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Competitive Advantage: Enhancing MBA Career ROI

Core to the MBA value proposition, of course, is the promise of a supercharged career.  After recently spending time at a conference with the “talent seekers” of many leading consulting firms and the career services directors of major universities, it is clear that there is a major opportunity for institutions to improve how this talent “market” functions—and thus the MBA ROI equation.

Here’s a simple reality.  Many consulting firms, big and small, do not understand how to navigate the complex world of university recruiting and many career services offices have limited information about the significant career opportunities in consulting firms.

Here are some of the disconnects:

–       The consulting practices of the big four accounting firms alone hire thousands of new graduates each year. In order to become more deeply familiar with the quality of academic programs, they establish “short lists” of targeted schools (on some basis—that’s yet another topic).  But many leading firms indicate that this is not yielding the diversity of student thinking and demographics needed.  So they end up trading this essential diversity for some equally necessary efficiency given the volume of talent they must recruit.

–       Many excellent schools such as the Yale School of Management and IESE, have diverse and talented students, yet may not be on a target school list.  IESE struggles to get firms to consider the resumes of their U.S. students who have obtained their MBA through their campus in Spain—exactly the multi cultural global thinkers businesses claim they want and need.

–       Students at many schools are inundated with on campus recruiting initiatives, with each consulting firm screening its prospects through rigorous case analyses, which are potentially redundant and time consuming for both students and career services staff.  Consequently, many students simply don’t have the time to “find” other opportunities.

–       Many college career services offices are unaware of the substantial number of smaller and specialty-consulting firms that offer significant career opportunities for their students. Consulting as a career is not widely understood despite offering substantial financial and professional rewards.

Although the list of disconnects is much longer, Eduvantis sees several steps that can be taken to improve how MBA programs (and universities generally) and employers can improve how this ”labor market” functions.  Central to this opportunity is that schools must sharpen their value proposition to make it easier for employers to understand the distinctive value offered by hiring their graduates.

This will allow schools to target employers more effectively that are looking for graduates with certain values, competencies and experiences. This distinctiveness must be real and not simply “marketing fluff,” meaning it has to be a genuine part of the educational experience—built into the product.  Greater coordination among the various career services offices within institutions will also help employers navigate the different opportunities more effectively. Finally, longer term, we see opportunities for companies and career services professionals to work together to eliminate unnecessary redundancy in graduate screening processes that may all be measuring the same type of critical thinking skills.


David Mulligan