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MBA Recruiter Interview: Delta Air Lines

MBA recruiter interview with Delta

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Delta Air Lines is one of the world’s largest airlines as well as the oldest airline still operating in the US. While some MBAs might feel that working for a company such as Delta won’t provide them with opportunities to be entrepreneurial, innovation is actually one of Delta’s stated values. Indeed, MBAs joining the company are given the opportunity to innovate at Delta through assignments that require them to analyze complex problems and provide solutions. To learn more about what it’s like to work at Delta Air Lines as well as what they look for when hiring MBAs, spoke to the company’s director of talent acquisition, Glen Johnson.

What are some of the top reasons MBAs choose to work for Delta?

There are many reasons MBAs enjoy working at Delta. We offer great opportunities that are not traditional consulting roles. An MBA participating in our two-year program also enjoys direct exposure and visibility to Delta’s executive leadership team. By design, our formal MBA programs are intended to grow future leaders for our airline. Our MBAs have historically performed very well, worked on truly important projects, and accordingly been promoted into leadership roles. We have a strong reputation that demonstrates success in this space.

Why does Delta hire MBAs?

Delta has long recognized the value of hiring MBAs to solve complex challenges and identify solutions that allow us to best serve our customers throughout all aspects of our business. Their diverse perspectives, knowledge and education help us to remain competitive and insightful in a constantly changing environment. 

What are some common MBA job roles at Delta? Are most of these jobs located in the US?

We offer opportunities in finance, commercial strategy, supply chain, information technology, as well as operations analysis and performance. Although the opportunities are mostly located in the US – at our world headquarters in Atlanta – we also hire MBAs in Latin America, including in Brazil, Argentina and Mexico.

MBAs have become increasingly interested in innovation. Do MBAs who work at Delta have opportunities to innovate as part of their jobs?

One of Delta’s core brand values is innovation. Our MBAs are assigned challenging opportunities that require analysis and solutions. Innovation is a natural outcome, and it is very much embraced and demonstrated with the solutions that our MBAs recommend. These solutions are often adopted. Projects have included enhanced customer experience through technology, improved pricing strategies and data-driven marketing campaigns.

What do you look for when evaluating a candidate’s résumé and experience? 

Due to the competitive nature of our business, we generally require that potential candidates have at least three to five years of relevant commercial, operations or IT experience. Although we do not necessarily require aviation experience, substantive experience prior to attending an MBA program is a critical consideration. Individuals who have previous leadership experience are also very attractive to us. Résumés should provide a concise, yet informative summary of their experience. However, they should also not forget to highlight any volunteer activities that have allowed them to give back to the communities in which they live and work. We value cultural diversity. Any representation of international work, education or living experience is helpful in addition to an indication of multilingual skills. 

How has the company’s corporate strategy changed since Ed Bastian became CEO of Delta in May?

Under Ed’s leadership, we have embraced our opportunity of international growth and partnerships, as evidenced through our investments in international airlines such as Gol, Virgin Atlantic and Aeroméxico. We clearly see this as our growth strategy and we look for opportunities for our MBA talent to help us lead in this space.

As Delta continues to change under its new leadership, how do you think MBA hiring will change in terms of both numbers and the types of applicants you’ll be hiring?

We continue to adapt our MBA hiring strategy to meet the demands of the business. We have added a number of schools and developed an international focus, which has resulted in hiring students who are educated and currently living in their home country. Analytical and innovative thinkers will still be essential, but the problem sets may change as our airline adapts to the needs of our customers and employees.

Which business schools does Delta hire from and why?

We understand the importance of identifying and attracting diverse talent; therefore, our strategy strives to do just that. Although we have targeted business schools based on their overall ranking, geographic location and student demographics, we value the uniqueness each individual candidate may bring more so than a specific school.   

How many MBAs intern at Delta?  Of these interns, how many leave with full-time job offers?

We typically hire 20 to 25 MBA interns each year in the areas of commercial strategy, finance, IT, supply chain, and operations analytics and performance. Of that group, approximately 10 to 12 receive full-time offers, depending on our business needs. 

Is MBA hiring up or down this year?

We are careful not to overextend staffing projections and our hiring has remained consistent year-over-year.

What steps should MBAs take in order to make a good impression? Conversely, what are some common mistakes MBAs should avoid when contacting recruiters?

MBA candidates for positions at Delta should research our company thoroughly, and have an overall understanding of our culture and business as well as its competitive landscape, challenges and successes. Although individuals aren’t required to have airline experience, they should have interest in our business and know what makes us tick. The biggest mistakes are not researching our business and/or not staying up-to-date with industry changes and challenges.   

What are the biggest misconceptions that MBAs have about Delta and the airline industry?

The idea that there is no room for entrepreneurial behaviors and innovation in a company of our size compared to consulting roles is a popular misconception. The airline industry is a complex and exciting business, where skills in forecasting, analysis and improvement are essential. The scale that we work with in terms of numbers of customers, daily flights and economic variables, requires that we have great business minds running our business and making decisions that benefit our customers, employees and shareholders.

Is there anything I did not ask that you think MBAs should know before applying for jobs at Delta?

Corporate culture is very important for us at Delta. Since Delta’s beginnings as a crop-dusting operation, Delta’s people have always shared a spirit of teamwork, which has generated employee-led ideas and initiatives propelling the company into the global airline it is today. The Delta Flight Museum, located on our world headquarters campus in Atlanta, has a mission of celebrating this heritage and our family of more than 40 airlines, the history of aviation and the future of flight. We also have a strong spirit of giving back to the communities in which we live and work worldwide. While there are a number of corporately-supported organizations, the effect of the grassroots movement and investment of time and money from our employees is amazing.

Written by Nicole Willson

Nicole is the SEO manager of, as well as a contributing author. She holds a BA in history and sociology, and a master's in library science. Aside from her work for QS, Nicole is a long-time contributing editor and administrator for WikiHow.

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