As part of the RelishCareers‘ profile-building process, we ask candidates to share their interests or preferences relating to job functions, industries, and locations. This information is valuable for our employer partners, who can use these fields to find candidates with an expressed interest in the type of opportunities they offer.
It is also valuable, in aggregate, as a way of tracking the year-over-year changes in the candidate market. By looking at candidate preferences selected by students from recent graduating classes, we can better understand how these preferences change over time and help schools and employers adjust their recruiting strategies to best meet the needs of the candidate population.
This candidate preference report for 2023 evaluates the top functions, industries, and locations selected by MBA and MS candidates from the graduating classes of 2018 through 2023 — incorporating more than 200,000 data points from over 10,000 candidate profiles on the RelishCareers platform.
THE MOST IN-DEMAND JOB FUNCTIONS FOR MBA & MS GRADS
RelishCareers asks candidates to select their job functions interests from a list of more than 25 options; the average user from the Class of 2023 selected 6.13 job functions in which they were interested. Below is a list of the 10 most popular job functions for the RelishCareers Class of 2023, determined by the percentage of users who expressed interest in a given function.
- Strategy (55.9%)
- Consulting (55.5%)
- Project Management (44.8%)
- Business Development (44.1%)
- Product Management (43.3%)
- Leadership Development Program (36.8%)
- Finance (35.7%)
- Marketing (34.4%)
- General Management (33.9%)
- Analytics & Data Science (30.2%)
Strategy and Consulting regularly top our rankings of most in-demand job functions, and the Class of 2023 is no exception. Interest in Leadership Development Programs – a specific type of rotational program for new graduates designed to train candidates for future roles in senior management – continues to be strong.
The common theme in these preferred functions is an interest in high-level management roles and a secondary interest in quantitative work, which has taken on increased prominence in Master’s-level recruiting over the last several years.
To visualize how interest in these roles has changed over the last several years, we can look at how interest in these ten roles has varied across graduating classes, starting with the class of 2018. For this and the other longitudinal graphs in this report, the Y-axis reflects the percentage of users who selected each item as one of their preferences (e.g. Strategy was identified as a preferred job function for around 55% of users in the class of 2023, while Analytics & Data Science was selected by around 30% of users).
This longitudinal analysis provides some new and interesting insights, the most notable of which is a decline in the proportion of candidates expressing interest in nearly all functions. Compared to 2018, the only function in our top ten where interest has risen instead of fallen is Project Management.
There are numerous possible explanations for this phenomenon, and we’ll highlight two here. The first reason has to do with the nature of the data itself: RelishCareers has added new options to our function interest list in the five years since 2018, and as a result there is a broader distribution of interests across our data set. A second possible explanation is the changing nature of our user base; in 2018, MBA students made up a larger proportion of our candidate population, and as we have grown our audience in other Master’s degree fields, the function interests we capture have become more diverse.
MOST IN-DEMAND INDUSTRIES FOR MBA & MS GRADS
Shifting now to industry preferences, we again ask candidates to select their preferred industries from a list of more than 25 options (which has, like the job function list, grown over the previous several years).
Surprisingly, candidates tend to select more preferred industries than preferred job functions; in 2023, the average user indicated 8.9 industries in which they were interested, compared to a five-year average of 9.5 industries. This indicates that candidates are open to a broader range of industries if they are able to secure jobs with their preferred function, a practical approach given that most functional roles are available in a large range of industries.
Here are the 10 most in-demand industries for the class of 2023:
- Consulting (69.7%)
- Technology (66.5%)
- Consumer Products (53.5%)
- Financial Services (51.2%)
- Retail (37.2%)
- Healthcare (34.8%)
- Private Equity & Venture Capital (34.5%)
- Energy & Utilities (32.6%)
- Media & Entertainment (32.5%)
- Transportation & Logistics (29.7%)
Again we see the popularity of consulting for this candidate group, with the tech industry not far behind. The Consumer Products and Finance industries attract similar levels of interest, while the remaining options represent a sort of long-tail of industry preferences among our user base.
To better understand how interest in these industries has varied over time, we can again look at the last six years of data:
As we did with job functions, we see a similar across-the-board decline in the proportion of candidates selecting every option. The same factors that explained this trend in job functions are likely at play here: a diversifying user base with more varied and specific interests, along with some changes in the data that more broadly distributed interests among all of our industry options.
