Spring 2015

[Alumni News]

Will Smiley

Genentech’s Headhunting Exec


IF THERE’S ONE piece of advice Will Smiley (’97, Psychology) likes to give current college students, it’s to snag a summer internship (or two) before you graduate.

“It not only helps you get your foot in the door at a company, it also provides you with the opportunity to try out different fields and see what you like,” he says.

Smiley is Director of Talent Acquisition at Genentech, a biotechnology company that uses human genetic information to make medicines to treat patients with serious medical conditions. Considered the founder of the industry, Genentech, now a member of the Roche Group, has been delivering on the promise of biotechnology for over 35 years.

At the company’s San Francisco headquarters, Smiley drives recruitment efforts across Genentech’s various departments, leading a team of 30 employees responsible for finding and hiring 3,600 new employees a year.

Using a variety of tools—social media, employee referrals, internal headhunters, and Genentech’s own internship program—Smiley and his team comb through thousands of resumes each year. Their goal: to attract and hire the best and the brightest in a range of fields including science, medicine, engineering, marketing and human resources.

“We attract a lot of people who are enthusiastic about living in the Bay Area, who are passionate about what they do and are energized by idea that they can make a difference in people’s lives,” says Smiley of Genentech’s 13,800 employees.

That kind of desire to make a difference is what compelled Smiley to join the Peace Corps after graduating from HSU. After completing a two-year tour in Ukraine, he received a master’s degree in organizational management from the School for International Training in Vermont and worked in international development in Washington, D.C., for several years.

After Sept. 11, U.S. priorities abroad shifted and Smiley realized his heart was no longer in international work. In 2007, he moved back to California and jumped into the corporate world, joining Genentech.

Since then, Smiley has been promoted several times, supervising a larger team and taking on additional duties, including managing the company’s popular internship and engagement program with universities.

The new responsibilities mean that Smiley scours through even more resumes a year. While he admits that competition for Genentech jobs is tough, he says that Humboldt grads have an edge when it comes to standing out in the application process.

“Humboldt emphasizes getting outdoors and being involved in the community,” he says. “That gives HSU students a competitive leg up when they can demonstrate to hiring managers why they’re passionate about making a difference.”