huntsman
Photo: Luke Chen

About a month ago, Eric Bradlow , the chair of the Marketing Department, came across a tenured professor at a peer school that he wanted to hire. In less than 12 hours, he contacted all 28 members of his department, some spread across the globe. It was their job, he said, to show the potential hire the “Wharton love.”

“It’s those 28 people’s responsibility to let that person know that we searched thousands and thousands of people and it was them that we picked,” said Bradlow, who is also the vice dean and director of doctoral programs at Wharton .

In this process — what Finance Department Chair David Musto  calls “seasoned hiring” — it takes extra effort to recruit tenured professors at other institutions, especially when they and their families have established their lives elsewhere. Though it’s a low-yield process, Wharton departments always have an eye out for a good catch.

“It’s very, very, very difficult,” Bradlow said. “Moving anybody is hard because by the time you’re a tenured professor, you have a life and you typically have a family.”

“It’s hard to dislodge people,” Musto concurred.

And the harder it gets, the harder the departments need to work at pitching to potential recruits the benefits of a Wharton career — something that usually goes far beyond financial incentives.

“We can pay somebody X, a competitor can offer them X. We can offer them X plus $50,000, they can offer them X plus $50,000,” Bradlow said. “What you have to think about is, ‘Why would someone want to come to Wharton?’”

Faculty leaders described what they believed were the greatest benefits of working at Wharton, including: access to companies, cooperation with other schools at Penn, significant support for research, a well-regarded doctoral program and the people.

“We have incredible students here, so the classroom experience is more invigorating,” said Vice Dean Lori Rosenkopf,  a management professor who directs Wharton’s undergraduate division. “We have incredible faculty here, so you’re joining a community of scholars who will make your work better through the interactions that you have.”

While Wharton tries hard to make the job as appealing as possible, there is one tactic other business schools use that Wharton stays away from.

“You can offer someone to teach less, but we don’t want to go there,” Musto said. “If you look around the country, you can see situations where star faculty teach very little. We don’t do that.”

As for the marketing professor being recruited, every effort was made by Wharton’s marketing faculty to convey the benefits of working here, but the job offer is still outstanding.

While Bradlow declined to identify the potential new hire, he did say the professor was currently working at “a very reputable, top institution that everybody would consider a peer school.” In addition to talking up Wharton, he and his faculty talked up the potential hire as well.

“What someone’s going to take great pride in is that you were thoughtful. We tell them the process we went through. We tell them about how their scholarship represents the kind of scholarship we want,” Bradlow said.

Of course, Wharton isn’t always on the offensive side of this process. The school’s departments constantly find themselves playing defense as well.

“People here get called all the time. And we have to try to convince them to stay. It’s a high-quality problem to have when you have people that are desirable,” said Musto. “Throughout academics in general, getting outside offers might mean getting a raise here.”

In cases where Wharton is trying to retain its professors, it needs to show that same “Wharton love” internally.

“We make good-faith efforts to try to retain people who are valuable to us,” said Rosenkopf. “Obviously, there are a lot of them and in many cases we’re successful — and then you never hear about it.”

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