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  • Writer's pictureAlexander Burkart

Recruiting With A Passion: 7 Questions With Talent Acquisition Expert Allison Dietz

Allison Dietz, Associate Director Employer Relations for Healthcare, Technology & Entrepreneurship Industries | Washington University, Olin Business School

1. It seems like you are fairly passionate about what you do. With that, what pulled you into recruiting and the talent acquisition space in the first place, and what would you say you are most proud of from looking back over the course of your career?

Sometimes we like to hold ourselves back. We decide because we went to school for Pharmacy, we’re limited to being a Pharmacist, or having to risk starting all over to launch a new career. The truth is we aren’t limited to these cookie cutter trajectories. Helping people realize this is what I love most about my career. Talent isn’t based solely on degrees and titles, it’s based on the skills and value you bring to the table. Finding those hidden strengths and helping everyone from seasoned professionals to new grads discover unlocked potential and new opportunities is what makes what I do worth every minute. Put simply, I love investing in people.

In undergrad, I started off studying Psychology. I was able to land a spot in the Disney College Program, and ended up having the opportunity to go to Disney University, where I stumbled upon a class in Organizational Psychology. This class unlocked a whole new world of human resources, creating a personal curiosity in the human capital and people side of organizations.

Going beyond the simple fact that your organization needs people to fill different roles, organizational psychology really targets that people side of an organization. As Jim Collins might say, the “get the right people on the bus” side of HR. You aren’t just trying to find candidates that will check all the boxes in an application, but truly looking for that right cultural fit and how you can help them become the best they can be both for the organization and for themselves in their career. It’s what ultimately led me to get a Masters in Organizational Psychology and kick off a career in Talent Acquisition.

The bulk of my career in recruiting has been in the healthcare industry. Prior to coming on with the Olin School of Business at Washington University, I worked at Express Scripts for about 11 years. I started out in Talent Acquisition, and was designated to lead up a side project to help recruit college interns to fill various clinical and professional positions throughout the organization. It was so successful that it became its own division, which I had the pleasure of leading. In my role now with Washington University, I get to dial in those years of experience in a corporate setting and share those insights with soon to be graduates entering the professional world.

Recruiting is the fun part of HR, the people side. Without a doubt, I’m most proud of the people, and the times I get the opportunity to help expand their skills and make them realize they are capable of more than just the cookie cutter version of what their degree may be pointing them towards. It’s truly been a gift to be in roles where I get to help people develop and become the best they can be.

2. What does a typical year look like for you in your current role? What are your objectives, goals, benchmarks? Paint me a picture of what you do and the outcomes you and your department seek to achieve.

I work for the Washington University Weston Career Center, which is made available to Washu School of Business students. We don’t just work on resumes though, we’re responsible for developing relationships with the various leading global industries, with a large focus on the St. Louis region, the East and West Coast, and Asia.

I oversee employer relations within the technology, healthcare, entrepreneurs and startup space. Much like a business development approach, we identify likely businesses and organizations that would benefit from our talent pool of students, and then reach out, engage, and create new partnerships in order to help students launch their careers.

3. What do you love about what you do now, and what keeps you going and motivated during the ups and downs?

When someone lets me in, gives that trust, and I can be there to help...that’s what keeps me motivated to do what I do. I like helping people, and being able to help when the opportunity presents itself is truly a gift and one of the best parts of my job.

4. What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the "real world"? What advice should they ignore?

There is a ton of pressure on students to obtain a great paying job, with that extra idolized level of success. The advice I would give a smart, driven college student would be that it’s about more than the salary. There’s so much pressure for status. Take a step back and remember to focus on the aspects that really matter in your life, like YOUR time. Are you about to sacrifice your whole life for a career, or can you have a great career and your own time back to do what matters most in life? Family, friends, travel, passion projects, etc. Do you have that freedom? Focus on what matters most, and don’t be so easy to sacrifice it early in your career.

5. What is the book (or books) you've given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?

Most Gifted Book: “The Alliance” by Reed Hoffman

  • Co-founder and executive chairman of LinkedIn, Reed Hoffman proposes the idea that leadership needs to have a great development driven relationship with talent. It’s not just about getting the right people on the bus, it’s about developing that talent so that they can achieve their greatest potential both for your organization and intrinsically for themselves, that way they stay on the bus. I couldn’t agree more. For one I’m a huge LinkedIn nerd, but the core ideology related to how HR departments should address talent lines up perfectly with why I love my job. I gave copies of this book to my whole team back at Express Scripts, and have gifted it repeatedly throughout my career in HR and recruiting.

Another solid influential read was “7 Habits of Effective People.” Simple, but effective.

6. How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a "favorite failure" of yours?

It was between that 2015/2016 time frame. I had put in about 10 years at Express Scripts, and I hit a wall of sorts, or what you might call a “what matters most” kind of moment. I felt like I was losing myself to my job. Realizing I didn’t truly have the freedom to share quality time with family, friends, growing in my faith, and the things that matter most, I knew I needed to course correct and make a change. It sounds simple, but I realized there’s more to life than work, so I decided to focus more on a work/life balance that would give me more time as a mom.

Since that transition from Express Scripts to Washington University, I had my fourth son, he’s now 11 months old. More time with family, with God, time to grow and explore my faith, more time with what matters most. I loved my time with Express Scripts, but let’s just say I’m happy I hit that wall and where this new path might take me next.

7. If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it - metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions - what would it say and why? It could be a few words or a paragraph.

Don’t talk yourself out of things. If you meet at least 60% of the application, apply. Challenge the status quo. Take that risk. Disrupt. The world needs more disruptors.

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