Business Schools

Recruiting for the Cola Wars


John Delpino is the director of executive staffing at the beverage and snacks giant PepsiCo (PEP) in Purchase, N.Y. Delpino has been with the company for nearly 20 years, filling various roles -- from heading up staffing for the Frito-Lay subdivision to overseeing corporate recruiting in North America.

As far as MBAs are concerned, Pepsi is interested in hiring first-year students for internships and converting those positions into full-time hires. Including the various subdivisions, the company annually hires about 50 MBAs from 15 schools for marketing internships. MBAs with solid work experience who know someone inside the company have the best chance of getting hired.

If you'd like to be hired by Pepsi, you'd better be ready to duke it out in a relentless competitive battle with rival Coca-Cola (KO). "Pepsi is part of one of the most heralded business rivalries in American history," says Delpino. "It's a place where passion is a requisite for entry."

Delpino recently spoke with BusinessWeek Online reporter Francesca Di Meglio. Here are edited excerpts of their conversation:

Q: How do you decide where to recruit?

A: It varies by function. For certain functions, we're much more successful in sourcing candidates from the Internet. For certain esoteric, science-related positions, we go to specific professional associations and job boards. For MBAs, we're selective about which campuses we go to and base [the decision on where to mainly recruit] on the history we've had with the school.

Q: What's your usual on-campus strategy?

A: We manage relationships with professors, the placement office, and the marketing club. We do case studies on campus, have a presence, and find opportunities to interact with students.

Q: How long does the process -- from interviewing to getting a job -- usually take?

A: First-year students have been at school six to eight weeks when we arrive. They're just figuring out where the coffee machine is. Sometimes we sponsor a social event or intramural hockey [game] -- something that's really relevant to the MBAs. We always make product samples available. Then, we start doing interviews in November or December. After the first on-campus interview, students come to Purchase for a final go-round. We also do an academic verification.

Q: What are you looking for in an employee?

A: Creativity, strong analytical skills, and leadership top the list. Our business requires street smarts, too. We sell one bottle or can at a time. We're looking for people who can relate to our consumers in a way that's meaningful. They must help to create advertisements that resonate across gender, ethnicity, and urban and suburban marketplaces.

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