Consultancy jobs for MBA graduates in 2011 returned to record levels, according to hiring data from global consultancy organizations around the world.
The latest QS TopMBA.com Jobs and Salary Trends Report surveyed over 2,000 businesses around the world that are actively hiring MBA graduates. It found that despite economic difficulties in many countries, in 2011 there was a 28% increase in MBA demand among global consultancy businesses.
This increase in consultancy jobs for MBAs has been forecasted to increase further still, by 17% this year.
Graham Hastie, managing director at Bellfield Consulting works with business schools across the world to provide solutions to strategic issues. He has 17 years of experience in consulting, having previously worked for McKinsey and Company. He explains that the reason why consultancy agencies continue to hire MBAs during difficult economic times is because demand for consultancy work is driven by periods of change.
“Through the economic difficulties we’ve had over the last few years, lots of companies retrench and they’re using consultants to do that.
"Consultancy firms thrive in periods of change – whether that is rapid growth, new market opportunities, or downsizing and consolidation – consultant firms’ work is driven by the amount of change in their client’s industry. Because of that, demand for [MBA] talent will hold out through periods of change.”
James Platt, partner in charge of MBA hiring at Boston Consulting Group in London agrees that jobs for MBAs will continue to grow: “We have been growing at double digit rates since 2003 and we expect that to continue for the foreseeable future.
"We expect companies to continue to require organizational change as a result of the recession and then strategic support as they enter the recovery phase. The constraint on our growth will be our ability to hire good people of the right quality.
"MBAs will continue to be crucial to our growth.”
Responses to the TopMBA.com Jobs and Salary Trends Report suggest that larger strategy consulting recruiters continue to defy recession and have been seeking newly qualified MBAs since 2010. Additionally, QS’ MBA recruitment website for global professionals, Global-Workplace.com, has seen a significant increase in consultancy jobs advertised on its website over the past three years.
There are specific reasons why consultancy firms are targeting MBAs. One of the key reasons is that the qualification is an adjudged quality: “I know that everyone at business school has gone through a rigorous admissions process and so the quality would be higher than that of the general public,” says Hastie.
“The other reason is that MBA students will learn what I refer to as ‘business basics’ – the functional knowledge that is required to achieve in business, so skills such as finance, strategy, and accounting for example.”
These skills are well matched to the needs of the consultancy industry, says Platt: “We can draw upon the full range of their knowledge as we allocate them to different types of client assignments. They have the knowledge and confidence to hit the ground running, utilizing both their hard skills and well-developed interpersonal skills, which are so important in our client-facing business.”
Globally renowned consultancy firms such as McKinsey and Company, Boston Consulting Group, Bain and Company, and Booz and Company responded to QS’ survey, reporting that they have been actively recruiting MBA graduates over the past year.
However, it is not only large international consultancy firms that are looking to appoint MBAs, a number of smaller consultancy agencies across the world have told TopMBA.com that they have upped the number of MBAs that they recruited last year, and are optimistic that hiring will continue throughout 2012.
Don Leslie, director at Beament Leslie Thomas (BLT), a UK-based recruitment consultancy firm says in the last year, he has appointed eight people with an MBA qualification – an increase since 2009. He forecasts this to increase throughout 2012.
In particular, he looks for MBAs to join BLT because: “Consultancies value the intellectual horsepower of MBAs and their ability to work effectively alongside others from different professional backgrounds.”
Demand for MBAs in Central and Eastern Europe was lower at 3% in 2011, according to data provided to QS’ survey during the 12 months up until June 2011.
However, a local language consultancy agency in Poland is optimistic about opportunities for MBAs in 2012. Rafal Michalski, owner of the consultancy agency ThinkBig, said he hired two people with an MBA qualification last year, and sees this number increasing over the coming year.
Despite continuing economic uncertainty and hiring restraint on the part of banks, MBA recruitment within the consultancy industry is healthy.
Dominique D’Arcy, manager of Manchester Business School’s career management service says, “Recruiters were most reluctant to make any commitments, now we are seeing a sustained increase in energy and technology recruitment, and the consulting sector is buoyant, providing us with a steady stream of opportunities.”
In the Asia-Pacific region, local consultancy agencies have also been hiring MBAs.
Terry Lin, a consultant at China-based consultancy agency Eagles Associates says the organization has hired 12 MBAs in the last year – a big increase on the previous year – and forecasts a 10% increase for 2012.
He says that the organization had not frequently recruited MBAs, but when it does, it focuses on qualities such as leadership, team building and management.
Overall, the Asia-Pacific region experienced a burst in demand for MBA graduates during 2011, increasing by 43% according to QS’ survey. Much of the demand was driven by consultancy agencies, the survey found.
This is reflective of business school job placements.
Sherring NG, head of MBA marketing and admissions at HKUST Business School says the majority of its MBA graduates found jobs in financial services (19%), investment banking (16%), and private equity/investment management (12%).
Consulting and manufacturing industries had also employed a comparably high number of MBAs, with 11% of HKUST graduates being placed in each sector.
The trend of smaller consultancy firms hiring MBAs is also evident for MBAs in North America.
Chris Lavin management consulting vice president at Sierra Systems in Canada, says MBAs are the perfect talent pool: “They have a strong management toolkit that is the basis for good management consulting, maturity and analytical skills to interact with senior clients.”
Business schools in the region have also noted an increase in the number of MBA graduates interested in taking up jobs in consultancy.
Sheryle Dirks, associate dean of Duke University's Fuqua School of Business says: “In recent years, the consulting field has increased its demand for MBAs, leading the industry verticals for recruiting Fuqua graduates.
"Finance and marketing [organizations] continue to hire a significant portion of our graduates, with general management on the rise as well. Health care and energy/environment will no doubt continue to seek more MBAs as those industries continue to gain prominence and expand their global reach.”
Over at Michigan, Ross School of Business reports growth in the MBA job market last year.
“The industries that had the greatest demand for our MBAs were consulting, followed by finance and marketing. The percentage of MBA graduates that had obtained jobs in consulting has increased in recent years to 34% for the class of 2011,” says Valerie Suslow, the school’s director of career development.
Demand for MBAs in Latin America also saw an increase. In 2011, demand rose by 47% and is predicted to grow by a further 13% in 2012.
Adimark GfK in Chile, a market research consultancy agency that is part of the global consultancy firm GfK group, has also witnessed an increase in MBA hiring. Last year, it recruited three MBAs in Chile.
Álvaro Larraín, managing director at the Chilean firm predicts that MBA hiring will increase in 2012 because: “MBAs strengthen the organization, providing rigorous intellectual and imaginative schemes.
"At the same time, these are people who obviously want to progress in their careers.”
In line with recruitment trends, a growing number of aspiring MBA students are deciding to enroll at business school in order to develop the skills needed to work in the consultancy industry.
The latest QS TopMBA.com Applicant Survey found that only 10% of MBA applicants held roles in consulting prior to their degree, but 47% wished to work in the industry after graduating.
Hastie of Bellfield Consulting advises those who want to enter into consulting to: “Look at what type of industry alumni of a school typically go into and the relationship the school has with consultancy firms.
"What they’ll find is because consultancy firms are very much in demand [amongst MBA job seekers], they are extremely selective about the people they take and the business schools they recruit at.”