What soft skills do employers want from business school graduates? | TopMBA.com

What soft skills do employers want from business school graduates?

By Craig OCallaghan

Updated March 1, 2024 Updated March 1, 2024

According to a report from McKinsey, 87 percent of companies expect to experience or already have a skills gap, meaning there is a disparity between the skills they need and the capabilities they find in those they hire. 

But what are soft skills, and why do employers seek them out? And how can you ensure you graduate with the right skillset?

What are soft skills, and why are they important? 

Soft skills, also known as ‘real skills’, are vital in business education. They encompass communication, teamwork and time management and enhance employability, foster effective leadership, and contribute to building a positive personal reputation. Examples include:

Effective collaboration  

  • Understanding team dynamics  
  • Communication skills 

Resourceful problem solving  

  • Analytics and creative thinking  
  • Depth of subject matter knowledge  

Business development and Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG)  

  • Entrepreneurial negotiation skills  
  • Business management  
  • Ethics and social responsibility 

The soft skills gap 

The largest gap between employers’ perceived importance of a skillset and satisfaction with that skillset is in resilience and flexibility. The shift in educational focus towards equipping students with technical skills, such as coding, data sciences, and analytical skills, might be sidelining softer yet essential skills like resilience and flexibility.

The accelerated need for these skills and the potential delay in their integration into business school curriculums may indicate that a more balanced approach between hard and soft skills development is required.

How to find a school which can teach you the right skills

Business schools have a responsibility to ensure their graduates are leaving with the right soft skills for today's workplaces. Therefore, you should make efforts when researching schools to ask if they're doing any of the following:

  • Adapting the curricula to align with skill gaps: A good school will assess the specific areas where gaps exist between employer needs and current offerings. Is there evidence that the school has recently modified its course content to ensure graduates are equipped with the required soft skills?
  • Building close relationships with employers: Doing this enables a business school to understand the real-time demands of global industries, and enables those industries to collaborate on the development of courses, workshops and guest lectures.
  • Tracking employer satisfaction: Does the school have a system for regularly gauging the satisfaction of employers with their graduate hires? 
  • Promoting soft skills development: While technical skills are essential, interpersonal skills, communication, and adaptability are also in demand. Has the school implemented programmes that foster these attributes?
  • Offering experiential learning opportunities: Schools still have a tendency to favour project management theory over real-world practice. There’s no harm in learning the theory too but your focus should be on finding a school that can also offer practical experience and skills.

This article was originally published in March 2024 .

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