few years I moved to New York, and took a job working as a recruiter at Citigroup. Five years ago, I joined Marsh & McLennan.

Here I've centralized and standardized the firm's recruiting practices across our operating companies My role allows me to work on practice and policy projects, lateral and campus recruiting, and to assist both job seekers and current employees seeking career advancement. What I love most is the hunt: finding an ideal candidate for our corporate culture among the hundreds of applications I review.

What's a typical day like for you?

Leading up to campus recruiting season, which begins in May and June for the coming fall, I begin to plan for our presence on campus. I work with corporate communications on our collateral, make sure our school teams are prepared to represent us on campus, and work with people at universities to make sure we're marketed on campus in the best light.

Once the season hits, a good recruiter is out of the office four to five days a week. During the season, I'm typically on campus, hosting information sessions, networking with students, and reminding them of the resume drop dates. I return to campus for a "super day" of interviewing - meeting with 13 or so candidates over eight hours. Before the interviews, I'll spend time talking to the relationship manager on campus to make sure logistics are set and that we're ready for our talk with students. Right before I'll be having coffee - a good recruiter isn't freaking out on the day of the event.

How has your job and recruiting changed over time?

My back gets a break since I no longer have to lug a laptop and a library of CDs from campus to campus. All I need now is a thumb drive. Thanks to "smart classrooms" on campus, I'm able to retrieve the information I need with the push of a button. With the advent of the Internet, I've been able to understand more about the students and to track their interests. Students can submit resumes through their schools, using services such as MBA Focus or Simplicity. I can then logon and see information like which students at New York University's Stern Business School are attending an event on campus or who has submitted a resume to me. Technology allows me to see a lot about students early on compared with when I first started out and would wait for a FedEx package containing resumes to arrive.

What advice do you have for undergraduate students or aspiring recruiters?

Any recruiter needs to be a great communicator. We are in a position to help make career-dreams come true, but for every person for whom this happens, there are a dozen who don't get the job. Communication is integral to maintaining your employer brand and building lasting relationships.

Donna Mastroianni

Video: Donna Mastroianni on questions recruiters like to ask.

I'd also recommend that recruiters be willing to accept a challenge: If someone wants to sit with you face to face and engage in a difficult conversation about why they didn't receive an offer, you should be willing to do so. It will make you a better recruiter. And never turn down the opportunity to do an interview. You only get better as a recruiter by doing it. You can't just read about it.

I enjoy sitting down with candidates. I love being responsible to the company for finding talent. As a recruiter, you need to know about the company and your product. Know the stock price's performance and the titles of senior leadership. You need to have a firm grip on the firm's culture. Your company has charged you, not just with finding the right person for the role but also the right person for that culture, and that's a big responsibility.

We're still in a tough and competitive job market; any advice for recent graduates?

Undergraduates, when searching for a job should think in terms of their next job, rather than their last one. When I meet with a student who wants to be a valuation analyst in M&A, I advise them to think of the first job that will lead them to that last one. The valuation analyst job is an end, but it's important for students to think about the means to get there.

When I'm interviewing someone, I'm interested in what that person can contribute to the firm. We have great jobs and a great environment - you will learn along the way - but what we want and need are active contributors.

In a tight job market, both undergraduate and graduate students should consider expanding their focus - not so much their occupational skills - but the view on where they can put them to use. People looking for careers in finance tend to focus on financial institutions, but I'm not sure that they think about the global consumer product or pharmaceutical companies. Toyota, for example, manages a tremendous portfolio of assets.

My advice is that as markets pick up, students stay true to their occupational goals, but think more broadly about the industries they are targeting.

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