Employers Are Looking For These 2 Skills In B-School Grads

National Business Research Institute

The boutiques, the global giants, and most companies in the middle agree: Business schools are getting the job done.

The Graduate Management Admission Council, the nonprofit that administers the test that schools rely on for most of their admits, conducted a survey with more than 1,200 employers in dozens of countries and found that they overwhelmingly view B-school graduates as prepared to succeed at their companies. When it comes to the two main skills they look for from B-school grads — problem solving and working well with others — they say schools are consistently stepping up and molding students into strong employees. 

The findings jive with other results from GMAC’s Corporate Recruiters Survey, conducted in spring 2019, particularly that demand for MBAs will remain high throughout 2019 and that MBAs are pulling in — and likely to continue pulling in — record pay. Overall, GMAC’s report presents a trove of positive news about graduate management education even as concerns rise in the U.S. over the worst downturn in MBA application volume in years.

All charts: GMAC


GMAC’s Employability and Business School Graduates portion of its survey offers a window into the world of employer hiring demand for MBA and business master’s graduates and examines hiring practices by industry, company size, and world region. Working with survey partners MBA Career Services and Employer Alliance (MBA CSEA), EFMD, and HIGHERED, and in association with career services offices at 116 graduate B-schools worldwide, GMAC conducted the survey in February and March 2019; it published the most recent data last month. Analysis in the report is based on responses received from 1,202 employers in 45 countries around the world who work directly with participating business schools, including 33% in the Fortune Global 100 and 500.

The respondents were mostly — 79% — U.S. employers, with 13% based in Europe. Fifty-seven percent were for-profit, private companies, and 38% have 10,000 or more employees. In industry terms, 22% are products/services firms, 17% are in consulting, and 14% each are finance/accounting and tech firms.

The report was written by Matt Hazenbush, GMAC’s research communications senior manager, and Gregg Schoenfeld, senior director for research, questionnaire development, and analysis and interpretation of data. 

Overall in the survey, nearly 9 in 10 agree or strongly agree that their new B-school hires are “primed for success” at their companies. “By a wide margin, problem solving and working with others are the skills that recruiters say are the most important for the job openings they plan to fill with business school graduates,” Hazenbush and Schoenfeld write.


In rating the importance of problem solving ability, 57% of respondents called it a “most important” trait, while 30% called it the “next most important.” Working with others — teamwork — was the second-place key trait, named by 50% as “most important” and by 31% as “next most important.”

“From a list of 10 skills, the majority of recruiters select these two skills as among the top three most important,” Hazenbush and Schoenfeld write. “The vast majority of recruiters say graduates are adequately prepared or very well prepared in the 10 skills. By a slight margin, recruiters give their most favorable review to graduates’ skill preparation for quantitative tasks and oral communication and presentation.”

An imprecise, though common, measure is often employed in choosing new hires, the survey finds. “In making hiring decisions, recruiters tend to place more importance on fit — both with the company culture and the job opening — than on prior direct experience or growth potential,” the authors write. “Among the total sample of responding recruiters, 37% rank fit with company culture as their most important hiring decision factor, and 31% say fit with the job opening is most important.”

For the B-school applicant or those considering B-school, the survey is likely a source of reassurance. After all, employability is often atop the list of student concerns — and GMAC’s survey shows how employers view, and rank, prospects.

“Employability — the capability to gain initial employment, maintain employment, and obtain new employment if required — is a driving force for many candidates in their decision to pursue graduate management education,” Hazenbush and Schoenfeld write. “These candidates are drawn to GME because they have a reasonable expectation that a graduate business credential will lead to the improved employment outcomes they seek, and to that end employability outcomes are an important factor in candidates’ evaluation of their GME options.

“Because of the primacy of employability to candidate choices, it’s essential that business school professionals in a variety of functional areas understand what today’s employers look for in hiring recent business school graduates, how they make their employment decisions, and how they judge business schools on preparing their graduates for success.”

See the next page for more charts from the GMAC Corporate Recruiters Survey report. 


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