Covid-19 Survey Of B-Schools Shows Recruitment Standstill

Wondering how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting the job market? You’re not alone! We’ve been getting glimpses into companies’ response to the economic shutdown almost since the pandemic began shuttering businesses across the United States, and now we have another, courtesy of the MBA Career Services & Employer Alliance.

In short, it’s not a pretty picture. But there is cause for optimism.

MBA CSEA released its 2019 Fall Recruiting Trends Survey today (April 17), and in addition to its annual trove of data collected at the start of the year — before the health crisis had shuttered the global economy — the group included a small survey conducted amid the throes of the ongoing crisis in late March and early April. The latter survey shows employers taking what MBA CSEA generously describes as a “wait-and-see” approach, that in reality means many internships and job offers delayed or rescinded and hiring frozen. Schools have responded by working overtime to help students navigate the suddenly choppy employment waters.

Among the survey findings:

  • 79% of responding schools report employers going virtual with some or all internships
  • 79% report reductions in the number of internship hires
  • 60% report employers rescinding internship offers
  • 45% report delays in internship start dates

In hiring, industries that have seen decreases include hospitality and transportation (including airlines). But not all is darkness. Those that have better weathered the economic shutdown include technology, healthcare, consumer packaged goods, and financial services (which includes insurance). Schools have responded with virtual career fairs, more coaching, engaging alumni to assist job-seekers, and more.


MBA CSEA’s 2020 COVID-19 School Quick Survey was conducted from March 27 to April 2. Fifty-nine member schools responded, 86% of which were in North America. The survey found schools using a variety of approaches to help students — “assisting some with adjusting their job search strategy to consider different positions within their chosen industry, others with considering a new career function altogether,” MBA CSEA reports. “Alumni connections are more important than ever, with many assisting their alma mater with advice and job leads.”

At some schools, new coursework reflects the challenges and opportunities of the health crisis, and short-term projects provide a real-world experience — especially useful for students whose internship programs were canceled, allowing them to work with non-profits and small businesses on such things as resiliency plans and re-evaluation — in other words, pitching in to help at a time of need.

When the crisis abates, says MBA CSEA President Beth Ursin, much will be changed. What won’t change is the value MBAs add to their industries.

“There’s a strong market for the skills that MBA and graduate business talent bring when the economy is solid,” says Ursin, who is also assistant dean and director of career management at Willamette University MBA in Oregon. “Equally important are the talents that these students bring to employers in the current situation, such as problem-solving, entering new markets, resiliency planning, and strategy.”

Post-pandemic, some innovations will remain, Ursin says, particularly when it comes to virtual interactions. “When the global market reopens, I suspect the new normal will include many more virtual interactions as employers and candidates find success this summer with virtual recruiting, onboarding and managing remote interns,” she says.


Job markets may benefit from stability in January and February of this year, Ursin says, providing hope that the economy will return to normal once the pandemic subsides. About that stable market: MBA CSEA’s annual survey, conducted in January and February before the full impact of the pandemic was felt, shows a stable recruiting market for MBA and master’s programs when looking at fall 2019 data compared with the previous year. It is based on surveys completed between January and February 2020 by 74 MBA CSEA member schools.

Key survey results:

  • 49% reported an increase in on-campus opportunities for full-time MBAs in fall 2019, a slight increase from the 47% who reported an increase in the 2018 survey; 23% reported an increase in on-campus opportunities (companies interviewing at school), compared with 27% in the previous survey.
  • Over half (56%) reported an increase in recruiting in the technology sector (compared to 65% reporting an increase in 2018). The hospitality sector saw a downward shift, with 3% of schools reporting an increase compared with 17% the previous year. This may reflect the timing of when the survey was conducted, as some companies may have already started to see an impact from COVID19 in January/February.
  • Schools continued to see use of virtual interviewing techniques even before COVID-19, with 71% reporting an increase. 63% of schools reported an increase in companies using AI-empowered pre-interview screening tools (a new question this year).
  • For international MBA students, full-time job opportunities decreased for over 55% of the responding institutions, compared with 57% of schools experiencing a decrease in the 2018 survey. This compares with 65% who experienced a decrease in 2017, suggesting some stability for this student population.
  • Technology continues to be the industry experiencing the largest increase in recruiting for international students, with 35% of schools experiencing an increase. The previous year’s survey yielded the same results.
  • For specialized master’s students, 55% of schools reported an increase in on-campus recruiting, compared with 41% the previous year. On-campus recruiting remained stable, with 39% of schools reporting an increase (the same number as 2018).
  • Similar to MBA programs, technology experienced the largest increase in recruiting, with 72% of schools reporting an increase, a 36% increase from the 2018 survey.


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