What Employers Want From MBA Graduates

What Employers Want From MBA Graduates — and What They Don’t

The business world is evolving and companies are expecting more from MBAs.  Leading experts say the best way MBAs can increase their likelihood of landing a job post grad is to seek certain “soft skills.”

Financial Times recently surveyed 48 leading business employers on what professional skills they want — but cannot find — in MBA graduates.

These are the five most important skills that employers look for, according to the Financial Times survey:

1.) Ability to work with a wide variety of people
2.) Time management and the ability to prioritize
3.) Understanding digital impact on businesses
4.) Ability to build, sustain, and expand network of people
5.) Ability to solve complex problems

The skills are defined as “soft skills”— loosely defined personal attributes. Of the five skills, employers said the “time management” skill was the most difficult to find in MBA grads.

The bottom five skills? Specialized marketing skills, complex statistical skills, environmental management/corporate social responsibility, specialized programming skills, and specialized financial skills.

The findings may not be of much surprise. As industries become increasingly automated, the need for specific technical skills becomes less important and the need for analytic and critical thinking skills increases in demand. A recent article by The New York Times suggests that in an automated future, traits such as “creativity, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, adaptability and collaboration” will be in high demand as more industries become automated.

Business schools have been trying to adapt by broadening the pool of MBA employers. At Chicago’s Booth School of Business, tech companies such as Amazon and Google have hired the most MBAs in recent years—even more than traditional management consultancies and investment banks.

Julie Morton is associate dean of careers services and corporate relations at Booth. She says half of her team is responsible for spreading the word about the value of hiring MBA grads. Since many companies now seek “soft skills,” Morton and her team work to convince companies that their MBA students have the sought after skills. “We work with companies all the time where the MBA is not the goal,” Morton tells Financial Times.

Business schools have also tried to expand their applicant pool in recent years to seek applicants with soft skills. As part of the application process, New York University’s Stern School of Business now includes an “emotional intelligence,” or EQ requirement. This is a 250-word statement from friends or co-workers that demonstrates the applicant’s EQ qualities such as self-awareness, empathy, communication and self-management.

Still, soft skills remain just part of the MBA equation. As technology expands into almost every industry, it is becoming more of a requirement for applicants to have certain technical skills or experience.

Kevin Marvinac is both an MBA graduate and chief operating officer at TransparentCareer, which helps MBA grads find the ideal job using a database of salary data.

Marvinac says an MBA can be helpful in landing a senior executive role at a company, but it isn’t enough when in industries where applicants are expected to have technical skills or experience.

“It is really hard to be a product manager at a tech company, for instance, if you don’t know how to code,” Marvinac says.

Sources: Financial Times, The New York Times, NYU Stern