Recruitment: Johnson & Johnson vs. Unilever

Essay, 2003

14 Pages, Grade: 2.1 (B+)


Table of Contents

1 Part I
1.1.1 SET OF CRITERIA General Specific

2 Part II

3 Part III



1 Part I

This first section will consider how Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and Unilever recruit and select managerial staff, while the second part of this question will focus on the development of managerial staff at these two companies. Both similarities and differences will be highlighted in each section.

1.1 Recruitment and Selection

1.1.1 Set of Criteria General

J&J places a strong emphasis in its recruitment selection process on a good fit between the individual’s value and the company’s beliefs, as laid down in the J&J credo and its Standards of Leadership. The latter defines some 60 criteria that guide the recruitment process, and these are ‘inextricably linked to the philosophy expressed in the well-known J&J Credo’. [1]

On the contrary, Unilever utilises a much broader recruitment process. It has no specific credo as J&J, and primarily considers non-narrowness as a desired attribute of any candidate. Unilever calls this the ‘strength of a weak culture’, and is looking for ‘eagles who are happy to fly in formation’. Specific

While the above considered broader criteria, such as company values and cultures, both J&J and Unilever however do specify a certain amount of desired skills that a potential new recruit should ideally possess. These range from ‘cross border communication’ and international responsibility-sharing[2] at J&J to ‘language skills, intercultural sensitivity … first rate communicat [ion], …and a mind attuned to speed and change’ at Unilever[3].

1.1.2 Place of Recruitment

J&J recruits possible candidates at top MBA business schools, both in the USA and Europe, utilising local recruiters. Unilever, in line with their approach to non-narrowness, expends this concept a little, by approaching top universities in general, implying that also top business schools without necessarily offering MBA programs are approached, thus extending their pool of potential applicants. Both companies utilise local recruiters that organise talks and recruitment events at the targeted universities.

1.1.3 Actual Selection Process

J&J typically uses first interviews with a recruiter at the initial stage of the selection process. Later on, top management will also be involved in the interview process. Unilever appears to employ no senior management during selection. However, for more senior positions, the top Special Committee (which includes the Chairman) must agree to any new hiring at Unilever, whereas for the top 1800, at least one Board Director must approve the appointment.

1.2 Development

J&J and Unilever take a pro-active role in the development of certain key skills amongst its potential future leaders. At J&J, these developments appear to be more focused on the business needs of the company, while at Unilever the main reason seems to be to escape the trap of narrow-mindedness. Both companies however consider a certain set of skills and attributes desirable for development; these are ‘partnering with colleagues, sharing responsibility with managers in other units, cross-border communication, and matrix management, along with a broad global perspective and international experience’ at J&J, while Unilever looks for employees who are ‘first rate communicators’, ‘high achievers with strong ego-needs’ but yet also boast certain amount of ‘humility’ and intercultural sensitivity. In sum, both companies, to a varying degree, aim to develop some sort of a Global Mindset, and a way of thinking beyond national boundaries, in its future senior managers.

1.2.1 Formal Training

After selection, both J&J and Unilever use a combination of in-house and external training to develop their employees. J&J used to train externally, but now believes that in-house training offers the company a greater opportunity to fine-tune the training to its specific needs. Unilever seems to move in a similar direction. Initial training is performed on the job and in the person’s country of work, while after three to four years training will become totally international.[4] & [5]

Both companies use a variety of formal events to extend the skills of its managers. In the case of J&J for instance, Executive Development Program and the Executive Conference sessions are used to develop certain key-skills, such as global teamwork and cross-cultural sensitivity. Unilever uses similar formal programs for its managers, separated into stages depending on the level of the manager.[6]

1.2.2 Talent Spotting

Unilever makes use of a central talent-list of potential high-flyers, with significant involvement of senior management in the selection of suitable candidates. This provides the basis for discussion at annual personnel planning meetings, and also at national planning committees. In turn, this is then used as the background for all appointments and development programs for the following year. No such list was reported upon for J&J.

1.2.3 Expatriation

At J&J, while expatriation is considered important, the company strives to find a balance between expatriation and local managers. The use of expatriate salary has declined in the past, and so has expatriation in overall. Unilever, on the other hand, strongly believes in the value of expatriation for the company, which is also reflected in the generous benefits expatriates receive. Unilever manages the expatriation process carefully, from pre-departure training through mentors while abroad to re-entry consideration long before due return from the international assignment.

Both companies however see expatriation as a tool to develop a global mindset amongst its managers, and appear to use expatriation as a learning-driven tool (as opposed to purely demand-driven).

1.2.4 Job Challenges

Both J&J and Unilever use what J&J calls ‘stretch-assignments’ as a tool for career and personal development, where a potential high-flyer is given a rather challenging job to test his or her ability to cope. This is seen to, firstly, build dynamic leadership, and to, secondly, develop the candidate for advanced jobs later on in his/ her career.

2 Part II

The previous question has considered the methods employed by J&J and Unilever in their respective recruitment/ selection and development processes. This following part will critically examine the benefits and challenges of the overall strategies and policies/ practices as presented in part I, firstly for J&J, and secondly for Unilever.


[1] J&J requires different candidates to possess different skills and attributes. Non MBA-recruits, for example, are not necessarily expected to have an established global mindset from the beginning, whereas this would be expected from an MBA applicant. Senior management posts, in addition, typically also required significant international experience.

[2] It is not 100% obvious from the case if J&J is looking for these from the outset; however, individuals are expected to develop these during their career - refer to Question II.

[3] Unilever appears to look for these criteria in the their recruitment process.

[4] This implies bringing different people together, preferably outside their country or work. This also helps the candidates to establish valuable networks, important in an informal company like Unilever.

[5] Unilever also uses different trainings for different stages in the employee’s career. Senior managers, for instance, also take part in external trainings at a major business school, to broaden their way of thinking.

[6] Additionally, J&J moves candidates from the US abroad to a foreign subsidiary for 24 months, while nonUS managers have the chance to work in the US for 18 months.

Excerpt out of 14 pages


Recruitment: Johnson & Johnson vs. Unilever
The University of Hong Kong
2.1 (B+)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
460 KB
Recruitment, Johnson, Unilever
Quote paper
Ben Beiske (Author), 2003, Recruitment: Johnson & Johnson vs. Unilever, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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