What JB Hunt Looks for In Supply Chain Management Recruits
January 21, 2019 | By Kirk Thompson
When Matt Waller and I first discussed the idea of writing a book about J.B. Hunt Transport, I knew that it would need to focus on the company’s people. So in Purple On The Inside, we devoted two full chapters to people and culture, and an emphasis on people issues and talent development is infused into our discussions throughout the book.
As chairman of the board, the former CEO, and an employee of J.B. Hunt for more than 40 years, I love to talk about the importance of our workforce. I often say that “If you ain’t got no animals, you ain’t hardly got no circus.” If you don’t have great people, in other words, you won’t have much of a company.
Great people have made J.B. Hunt a great company. Those people represent many different disciplines, but as a leader in the supply chain industry, we obviously depend heavily on leaders with expertise in supply chain management. So it’s a tremendous advantage to have our headquarters so close to the University of Arkansas campus. Many of the “animals” in our “circus” are graduates of the Sam M. Walton College of Business, and many of those graduates were trained in supply chain management.
In fact, we were among several companies that championed the idea of creating a separate Department of Supply Chain Management at the Walton College. It’s become one of the top programs in the nation over the years, and it provides a deep reservoir for filling our supply chain talent pipeline. Members of the U of A faculty also work closely with our company in executive education and consulting roles. They add value to our work and gain insights into what we need in their graduates if we’re going to stay competitive.
By preparing supply chain students for success at companies like ours, the Walton College is preparing graduates who can find success at any enterprise – including the ones they might start themselves.
So what do we look for when we recruit supply chain management graduates? Here are five things I’ve identified that students and future employers might keep in mind.
Have an Innovative Mindset
J.B. Hunt has morphed into a better version of itself many times throughout the years, largely because our founders and leaders weren’t afraid to try something different. We embrace change, which is evident in our current investment in logistics technology, so we want employees who are committed to looking beyond the status quo.
Have a Great Work Ethic
J.B. Hunt recruits graduates of proven supply chain programs, but we also want graduates who have shown a willingness to work part-time jobs and challenging internships. That’s one of the reasons we look for military veterans, because we know those men and women have proven themselves in difficult situations. As we noted in the book, J.B. Hunt’s “managers don’t start out with a mahogany desk. They typically begin their careers in a loud environment working with a blue-collar workforce. That’s not for everyone.” Students who thrive academically will get noticed, but those who also have proven a willingness to work hard will have an edge over their competition.
Know Your Stuff, But Be Willing to Learn
Graduates need to arrive well-versed in supply chain management theory and best practices, but they also need to realize that their education never ends. We put trainees through a 90-day program before they start in management, and we continue to provide technical and leadership training in the years to come. We also encourage and support leaders who return to college for executive education programs or advanced degrees (often in partnerships with the Walton College).
Embrace a Crooked Career Path
One of the great things about a high-growth company like J.B. Hunt is that new opportunities are plentiful, especially for those who are willing to take on new challenges in different parts of the organization. Some graduates might choose to specialize in one area of supply chain management, but many can find quicker advancement by moving from one department to another as opportunities arise.
Value the Culture
This relates back to the importance of hard work, but it goes beyond that. Every organization has a culture, and there are similarities and differences in the cultures of the best companies. One of the smartest things employers and recruits can do in the interview phase is evaluate each other for cultural fit. If the fit isn’t right, it’s like wearing shoes that are too small – you can get by, but it’s painful. This can include typical values like integrity, but it also includes expectations on things like being fair but firm and how work-life balance is defined.
The supply chain management department in the Walton College provides students with a rigorous, balanced curriculum that teaches sound theory and exposes them to the latest innovations and best practices. It also gives them opportunities to engage in internships and cross-disciplinary educational experiences. And it has faculty members with practical experiences to share, guest speakers from top companies, internships, and other experiential opportunities that give students every opportunity to become coveted recruits when they graduate.
Supply chain management has become a driving force of the economy in the region around our headquarters. That’s due in part because of several successful supply chain companies in this area, but it’s also because of partnerships with the top-flight supply chain program at the Walton College.