Recruiters Seek Specialist MBAs with Soft Skills

At the Association of MBAs (AMBA) annual Employers Forum in August, two topics dominated the event: the need for MBAs with well-developed ‘soft’ skills, and the increased demand for graduate hires with specialist MBAs.

The forum attracted 24 leading multi-nationals, including KPMG, Goldman Sachs, Bloomberg and BP, as well as recruitment and career managers from 22 AMBA-accredited business schools.

Due to a changing landscape for employers, graduates and business schools, employers do not necessarily want their staff to possess a financial services MBA, but now seek graduate hires with sector-specific specialist MBAs in a variety of fields.

This trend is reinforced by data from the Graduate Management Admission Council, which indicates roughly 64% of business school deans expect MBA programs to increasingly specialize.

As the 2014 GMAC Employer Survey also demonstrates, the days when the ‘hard’ skills of analytical and strategic thinking dominated are over, and it’s oral and written communication, presentation, adaptability and the ability to negotiate that companies are asking the schools to teach their students. Accenture, for example, introduced a ‘soft’ skills measurement technique which combines “defined critical characteristics for success, which are assessed by behavioral questions.”

The event included a discussion of the future of management education, which will likely move toward a blended model of MBAs, and how experiential learning will replace classroom-based learning, and that both of these shifts can be of benefit to employers.

However at this time, recruiters still do not consider job seekers from online business programs to be of the same caliber as those that have graduated from a face-to-face MBA program.

London’s Imperial Business School hosted the event, and its dean, Professor G. Anandalingham, brought home the point that an MBA is “the premium, flagship program – hence schools should partner with corporates to produce the kind of graduate they are looking for.”

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