MBA students who want a job with this Las Vegas company, need to be good at poker

A poker game in progress at this year’s tournament

Don’t be surprised, if tomorrow, an automobile company visiting your campus tests your driving skills before offering you a job. Because that’s how US-based gaming company Caesars Entertainment hires. It invites MBA students interested in working with them to play poker before deciding on the hire. The company has been on this uncanny recruiting drive since 2006.

Annually, nearly 300 students from some of the best schools (including Harvard Business School, MIT Sloan School of Management and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania) participate in this event. This could be just a coincidence but some of the schools like Wharton, Chicago Booth, Tepper, and Kenan-Flager Business School actually have established poker clubs on campus, some of them recently started.

PaGaLGuY spoke to Caesars Entertainment’s Leadership Service Co-ordinator, Tijuana Plant who is instrumental in organising the rather distinctive hiring process. According to her, the fun ambiance and real money involved helps the company monitor for qualities such as critical thinking ability and social aptitude needed for an entertainment company, where, often work and fun go hand in hand. Finally, a game of poker is nothing but a sit-down of a group of people, gorging on delectable food, endless talk and yet each player working on a strategy, silently.

Tijuana Plant

Who thought of this idea and why?

MBA Poker is the brain child of Brad Warga and Brad Jones (directors in the recruiting department). The event has been used as a brand building tool to educate students on the viability of a career in the gaming industry, particularly at Caesars Entertainment. Today, we have taken the event to its evolutionary next level and made it a viable recruiting tool.

How many students took part this year and from which schools?

More than 300 students took part in this year’s tournament from more than 60 business schools from around the world. We had students from University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, the Harvard Business School, MIT’s Sloan School of Management, Northwestern University’s Kellogg, UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, the USC’s Marshall School of Business, and Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management, Tepper at Carneige Mellon etc.

How many did you recruit?

We selected 36 individuals to interview for an opportunity to be a part of the Caesars Entertainment President’s Associate Program, one of the oldest executive leadership programs in the industry. The top candidates from this group are combined with the top candidates from our on campus interviews for a final round of interviews with top executives and operators in the company. Jeff Lewis from the University of California at San Diego’s Rady School of Management, and George Orn and Philip Shing, both from Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business, were the tournament winners. We usually look at taking 20-40 students in one season.

What are the qualities that you looked out for?

We looked out for individuals who are strategic thinkers. Like poker players, successful executives take calculated risks, weigh their options and perform well under pressure. In addition, we looked for individuals who are able to work well in a fast-paced environment, enjoy working with both internal and external customers and have a desire to be innovative and creative.

Sure the overheads must be more costly than the traditional forms of recruiting?

The cost for this approach of recruiting is comparable to other methods of recruiting other companies use. This type of recruiting is unique to our company and demonstrates the excitement and high level energy our industry embodies. It is worthwhile for us to see if a candidate can work hard and play hard. After all, we inspire grownups to play.

Would you do it next year?

Absolutely! Next year’s dates have already been announced, January 17-19, 2014 at Planet Hollywood Casino and Hotel.