“TENACITY” DIFFERENTIATES POTENTIAL HIRES AT THE BOSTON CONSULTING GROUP
The U.S. News recruiter survey does carry one downside: readers don’t know exactly what recruiters are evaluating. One respondent, for example, could weigh a school’s expertise in a particular concentration heavily, while others may put more credence on soft skills. That question, like life after death, won’t be answered for some time. Why? Recruiters are hesitant to go on the record about their favorite MBA programs; that would be tantamount to naming their favorite child. That doesn’t mean, however, that they’re shy about sharing what the best students and schools are doing to add real value to their organizations — a window into what they may be scoring in their surveys.
The Boston Consulting Group traditionally ranks among the most popular consumers of MBA talent. There, Jason Guggenheim, an Atlanta-based partner and managing director, oversees recruiting in North America. Unlike many recruiters, who are often alumni of schools where they engage students, Guggenheim studied in South Africa. As a result, he tells P&Q in a recent interview that he is not “emotionally tied” to any particular program. This advantage enables him to make more impartial judgments about MBA programs. For one, he is able to identify tendencies common among the top-ranked programs. Notably, they tend to attract and develop students who possess higher concentrations of qualities that they are seeking in hires. In particular, these include the “analytical capabilities,” ‘dexterity,” “flexibility,” “creativity” and “teamwork” that MBAs bring to problem-solving.
BCG also treasures “tenacity” — a quality that he sees receiving increased attention across the MBA landscape. However, he views tenacity as far more than hard work. “In consulting, we are solving some of the hardest problems for some of the most complicated companies in the world,” Guggenheim points out. “The solutions are not going to come easy so do people have the grit and tenacity to keep pushing, to not give up, to take feedback and come back with a slightly different or better answer? That’s a critical characteristic, and we tend to find it at the top schools.”
ANALYTICS AND DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY AMONG THE BIG ISSUES FACING BUSINESS
At the school level, the resource-rich, brand name programs enjoy an advantage just based on their size, which comes with a wide array of courses and extracurriculars. For example, Guggenheim prioritizes students who have greater exposure to overseas activities or more robust offerings of experts and executives coming to speak on campus. “The exposure at the top schools [in these areas] is just broader and deeper than you would often get at some of the other schools,” he admits. At the same time, he looks for greater collaboration between the business school and the broader university, clicking off engineering, physical sciences, and computer sciences as examples. “At the bigger and leading schools, we’re seeing them leverage these offerings more and more,” he adds.
Such synergies are fueling innovation and leading edge curriculum that is more practical than theoretical in nature. Guggenheim has noticed that top MBA programs are increasingly offering programs in emerging areas that interest BCG clients, including the intricacies of analytics and the impact of digital technology. That has changed the nature of consulting — and many other industries. Long gone are those halcyon days where solutions could fit onto a PowerPoint. Now, says Guggenheim, solutions require students to possess more than just strong analytical capabilities. Instead, they must master the tools needed to harness information and be able to draw from a wide range of disciplines to produce more inclusive and lasting solutions.
“Comfort with more advanced analytical tools and larger data sets and the ability to use data in more creative ways to solve problems are requirements that are not going to slow down,” he notes. “They shouldn’t only be the domain of engineering or science faculties. And I think leveraging areas like artificial intelligence and machine learning in solving business problems is going to be more common in how we serve clients.”
The devil is in the details when it comes to achieving these ends. That’s one reason why Guggenheim is looking for MBA programs to open up to deeper and more creative ways to engage with employers like BCG, so they aren’t always on opposite sides of the table. “At many of the business schools, we have yet to see use of more advanced analytics and testing by career services to help match their students with potential employers,” he adds. “We do see several independent start-ups beginning to play in this space at college and PhD programs. These are the sorts of examples where I think career service offices at the leading schools and some of the key employer partners (of that school) can help steer students to the ‘highest likelihood of success’ options.”
RECRUITERS SCORE PROGRAMS LOWER ACROSS THE BOARD
The Wharton and BCG examples highlight how MBA programs can engage recruiters and what recruiters are clamoring for in students. Although U.S. News recruiter scores account for 15% of a school’s ranking, they serve as a bellwether for how MBA programs are truly performing. School scores can tip applicants off to shifts in how employers view the caliber of hires streaming into their organizations. The quality of the curriculum and even career services can also factor into the score. In addition, U.S. News’ survey targets the employer’s head of recruiting. As a result, there are no overlapping opinions: each employer gets one vote.
What to make of the 2018 recruiter survey results? Think of them as a Rorschach. For the glass half empty crown, the consistently lower scores could reflect growing recruiter dissatisfaction with the quality of students and service at MBA programs. If the glass is half full, there is always the long view. Considering the recent trend toward higher scores — particularly among the second-tier programs —recruiters may also be performing a long-needed correction that better mirrors how they really feel collectively about MBA talent at various schools.
GO TO NEXT PAGE TO SEE SCHOOL RECRUITER SCORES FROM 2006-2018.