When it comes to applying for jobs, even MBA graduates often face stiff competition. With so many talented and qualified candidates vying for the same position, it can be challenging to stand out from the crowd.
In Australia alone, the total number of students enrolled in MBA programs in 2019 surged past 30,000.
But it’s comforting to know that while there are a lot of MBA students, there is also a hot market for MBA graduates, with a recent report by Statista Research showing more than 92 per cent of global employers were planning to hire a Master of Business Administration graduate in 2022.
But the question remains – what can MBA graduates do to attract the attention of recruiters at top companies?
Athena Manley, Chief of Strategy and Chief of Staff at Aon Australia, has over 20 years’ experience leading teams across seven countries. As a UQ MBA graduate herself, she knows just how important an MBA can be in securing an interview for your next role.
“An MBA on your CV signals to prospective employers that you mean business,” said Athena.
“It’s almost a sense of relief when you see an MBA on a job application because it speaks to a certain standard and perspective that you can expect from them as employees.
“It removes some of the question marks around a potential candidate and the quality of output you can expect from them.”
Matt Colquhoun, Director of Infrastructure, Assets & Places at KPMG, has spent more than seven years in the consulting and tech industries. During this time, he has personally hired a multitude of MBA graduates striving to change careers and help new employers with complex problem-solving.
Matt told MBA News that there are several characteristics most MBA graduates have that make them stand out from the crowd.
“We tend to find that an MBA grad is coming to us as an industry expert,” Matt said. “They have proactively sought to increase their breadth of enterprise-wide knowledge, and through their study, have acquired the skills to solve structured business problems.”
Both Matt and Athena agree that while an MBA is the first step to opening doors to new job opportunities, there are a few essential interview tips that can increase your chances of being offered the job.
Articulate your purpose or passion
According to Matt, “it isn’t enough to be dedicated to coming in and simply doing your job. As recruiters, we want people who display energy, who can inspire passion in our clients and motivate others towards making positive change or driving business results.”
Athena agreed, stating the importance of being able to “share your purpose and articulate how that translates into creating value for the organisation” as one of the top ways to stand out during the interview process.
Demonstrate your comfort with uncertainty
“All businesses face challenges, and most employees can identify problematic symptoms within their own functions,” said Matt.
“However, not everyone is equipped or comfortable enough to deal with the complexities that exist on the fringes of the enterprise. You need to show you can deliver a pathway to solve them.
“In an interview, you don’t have to be armed with the answer, but convince me that you can create a pathway or use the right framework to solve complex problems.”
Showcase a higher level of stakeholder management expertise
According to Athena, the seniority of roles that MBA graduates are attracted to come with an expectation of going beyond the ability to build relationships, foster collaboration and influence others.
“You need to prove that you can harness resources and influence people that aren’t in your immediate control, both internally and externally, to the benefit of your business,” said Athena.
UQ MBA Career Consultant Rebecca McIntosh told MBA News that MBA graduates are on a journey of change. She highlighted a few steps graduates can take to maximise their chances of getting the attention of recruiters.
“Career development isn’t just about getting the qualification and enhancing your skills; it’s an identity change,” said Rebecca.
“MBA graduates now have the toolkit to stretch themselves and their careers. But they need the confidence, optimism and self-efficacy to believe in and articulate their strengths and abilities, take a chance, and start applying for roles that will challenge them.”
Rely on your network to build your career confidence
Rebecca advised MBA graduates to “reach out and stay connected to your MBA peers and professional network.” Many alumni say this has been key to accessing opportunities as well as building and maintaining the level of career confidence required to apply for stretch roles.
According to Rebecca, this advice is particularly applicable to female MBA graduates who “wait until they meet at least 80 per cent of a job application criteria.”
“At UQ, we advise you to rise above the hesitation and fear, back yourself and put in the application – you have the support to do it with your MBA, team and network behind you,” encouraged Rebecca.
Look for opportunities to stretch in your current role
Finally, for those MBA graduates that need a safe space to build their confidence and extend their skills before rising in the ranks, Rebecca suggests proactively looking for stretch opportunities with their current employers.
“Talk to people within your current organisation to work out how your newly acquired MBA skills and management knowledge could help fill capability gaps while increasing your experience in the areas you’d like to move into,” said Rebecca.