What are employers looking for from full-time MBA graduates?  | TopMBA.com

What are employers looking for from full-time MBA graduates? 

By Chloe L

Updated March 9, 2023 Updated March 9, 2023

Sponsored by Warwick Business School  

MBA students will graduate with a diverse set of skills, experience and knowledge. This makes them very attractive to graduate employers.  

However, even if you have an MBA from a top university and relevant work experience, sometimes it can be difficult to make your job application stand out in a competitive job market.  

TopMBA spoke to Nuo Xu, a careers manager at Warwick Business School (WBS), to find out what employers are looking for from business school graduates and what you can do to improve your job prospects while you study. 

What soft skills are employers looking for from MBA graduates when hiring for leadership roles? 

At WBS, we have researched hundreds of job descriptions for leadership-related roles. Based on our research and our experience working with top employers and industries, there are six competencies that employers are looking for from MBA candidates:  

  • Global business acumen: Graduates must think broadly and strategically, demonstrating a sound understanding of business, commerce and finance. 
  • Complex problem solving: Candidates can dive deep into a problem with clear analytical thinking. They can solve complex problems by simplifying complexities and identifying innovative solutions. 
  • Action focused: Candidates need a results-oriented mindset, focusing on improving client satisfaction and providing a very high standard of service, driving the organisation’s high performance. 
  • Relationship builder: MBA candidates must demonstrate excellent interpersonal skills and be able to communicate and network effectively.  
  • Leads by example: Candidates are able to influence others and manage senior stakeholders. 
  • Entrepreneurial drive: Candidates are able to think creatively and use a new approach in an innovative way, have passion about new challenges and not be afraid. They should be optimistic while remaining aware of any risks. 

We try to assess and also provide opportunities for students to develop these competencies while they're studying at WBS.  

Could you tell us about the technical skills that employers could expect from MBA graduates? 

Different roles will require different technical skills. Employers often expect MBA graduates to have quantitative analytical and data analytics skills, particularly for consulting roles and in the tech sector. 

Candidates should be able to use data to help senior level professionals make informed decisions and create solutions. Of course, different roles will need different levels of analytical skills.  

For example, if a candidate applying for jobs in the tech sector knows how to use SQL or Python, even if their role is not directly data analytics related, they are showing they are interested in this new technology and take the initiative to learn.  

How can students develop these skills while studying the MBA? 

There are several ways business schools currently work with students to help them develop these skills.  

Warwick Business School’s career services run training sessions and workshops to help students develop different competencies. 

Working with employers  

We work directly with the top employers and sector specialists, many of whom are WBS alumni. We are also working together with recruiters and academics to help students get the most updated knowledge from the sectors.  

For example, we have a LeadershipPlus module which is a collaboration between academics and the careers team. Candidates take part in a series of exercises, including simulations, games, and projects, working directly with real businesses to provide solutions to their problems. The aim of this is to help students develop their soft skills and technical skills in an experiential learning environment. 

Find a way to measure success 

We believe that measuring progress can provide important motivation for our students to put in the necessary hours and effort to reach their targets and achieve their goals. At Warwick Business School, we provide opportunities to help students identify where they are and set measurable targets and goals. 

Get one-to-one coaching 

WBS also offers one-to-one coaching. Each student is assigned a careers coach to provide a personal service. Students will have unlimited access to appointments with this coach for careers advice, CV and cover letter help, and support with job applications. 

Attend events 

Every year Warwick Business School’s careers service team runs a three-day recruitment simulation event for MBA candidates. Here, we provide students with an opportunity to build examples that they can showcase to an interviewer or at a networking event. 

Candidates complete several different exercises, and each one will have a qualified assessor to observe and offer feedback. We will follow up with a one-to-one coaching conversation to identify where development is needed and how we can take action to improve their skills. 

The event involves:  

  • One-to-one interview: Candidates will be asked questions related to one of the six main competencies, which should be answered using examples that demonstrate these skills.  
  • Case study: We develop a relevant case study and get candidates to act as consultants, providing strategic solutions to these business problems. Candidates will present these solutions in a 45-minute presentation. 
  • Discussion: Students will work in groups of six to discuss controversial topics, such as budget cutting or diversity. An assessor will give them feedback on their individual performance and how they work in a team. 

What should MBA candidates avoid doing if they want to impress potential employers?  

You should avoid coming across as unprepared when applying for jobs. When preparing for a job interview, remember employers want answers to the following questions:  

1. Can you do the job? Employers want to know that you have the right skills for this role. Do your research into the role, the company and the industry. Identify the skill requirements in the job description and prepare to show the interviewer your ability to meet their requirements. 

2. Do you want to do the job? Employers are going to invest a lot of money into this candidate. They want someone who demonstrates a passion for the role and a strong interest in the company. Read up on big news stories involving the company, the wider industry, and understand who their competitors are. 

3. Will you fit into the team? Prove that you are aware of the company culture and demonstrate a personality fit.  

You need to be doing more than just traditional job hunting. There will be hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of applications for each job, so you’ll need to find a way to stand out.  

Network and identify the hidden job market. Get in touch with employers directly so you know what's available before they even publish the job.  

How can students access these hidden job opportunities? 

Through networking, candidates can access ‘hidden’ job opportunities. This way, if employers have upcoming job roles, they might think of you before posting the advert. You can also find out information about the role that isn’t available online. Start to reach out to people as early as possible, as building relationships takes time. 

To build a professional network, use your business school’s connections. My colleagues at WBS work very hard to maintain relationships with employers. Students can take advantage of these relationships and continue to stay in touch beyond that initial meeting. 

Networking is a great way to build your global business acumen and expand your knowledge of the company and the job. If you talk to somebody working in a company who has had the experience, you’ll gain unique insights that you won’t find online. 

Reach out to people in your network on LinkedIn. This may be your classmates, people you’ve met, or professionals in the industry you’re looking to work in. At WBS, we organise networking events and alumni events for MBA candidates. We run workshops around networking because it’s a skill you've got to train and develop.  

How does Warwick Business School continue to support MBA graduates once they finish the programme? 

We have a dedicated alumni career service and an alumni directory. WBS alumni get access to exclusive events at the Warwick campus or at WBS London at The Shard, including seminars, conferences, business networking, formal dinners and more.  

Warwick University and Warwick Business School each have their own dedicated alumni team.  

Our alumni teams focus on two sides. One is internationally focused, covering different areas, including Latin America, Europe, Africa, Asia, UAE and North America. 

The second team covers sectors such as finance, technology, entrepreneurship, global energy, strategy and consulting, and life science and healthcare. Alumni will also get free access to our Online Career Management module and access to the WBS Global Mentoring Programmes. 

This article was originally published in December 2022 . It was last updated in March 2023

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