Amazon has become a leading hirer of MBA talent in recent years, often topping the lists of major employers at several elite business schools. But the extent of its appetite for newly minted MBAs had not been disclosed until now.
The e-commerce giant, which recently acquired Whole Foods and is now searching for a location for a second headquarters outside its base in Seattle, disclosed that it is now hiring about 1,000 MBA graduates a year. That would be a record for any MBA employer in history. The next closest employer–McKinsey & Co.–typically recruits little more than half that total at roughly 550 graduates while consulting rival Bain & Co. brings in approximately 500 MBAs annually.
While the popularity of consulting remains high as an MBA career choice, Amazon has largely taken up the slack from the financial sector ever since Wall Street imploded during the Great Recession of 2007-2008. The financial collapse caused many banks to rescind offers to recent MBA hires back then and to eventually cutback on MBA recruiting. In turn, many MBAs became less interested in careers with the financial sector where early careers often mean grinding hours of tedious work. Instead, a greater number of MBAs than ever before are attracted to jobs in the tech industry where recent graduates often are given more meaningful roles out of the gate.
As a result, Amazon which surpassed such tech giants as Microsoft, Google, and IBM in acquiring MBA talent years ago, is now eclipsing many of the global consulting and financial service firms. The tech company now hires more MBAs from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, UC-Berkeley’s Haas School, the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business, and Vanderbilt University’s Owen School of Management than any other employer. The firm’s aggressive hiring of MBAs raised eyebrows two years ago when Amazon hired from Michigan Ross a record 59, or 18% of the 455 MBA graduates of the Class of 2015. That was more than twice as many hires that Amazon made from Ross only a year earlier.
AMAZON LOVES MBAS BECAUSE THEY BUY INTO THE FIRM’S SCRAPPY & ANALYTICAL CULTURE
Last year, Amazon brought aboard 31 full-time MBAs and six part-time MBAs from Ross and invited another 29 first-year MBAs to intern at the firm. At UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, Amazon is one of only two firms, with Deloitte being the other, that hired 20 or more MBAs from the school’s graduating class last year. At Vanderbilt’s Owen School, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos hired more than twice as many MBAs last year as the second-place employer, 16 vs. only seven at Deloitte Consulting. Three years ago, Amazon hired exactly half the number of MBAs from MIT Sloan as McKinsey & Co., 16 to the consulting firm’s 32. Last year, Amazon had closed the gap, employing only three fewer than McKinsey, 23 Sloanies to 26 who went to McKinsey.
The hiring binge has extended in recent years to overseas business schools. At INSEAD, largely known as a school that grooms management consultants, Amazon was the largest single non-consulting employer, hiring 35 MBA graduates. Last year, for example, Amazon became the top new employer of MBAs at INSEAD, hiring 35 graduates, nearly three times as many as Google. It was a similar story at London Business School where Amazon was right behind BCG, McKinsey and Bain, employing 13 MBA grads. And the same was true at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management where the Seattle-based company hired 23 MBAs, nearly double Google’s take and more than twice as many as Apple.
Amazon’s voracious appetite for roughly 1,000 MBAs was disclosed by Miriam Park, the company’s director of university programs in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. She says that MBA graduates get Amazon’s customer-obsessed culture and tend to be risk-oriented, scrappy and analytical, highly desirable traits at the company. Many MBAs fill the company’s future leadership ranks as senior project managers.
‘AMAZON HAS BECOME A TRAINING GROUND FOR MBAS’
Business schools expect Amazon’s hiring needs to remain high as evidenced by the vast number of MBA interns it took in this past summer. The company is already the top employer of MBA interns at Michigan Ross, MIT Sloan, Dartmouth Tuck, and Duke Fuqua. At the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Amazon took in more interns (31) than either McKinsey & Co. (25) or BCG (19), which until recently were the school’s top hirers of interns. That lays the ground work for Amazon to potentially emerge as the top hirer of Boothies this year after being in second place with 15 hires last year vs. Deloitte’s two dozen hires.
“It’s one of the smartest companies on the planet, and it has become a training ground for MBAs,” says Shashi Matta, faculty director of the MBA program at Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business. “They are absolutely hungry for talent and growth.”
And many students are hungry for the lucrative job offers and career opportunities at a company that tends to give new MBA hires a fair amount of autonomy. Amogh Despandi, a second-year MBA at Fisher, spent his summer interning at Amazon’s Seattle offices as a senior product manager. He worked on a project, ultimately recommending that Amazon abandoned it. But then he proposed three other alternatives, one of which Amazon accepted. He was delighted with the autonomy and responsibility the company gave him an intern and accepted the full-time job offer that came at the end of his internship. Now, Amazon is giving Despandi a number of different opportunities to choose from when he goes back.
At the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, Amazon was recently named the recruiter of the year, in part for its recruitment of the school’s graduates from its master in business analytics. “There is a growing interest in the technology sector among today’s students, which makes Amazon an appealing employer,” explains Maggie Tomas, director of Carlson’s Graduate Business Career Center. “This combined with Amazon’s commitment to hiring MBAs and seeing the value and scrappiness MBAs bring to a business that is so focused on customer and innovation made Amazon our top recruiter of MBAs. We had eight full-time MBAs (between internships and full-time roles) and four MS in Business Analytics students go to Amazon this year and our students were unanimously thrilled with the opportunity.”