Top Recruiters Love MBAs, But Have Few Jobs To Hand Out

Top employers continue to be ‘overwhelmingly positive’ about the value of an MBA when looking to hire senior managers, but economic concerns bought on by the global pandemic are likely to limit their ability to hand out jobs.

The survey of 1,000 top recruiters, carried out by the Association of MBAs and Business Graduates Association (AMBA & BGA), showed more than a quarter of employers (28%) believe there are too many candidates for too few jobs.

However, while more than a third of survey participants (35%) think they will be recruiting ‘a lot fewer’ management leaders than 2019, 14% think they will be recruiting more management leaders than last year and 16% believe their recruitment of MBA-relevant roles will be the same as 2019.

The survey was opened at a time when the majority of the world was beginning to implement lockdown measures as a result of Covid-19. The survey closed as restrictions in many parts of the world were beginning to ease.

David Woods-Hale, Director of Marketing and Communications at AMBA & BGA, said while the survey provided good news for MBA graduates it also highlighted areas for improvement for Business Schools and their graduates.

“Employers polled in the research are overwhelmingly positive about the value of an MBA from a reputable Business School when looking for senior managers,” he said. “In terms of the quality of MBAs recruited by survey participants, 16% rated MBAs in general as ‘excellent’ and 52% rated their performance as ‘good’.

“In spite of these encouraging findings, and in light of continuing global uncertainty and volatility, employers that participated in this study also revealed their worries about the recruitment landscape of tomorrow.

“There was an overwhelming lack of confidence in the future of both global and local economies, with most survey participants taking a conservative – and in some cases pessimistic – view on their upcoming recruitment plans.”

Key findings

  • Employers hold a positive impression of Business Schools, with 47% classifying themselves as ‘very favourable’ and 40% saying they were ‘fairly favourable’ towards Business Schools.

  • 31% of employers ‘strongly agreed’ and 49% ‘tended to agree’ that MBAs had the relevant skills to make a significant contribution to the wider economy in their respective countries.
  • 32% of employers ‘strongly agreed’ with the statement ‘MBAs are good problem solvers’, while 49% ‘tended to agree’.
  • 22% of employers ‘strongly agreed’ with the statement ‘MBAs have adequate soft skills’ while 7% of respondents either ‘tended to disagree’ or ‘strongly disagreed’ with this statement. These results suggest that employers would like to see more from their MBA recruits in the area of soft skills.
  • 61% of employers are either ‘not very confident’ or ‘not confident at all’ in the state of the global economy.
  • While 35% of survey participants think they will be recruiting ‘a lot fewer’ management leaders in 2020 than they did in 2019, 14% think they will be recruiting more management leaders than last year and 16% believe their recruitment of MBA-relevant roles will be the same as 2019.
  • A ‘lack of skills’ among MBA applicants was the most commonly cited hurdle to recruiters – 53% stated that this is a major issue for them. ‘Lack of creativity’ was cited by 47% of the sample.
  • The sample was divided when it came to whether or not they believed MBAs are only motivated by money – while 44% ‘strongly agreed’ or ‘tended to agree’ this was the case, 23% either ‘strongly disagreed’ or ‘tended to disagree’ and 34% were undecided.

Employer perceptions of MBA graduates

Employers surveyed hold a positive impression of Business Schools, with just under half of those polled by AMBA & BGA (46%) classifying themselves as ‘very favourable’ and 40% saying they were ‘fairly favourable’ towards Business Schools. Just 2% of employers said they were either ‘very unfavourable’ or ‘fairly unfavourable’ towards Business Schools.

In terms of their qualities as employees, 16% of employers rated the performance of MBAs as ‘excellent’, 52% rated their performance as ‘good’, 2% rated the MBAs whom they had recruited as ‘fairly poor’ and less than 1% rated MBAs as ‘very poor’ or ‘terrible’.

When asked if MBAs had the relevant skills to thrive within the survey participants’ organisations, 30% ‘strongly agreed’ and 50% ‘tended to agree’ with the statement. A mere 4% ‘disagreed’ that MBAs had the relevant skills needed to succeed in their organisation.

Respondents were also asked if they agreed that MBAs had the relevant skills to make a significant contribution to the wider economy in their respective countries. In another seal of approval, 31% ‘strongly agreed’ and 49% ‘tended to agree’ this was the case. Just 5% ‘disagreed’ with this statement.

Employers were asked if they agreed that MBA graduates had the skills and capacity to become senior leaders at leading global businesses. In total, 45% ‘strongly agreed’ with the statement, 40% ‘tended to agree’, and 3% either ‘tended to disagree’ or ‘strongly disagreed’.

Survey participants were asked for their opinions on the state of the global economy. Current confidence is low, with more than six out of 10 employers (61%), stating that they were either ‘not very confident’ or ‘not confident at all’ in the state of the global economy.

When it comes to local/national economies, survey participants did not have much more confidence in the economic performance of their own countries, than that of the global outlook: 39% said they were ‘very confident’ or ‘fairly confident’ in their country’s economy at the moment; versus 60% who were ‘not very confident’ or ‘not confident at all’.

Participants were then asked: ‘Approximately how many new positions have you been responsible for hiring in the past two years that have been relevant to MBA graduates?’

The mean number across all survey participants was 20.

Participants were asked how many applications they’d received from MBAs over the past two years. The mean number of MBAs applying for senior roles across respondents’ organisations in the past 24 months was 93.

Putting a mean number of 93 applications in the context of the mean number of 20 jobs reported by the employers surveyed in this study demonstrates that competition is high even among high-performing MBA candidates when applying for senior positions.

To read the full report, visit https://www.associationofmbas.com/research/international-mba-survey-2020-trends-and-issues-in-mba-employment/

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Ben Ready founded MBA News in 2014 and is the Managing Editor. He is a former business and finance journalist with Australian Associated Press (AAP) and Dow Jones Newswires in London. Ben completed his MBA in 2012 and was awarded the QUT GMAA Entrepreneurship Prize. He is also the founder and Managing Director of RGC Media & Mktng (rgcmm.com.au).

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