George Cortez on CareerBuilder’s Transition

With more than a decade at CareerBuilder to his name, George Cortez finds himself at the heart of a culture change as the company extends its global reach

CareerBuilder’s Chicago offices are undergoing a major renovation, and George Cortez plans to bring the “wow” factor—as he has with other recent CareerBuilder projects. Portrait: Sheila Barabad

For five straight years, George Cortez declined an incentive-based, all-expenses-paid vacation on behalf of CareerBuilder that swung through Hawaii, the Caribbean, and Cancun, Mexico. Instead, he sent members of his team in his place. In the sixth year, two of the company’s corporate leaders recommended he accept the upcoming trip.

“They basically said, ‘You’ve passed on this for five years—you’re going to go,’” he laughs. “My wife and I had an amazing trip and vacation.”

It might seem strange to some to pass on such a trip and send coworkers instead, but for Cortez, CareerBuilder’s director of real estate and facilities, it’s just a remnant of his military service. A Vietnam War-era veteran who served from 1970 through 1972, Cortez says he still lives by the rule that he learned in uniform of the “three Ms”—“mission, men, and me—in that order.”

In the professional career he has enjoyed since, whether working for Motorola’s corporate real estate division for 14 years or now with more than a decade under his belt at CareerBuilder, Cortez says he always wants to make sure the job gets done, his team is treated fairly, and that the entire team—not just himself—is rewarded for its hard work and dedication to the company.

Considering the amount of ground CareerBuilder now covers, there could be plenty of accolades to share. When American Builders Quarterly spoke with Cortez, he was heading to Atlanta to help with the opening of two new offices—a 23,000-square-foot space in Buckhead and another 23,000-square-foot space in Norcross, each of which took nine weeks to complete. At the same time, Cortez recently finished logging hours for offices in locations as globally spread out as Singapore (a 10,000-square-foot office space), South Quay (a 30,000-square-foot office just outside of London), and Newport Beach in California.

Cortez says the past few years have been particularly productive in terms of development for the largest online job site in the United States, which is as heartening as it is bemusing.

“I’m coming up on 11 years with CareerBuilder,” he says. “When I started, we were figuring how we were going to consolidate from our office near O’Hare Airport to our current downtown corporate HQ offices in Chicago. Now we’re in a position where we’re constantly raising the bar. Before, we weren’t techy, we were just functional. Now we’re techy, functional, and effective, with value engineering as a core concept.”

The company’s growth is also landing it some prime real estate. In addition to the downtown Chicago office space, Cortez points out the recently completed Newport Beach location as an example of how the company now adds the “wow” factor in a cost-effective manner.

“You’ve got ocean views from the two sides of the office and Fashion Island (a high-end shopping district) right there,” he says. “It’s absolutely beautiful and we didn’t break the bank.”

Even on the inside, CareerBuilder spaces are getting aesthetic upgrades. The company’s South Quay space in the UK features projection screens in the hallway, each of which displays multicolored patterns for an ambient, mood-setting effect. There’s also plenty of room for open, collaborative spaces to drive employee engagement—a feature that Cortez says is becoming standard across all CareerBuilder offices.

The number of projects on Cortez’s plate has kept him busier than even he thought possible. He admits he strongly considered retirement last year, but with the activity on the company’s calendar, he was encouraged to stick around and help bring more CareerBuilder offices to life—not that he minds.

“The best part of my job is my daily communications with leadership,” he says. “From the CEO, to the CFO, to the VP of HR—it’s a treat to work with this group of individuals. It’s the best leadership team I’ve ever worked with in my entire career.”