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Associate Professor Human Resource Studies

JR Keller teaches about talent-acquisition trends on the EMHRM program

Teaching in the EMHRM program is the highlight of my job. The students bring so much experience to the classroom that I swear I learn more from them than they do from me! The collegiality among the group means that our in-person class sessions are characterized by vibrant discussion and lots of back-and-forth among the students themselves. I also enjoy working with students to help shape their projects – each year, I am blown away by the ambition students have and their ability to make are real impact in their organizations. 

I started my career in corporate finance but soon realized I was much more fascinated with people and careers than numbers and spreadsheets. I spent a few years advising students and working with recruiters in a business school career center before getting my Ph.D. in Management at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Cornell was my dream job, and I’ve spent the past seven years working with students, companies, and my colleagues to better understand how firms can make better hiring decisions and workers can craft more-meaningful careers.

The primary focus of my research is to better understand how firms can create more-effective internal talent markets. These markets help ensure that the organization can move talent to where it is most effective while at the same time providing workers voice in how they construct their careers. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and writing about two recent topics: rejection and talent hoarding. When we create markets for talent, we do so knowing that many applicants will be rejected. Is there a way we can re-frame participating in the market as a learning process so workers can gain valuable information by throwing their hat into the ring even if they don’t get hired? I’ve also been trying to figure out a way to convince managers that it is not in their own best interest to hang on to their best employees. I hear from managers that they hoard their talent because they aren’t confident about how they will replace their best people. However, my work shows that managers who help get their team members get promoted end up getting way more (and way better) internal applications when they post an open job. That fact suggests that the best way managers can attract talent is to support their current team’s efforts to advance their careers.

In the EMHRM program, I teach modules on trends in talent acquisition. We typically spend one session reviewing and discussing trends related to acquiring external talent and another focusing on internal mobility and succession planning. I teach our Intro to HR class for ILR undergraduates, which introduces what’s new and exciting in the broader world of HR. It’s a fun class highlighted by fireside chats with a dozen or so leaders in the HR field. I have also taught a class called Staffing Organizations (which I refer to as my “How to Hire Better” class) and Business Strategy and Social Entrepreneurship classes. I regularly advise undergraduate, MILR and Ph.D. students on a variety of independent research projects.

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