Ross | Mr. Automotive Compliance Professional
GMAT 710, GPA 3.7
Wharton | Mr. Digi-Transformer
GMAT 680, GPA 4
Stanford GSB | Ms. 2+2 Tech Girl
GRE 333, GPA 3.95
Stanford GSB | Ms. Healthcare Operations To General Management
GRE 700, GPA 7.3
Chicago Booth | Ms. CS Engineer To Consultant
GMAT 720, GPA 3.31
Kenan-Flagler | Mr. Engineer In The Military
GRE 310, GPA 3.9
Chicago Booth | Mr. Oil & Gas Leader
GMAT 760, GPA 6.85/10
Stanford GSB | Mr. Seeking Fellow Program
GMAT 760, GPA 3
Wharton | Mr. Real Estate Investor
GMAT 720, GPA 3.3
Cornell Johnson | Ms. Chef Instructor
GMAT 760, GPA 3.3
Harvard | Mr. Climate
GMAT 720, GPA 3.4
Wharton | Mr. New England Hopeful
GMAT 730, GPA 3.65
Berkeley Haas | Mr. Bangladeshi Data Scientist
GMAT 760, GPA 3.33
Harvard | Mr. Military Banker
GMAT 740, GPA 3.9
Ross | Ms. Packaging Manager
GMAT 730, GPA 3.47
Chicago Booth | Mr. Private Equity To Ed-Tech
GRE 326, GPA 3.4
Harvard | Mr. Gay Singaporean Strategy Consultant
GMAT 730, GPA 3.3
Cornell Johnson | Mr. Electric Vehicles Product Strategist
GRE 331, GPA 3.8
Columbia | Mr. BB Trading M/O To Hedge Fund
GMAT 710, GPA 3.23
Columbia | Mr. Old Indian Engineer
GRE 333, GPA 67%
Harvard | Mr. Athlete Turned MBB Consultant
GMAT 720, GPA 3.4
Ross | Mr. Civil Rights Lawyer
GMAT 710, GPA 3.62
Stanford GSB | Mr. Co-Founder & Analytics Manager
GMAT 750, GPA 7.4 out of 10.0 - 4th in Class
Cornell Johnson | Ms. Environmental Sustainability
GMAT N/A, GPA 7.08
Cornell Johnson | Mr. Trucking
GMAT 640, GPA 3.82
Ross | Mr. Low GRE Not-For-Profit
GRE 316, GPA 74.04% First Division (No GPA)
Harvard | Mr. Marine Pilot
GMAT 750, GPA 3.98

Employers Say MBAs Delusional About Abilities

You have to be pretty good to get into a top business school. Their hallways are packed with prodigies who’ve amassed long lists of achievements, posted lofty GMAT scores, and won praises wherever they went. Chances are, their two years were more of the same. So you’d probably wager that these graduates are ready to dive in and make an impact immediately, right?

Not so fast…at least that’s what a new study of employers are saying.

Last week, Jeff Kavanaugh, a managing partner at Infosys and adjunct professor at the University of Texas at Dallas Jindal School of Management, dropped a bombshell on big-headed business students everywhere. In a sweeping survey that covered 10,000 recruiters, 3,000 business students, and 500 B-school career center leaders, Kavanaugh found that all three constituencies had very different perceptions of what’s important and where they stand.

EMPLOYERS VALUE CRITICAL THINKING AND WORK ETHIC THE MOST

How different? Let’s start with student proficiency in eight key skills. On a ten-point scale, with 10 representing the highest score, employers placed greater emphasis in five categories: critical thinking, teamwork and collaboration, oral and written communications, professionalism and work ethic, and IT. Notably, there was a wide gulf between students and recruiters in teamwork and collaboration, professionalism and work ethic, and IT. Overall, employers regarded critical thinking and professionalism and work ethic as the most important skills.

In contrast, students valued leadership, creative thinking, and career management to a higher degree. That’s right: Despite programs like the University of North Carolina and Carnegie Mellon pouring heavy resources into leadership development, recruiters paid little heed to leadership. In fact, it ranked next-to-last in importance above just career management.

Of course, this is nothing really new. Human resource staffers have urged business schools for years to do more in teamwork and collaboration, communications and professionalism–and business schools have done just that, making heavy investments in these areas for at least a quarter of a century. So why is there this persistent belief that these are problematic issues? In part, it’s a result of who gets surveyed. The market for higher-priced MBAs is largely made by no more than 250 companies who can both afford MBAs and know how to put them to good use. These also are the companies that most MBAs want to work for.

Surveying 10,000 recruiters is a sure way to get negative opinion from HR staffers who don’t hire MBAs, can’t afford them, can’t attract them–and don’t know how to get the most out of them when they are hired. Still, some of the criticism may be justified and the disparities in opinions among students, recruiters and career center professionals is often startling.

Do the results mean that schools are on the wrong track obsessing about leadership skills? Not necessarily, says Kavanaugh in an interview with Poets&Quants. Instead, he contends, it is a reflection of business students falling short in meeting other employer needs.

“I don’t think they’re ignoring leadership as much as they’re desperate for the ones they called out like critical thinking and analysis and work ethic,” he claims. “They need people to hit the ground running. They need people to be successful. They can’t make too many mistakes. They don’t have that luxury. I think that’s what they’re highlighting.”

BUSINESS STUDENTS RANK THEIR SKILLS 20% HIGHER THAN EMPLOYERS

In Kavanaugh’s study, employers deliver the most damning message when they rank the skills that business students are missing. Across all eight categories, students gave themselves far higher marks than their prospective employers. How deep was the division? Employers doled out an average score of 7 in just one category — IT (talk about faint praise).

Compare that to students, who gave themselves an average of 8 or above in six categories, reserving their lowest marks for themselves in IT and career management. On average, students rated themselves two points higher than employers in every category. The biggest discrepancy came in — you guessed it — leadership, where the difference was almost three points.

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