It is worth noting that while the raw percentages for each industry have declined over the last 2-3 years across every industry included in this analysis, that decline is particularly steep for the tech industry. The Class of 2023 is the first since the Class of 2017 (not included in this report) for which consulting was a more in-demand industry than tech. While more data is needed to confirm that this a persistent trend, this decline in combination with the plummeting interest in the Bay Area (see the city interest data below) suggest that Silicon Valley may no longer hold the hiring sway it once did.
MOST IN-DEMAND CITIES FOR MBA & MS GRADS
Candidate location preferences have been subject to huge changes over the past several years across all populations, with the rise of remote work and virtual offices giving rise to an entirely new way of thinking about the geography of hiring. The RelishCareers user base is no exception: out of 28 city preference options, candidates in the Class of 2023 (the first class to enter school after the Covid-19 pandemic had established wide adoption of remote work preferences) made an average of 4.8 selections, compared to the five-year average from the Classes of 2018-2022 of 7.2 selections.
While candidates have also indicated fewer (more specific) preferences for industry and function, the changes in those areas are not nearly as dramatic; it seems likely that candidates moving forward will be open to fewer geographic options with the increasing viability of remote work options. Among the 28 city preference options available on RelishCareers, the top 15 for the Class of 2023 are as follows:
- New York City (55.8%)
- Boston (37.3%)
- Washington (33.0%)
- Chicago (31.3%)
- Los Angeles (29.6%)
- San Francisco Bay Area (26.2%)
- Atlanta (24.9%)
- Dallas (22.7%)
- Austin (21.0%)
- Seattle (21.0%)
- San Diego (19.3%)
- Miami (18.9%)
- Houston (18.4%)
- Philadelphia (17.6%)
- Charlotte (14.6%)
As one might expect, New York is the most popular destination for master’s-level graduates – as it has been in almost every year we’ve tracked this data. More surprisingly, the San Francisco Bay Area ranks as only the sixth-most popular destination, marginally more attractive than Atlanta. This comes after five straight years ranking comfortably as one of the top three most in-demand cities. We’ll need to wait for more data to make a definitive assessment, but early indications are that the Bay Area is losing its luster for many premier job candidates.
Below you can find the longitudinal data for the location interest stretching back to the Class of 2018 for the top 15 cities listed above.
Another unexpected insight from this data regards Washington, D.C., which ranked as the third most in-demand city for the class of 2023 – and was also third six years ago for the class of 2018. In fact, interest in the DC metro area has tracked relatively closely with interest in Chicago, a much larger city with a more established reputation as an employment center for private industry.
There are more insights to be drawn from the fluctuating popularity of individual cities on this list, but the more important takeaway from the data is the dramatic decline in the number of cities that master’s-level job candidates appear to be willing to consider, driven at least in part by rapidly growing acceptance among employers of remote work arrangements.
WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM THIS DATA
The overall picture from the data presented above from the Class of 2023 and its last few predecessors is one of a candidate population that is more discriminating in its preferences. On average, candidates expressed interest in a smaller number of functions, industries, and cities than previous graduating classes. This is especially true with regards to geographical preferences, which are subject to large and ongoing changes in the broader working world driven by the fallout from the Covid pandemic.
Employers should see these trends as reason to target their candidate outreach more intelligently, using data to identify the most relevant candidate populations and customizing their messaging and processes for those targeted populations. A scattershot approach to recruiting, with generalized branding and outreach strategies, is no longer a viable strategy for companies seeking to connect with best-fit talent in 2023.
The Relish team is excited, as always, to gather more data related to candidate interests and to use that data to confirm or revise the hypotheses presented here. In the meantime, check back with the Relish blog regularly for more data-driven content on talent acquisition and hiring trends in the campus and alumni recruiting space.
Zach Mayo is the Chief Operating Officer at Relish. Relish supports job candidates, universities, and employers with the recruiting process for master’s degree entry-to-mid-to-senior level positions globally. Relish’s goal is to help job candidates and employers find the right fit and make informed hiring and career decisions.With over 500,000 jobs and more than 2.5 million compensation and cultural data points across a database of over 15,000 employers, the RelishCareers platform is the resource for master’s degree job candidates looking to learn about, apply for positions, and connect with the employers that are right for them.
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