Alumni Put New Twist On Executive Search

OFTEN the best person for a particular job is the one not actively seeking a new position. That is the philosophy behind University ProNet Inc. in Palo Alto, Calif.

University ProNet provides an alternative to traditional executive search firms - a computerized data base listing thousands of high-caliber employees who might consider a new job. Formed by the alumni associations of 15 of the top-ranking business, law, and engineering universities in the United States, it has two goals: to keep alumni informed about job opportunities in their fields and to provide companies with a pool of ``highly-qualified candidates that they do not usually have access to,'' says University ProNet president and founder Mark Jordan.

About 35,000 alumni participate, 80 percent of whom are not actively in the job market, Mr. Jordan says, but would consider changing jobs given the right opportunity.

One of University ProNet's biggest advantages over other executive search companies is that the quality of people participating in the program is ``very, very high,'' says ProNet chairman William Hecht. About three-quarters of participants have advanced degrees, one-third are senior-level executives, and one-half have over 10 years job experience.

``University ProNet is designed to bring greater efficiency to the job market,'' Jordan says. While the program is open to undergraduates and graduates, it is geared primarily to companies wanting to fill senior and middle-management positions - many of which never get advertised.

The program was started in 1987 at Stanford University to help further the careers of its alumni. In 1991, Jordan spun the program out into an independent corporation.

While data crunching and coordinating are done by University ProNet, the company is entirely owned by the 15 member universities under a stockholder arrangement. They include: Stanford, Yale, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, UCLA, the University of California at Berkeley, Columbia, Cornell, Carnegie Mellon University, University of Chicago, University of Illinois, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Michigan, University of Texas at Austin, Ohio State University, and Cal Tech. Its board is composed of the universities' alumni association directors and all profits are returned to the alumni associations of each university.

The response from the alumni at MIT has been ``spectacular,'' says Mr. Hecht, who is also executive vice president and chief executive officer of the MIT Association of Alumni and Alumnae. More than 5,000 MIT alumni (8 percent) participate, he says.

More than 200 companies subscribe to University ProNet, among them Citibank, Hewlett-Packard, Sprint, Taco Bell, Booz, Allen & Hamilton, and Donnelly Corp.

For example, Infiniti International Financial Technology Inc., a computer software company in Mountain View, Calif., hired its chief financial officer through University ProNet.

While subscription fees are calculated on the number of times a year a company uses the service, the cost is less than one-third what a typical executive search company would charge for a single search.

To participate, alumni pay a $25 registration fee and submit their profiles on a standard form via computer disk to their university. When companies contact ProNet about positions they are trying to fill, the ProNet coordinator sends copies of eligible, but anonymous, profiles to the company. The company reviews the profiles and requests the names and contact information.

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